People are complex. Our various characteristics, including but not limited to, behaviors, ideals, perspectives, attitudes, and physical attributes make us who we are as individuals and society as a whole. The macrocosm of society, by default of the people within it, is supremely complex. As we would expect, society is evolutionary and as such, there are numerous theoretical approaches to its study. The three major theoretical approaches are examined here.
The functionalist approach, in its simplest form, is analogous to a puzzle or a car. In the puzzle, each piece fits into another creating the picture. In a car, each part has a function. The engine makes the car run, the steering wheel enables the car to turn, the brakes make the car stop, seat belts and airbags provide safety, and radios provide entertainment. Translate this to the functionalist’s view of the individual, society, social order and social change. All of these separate pieces work cooperatively, functionally creating stability of the whole and, predictability of social change, on a broad scale.
Enter the conflict theory. Whether one’s beliefs are rooted in the theory of evolution or creationism, conflict has been around since the beginning of time. Conflict theorists recognize the continuous struggle. The premise of this theory is people are influenced by power and authority, the maintenance of social order is achieved through power and coercion and social change is constant. Although conflict is a derogatory term by its definition, conflict is not always a bad thing. But whether positive or negative, conflict is a catalyst for change. Conflict brought about the end to slavery in the United States. It also brings about unrest as is evident currently in the Ukraine.
Both the functionalist and conflict theories take a broad view, examining and...