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Example Answer for Question 6 Paper 3: A Level Sociology, June 2017 (AQA)

A Level

Last updated 21 Jun 2017

Q6 (20 marks)

The conflict approach to sociology focuses its attention on those aspects of society that do not work or cause instability. Marxists, Feminists and some symbolic interactionist theories focus on the factors that cause society to be dysfunctional. However, the functionalist perspective is known as a consensus theory as its focus of attention is on what causes society to work, to be functional and highlights the positive aspects of any given society.

As stated in item C, Marxists believe that there is conflict in society due to the divide between the bourgeoisie (the owners) and the proletariat (the workers). Marx and Engels stated that capitalism is the key problem in most societies as it causes those at the top to exploit those at the bottom. Neo-Marxists such as Hall also state that many of the problems of society in relation to money, crime and racism all stem for the inequality between the rich and the poor.

However, Functionalist sociologists such as Durkheim would argue that most societies are based on shared values, he uses the organic analogy to highlight that agents of socialization are all interconnected and as it states in Item C, these institutions are all ‘parts working harmoniously together to meet the needs of the social system’. For Durkheim, society works in the same way a human body does with all its organs serving an important function helping to keep the organism alive.

The views of Max Weber tend to support claims made by the Marxist perspective, like Marxists, Weber focused on the impact of capitalism on individuals in society and  as stated in Item C, how it causes a clear divide of ‘conflict and power’. Weber believed that Capitalism came as a result of religion and indeed he states that religion itself is another cause for both divide and conflict between individuals.

Other functionalist researchers such Parsons and Murdock however would argue that religion actually brings people together, they believe that institutions give clear directions for roles. One such example being the family whereby the male takes on the instrumental role of the breadwinner and the female takes on the caregiving, expressive role. For Functionalists, this shows social solidarity by everyone playing a role or part in the family so that it can function on a day to day basis.

Feminist sociologists would disagree with these roles in the family and therefore fall into the conflict side of the debate, they believe that conflict derives from patriarchy, the view that societies and systems in societies are driven and dominated by men. Liberal feminists such as Oakley note that the family and the workplace are key locations for patriarchy as men hold the power of money and females work without gaining any personal income, this causes a continual power imbalance. Radical feminists such as Dworkin take the argument even further by saying that conflict comes from the physical power and intimidation men use to oppress females into a lower status.

Functionalists such as David and Moore however state that different levels of status and power are important for a society. Without hierarchy there can be no consensus. For example, in any society you need people at the top to make the rules as well as people in the middle and the bottom. They refer to this as role allocation. In other words, different power levels are needed in order for society to correctly function.

Symbolic interactionists such as Mead and Becker however state that these differing levels of power simply lead to conflict through negative labelling. For example the poor are often labelled for being the problems of society, that their crime levels and low education are the catalyst for financial problems. This negative labelling further reinforces the prejudices and stereotypical views of others.

In conclusion then, there is strong evidence from both the conflict and consensus views in order to help us understand society, in reality each society and country is very different from each other and all places are at differing levels of either unrest or stability at different points in their history. Post-modernists such as Bauman would also note that many of the ideas of Durkheim, Marx and Weber are now also quite outdated especially as we move to a more globalized and homogenized world. 

Please Note: These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.


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