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What Are the Differences Between Functionalism & Marxism?

Updated February 21, 2017

Marxism and functionalism are two sociological theories which have been around for years. While both theories have the common denominator of being a study of society as a whole, the two have different ideas about how society functions and the purpose of society.

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Authority in Schools

The functionalist theories believe that authority in education is an important part of teaching children to respect authority figures and thus it is a positive aspect of the schooling system. In Marxist theories, the view of authority in schools is negative because Marxism believes it stems from unjust subordination.

Society as Organism

The basic idea of functionalism is that society is an organism and each part of society is a necessary piece, including criminal behaviour. The view in Marxism is a theory of class struggle and does not consider the elements of society as necessary or like an organism, but rather a show of how different parts of society struggle.

Inequality from School

The Marxist view of education in general starts out similar to the functionalist view in that it is viewed as preparing children for their future. In the Marxist view, the system is seen as creating inequality among children by teaching children in private schools to lead and rule while teaching children in state schools to follow and obey. The functionalist theories take a different perspective by believing that the education system takes the most talented children and prepares them for leadership rather than those in different schools. In functionalism, the qualifications of the children are the reasons for leaders and followers.

Shared Values

The functionalists believe that society is one of shared values; society works together and shares perspectives to reach common ends. The Marxist beliefs differ and, instead, see society as a domination culture where one group stands above the rest. The leaders are not sharing the subordination and misery of the working classes.

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About the Author

Helen Jain has been writing online articles since December 2009 for various websites. She has studied English and psychology and hopes to get a Ph.D. in English in the future.

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