What Are the Similarities Between Marxism & Functionalism?

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Functionalism and Marxism are both sociological perspectives that ask, and state, certain theories about society and the people that live within it. The two theories attempt to explain how society influences people, and similarly how people influence society. However, the two ideologies are distinctly different. They're so different in fact, that only two similarities exist between the two theories.


Functionalism gained popularity in the 1940s and 1950s and is the study of society as a functioning system. It explains how direction is kept among parts of society and is commonly referred to as the consensus theory because it doesn't address the issue of conflict in society. Instead the theory views society as a system in which all parts work together towards the unified goal of making society work, or similarly, as working towards the general consensus of society.


Marxism, which is also known as the conflict theory, was first attributed to Karl Marx and is based on the idea that society is in constant struggle because of the differences between those who have and those who have not. It dates back to the 19th century and propounds that society is constantly in conflict over goals, roles and desires. Marxist theory states that society is run by those who have money and power, and that there is no consensus or harmony in this society because there is no equality.


Both Marxism and Functionalism theories are macrospective. This means that the two theories look at society as a whole rather than looking at it from the individual point of view. Both Marxism and Functionalism look at the structures within a society such as family and education, and debate how these affect the individual instead of how the individual affects the structures. Similarly, both theories look at the overall structure of society and argue that education prepares pupils for their position in society whether it be an equal or unequal position.

Social Structures

Both theories view society as a system of social structures and both agree that these social structures exist within a society. However, the two theories differ greatly in their opinion on the purpose of these structures. Functionalism views the system of social structures as entities that work together for the benefit of all, but Marxism believes the system of social structures are in place but vary in their benefits depending on the wealth and power of the people involved.

Most recent