The Sociological Perspectives

Social Theories &
Social Change
Conflict Theory &
Conflict Theory
• All societies have underlying conflict between
social groups
• Change is a result of such conflicts being played
• Conflict between the classes determines social
• Power goes to the winning group in the conflict
• Social Consensus is an illusion Conflict is
• A Big Picture (Macro World) Theory
Karl Marx
(German) (1818-1883)
• Founded the conflict perspective
• Father of Communism
•Wrote the Communist Manifesto
“Workers of the world unite you have nothing to loose but your chains
You have a world to win” –(1848)
Conflict Theory’s Uses
• Shows how people operate in
• Explains that these classes
have an ECONOMIC base.
• Describes how classes will use
violence when given no other
• Explains the importance of
Alienation among social
• China town torched in Honiara
2006 – looks like a “race riot”
• Conflict Theory explains that
this has an economic cause!
Fiji a case study in Conflict
• Fiji is a small Pacific
Island nation
population 800,000
• There are two
distinct cultural
groups. (Islander
51% and Indian 44%)
• Since 1987 this has
been serious and
has resulted in two
• Tensions are visible
in the towns
The Superficial View
• Conflict looks like the
result of deep social,
cultural and religious
• There is very little non
commercial contact
between both groups
• Each group retains its
own language and
customs – made easy
because English is
used for commerce and
• Intermarriage is almost
unheard of.
Conflict Theory Analysis
• All conflict is economic
• Indians have benefited the
Global economy. They are
educated, English speaking
and engage in business
• Islanders have provided
much of the cheap labour for
Fiji’s industry – notably
• This is the core cause of the
• The image opposite says it
• A semi clothed Islander with
a stick hitting a car (some
thing that an average wage
earner could never hope to
own) driven by an Indian.
• On the other side of the
social fence to the
Conflict theorists are
the Functionalists.
• Emile Durkheim in the
1890s proposed that
Society functions like a
biological organism.
• Functionalism stresses
consensus and
Social Change vs Social Order
• Functionalists see society as made up of
inter-dependent sections which work
together to fulfill the needs for the survival of
society as a whole.
• People are socialised into roles and
behaviours which fulfill the needs of society.
• Social Change disrupts social equilibrium
but changes in social roles and functions
quickly adapt to restore social order.
An example
• New technologies dislocate
operators of the old
• However many new
occupations ( functions) are
created by the more
complex nature of the new
• The small scale operation
of the bullock cart supports
up to three occupations
• A railway system creates
• Social stability is
Functionalism in Vanuatu
• In traditional niVanuatu
society power was held
by the local tribal chiefs.
• In the 1980s Vanuatu
became a representative
• The Chiefs were given
roles as members of the
Upper house.
• New roles = change with
minimal conflict.
Functionalism and Conflict Theories compared
Conflict Theory
Society is held together by shared values and
collective agreement
Society is held together by the ability of the
dominant group to oppress and impose their
desires onto subordinate groups
Consensus as the normal state of
society/Conflict as abnormal or representing
an area where society has broken down
Conflict is the organizing principle of society
Change is inevitable but evolutionary- a
natural progression of society through
Change is abrupt, often violent and
revolutionary because it must overthrow the
existing social order
Meritocracy exists in our current society- if
you work hard you can achieve anything.
Rewards and success are commensurate
with hard work and ability
Meritocracy is an ideology used to disguise true
power relations. It keeps people believing in the
system which is actuality a sorting machine that
serves the interest of the powerful
Inequality and stratification are natural and
necessary for the functioning of society
Inequality and stratification are manufactured
by the dominant group to serve their own
Functionalist Theories of Education
Since society is held together by shared values and collective
agreement, education functions to socialize students according to these
shared values
Function of schooling is to maintain social order
Schooling operates in the interests of the majority of citizens since social
order is in their best interest
Purpose of education
Intellectual (teach cognitive skills)
Political (develop allegiance to the political order and how to function within a
democracy, learn basic laws of society)
Social (socialization to ensure social cohesion)
Economic (prepare students for later occupational roles, select and train and
allocate individuals in the division of labor)
Meritocracy: Success in school and therefore society is based on merit
and/or achieved through hard work.
Conflict Theories of Education
Since society is held together by the ability of the dominant group to oppress and
impose their desires onto subordinate groups, education is also tool of oppression
Schooling is an active agent in the distribution of power and access to resources
Purpose of Education
Sorting Machine: education stratifies people in neither natural nor fair ways.
Such stratification serves the interests of the powerful to maintain their
domination. Students are sorted toward occupations not based on ability but
based on their racial, gender, and class identities.
Differential Socialization: Inequality as perpetuated through socializationwhere certain classes and races are socialized into limited occupational roles
while others are socialized into higher tier occupations.
Promote Meritocracy: an ideological cloud that creates false consciousness.

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