Sociological theory creates ways to understand the social world by having different theories to explain understand social life. It aids to make sense of this social world. It draws together a wide range of perspectives to help provide the fullest picture. (Macionis & Plummer p.36) It shows that one theory can explain something that another cannot. My aim is to answer this question with reference to both functionalism and conflict theory. This will be done by comparing and contrasting both theories in relation to their perspectives on both suicide and gender discrimination as social issues relevant to this day and age. Functionalism and conflict perspectives are both macro theories. This means that they focus on the big picture, for example social structure, social institutions and economic change.
Functionalism sees society as a complex system whose parts interconnect. This perspective came from the works of Emile Durkheim, who was concerned with how society remains relatively stable. Emilie recognised that society exists beyond us—it has a life of its own. (Macionis & Plummer p.124) He recognised that society has the power to shape our thoughts and actions. Functionalism sees that studying society as a whole can only capture human experience. Durkheim saw crime as a ‘vital function for the ongoing life of society itself.’ (Macionis & Plummer p.125) He believed that crime is quite normal, and society would not exist without it. Functionalism sees society as a integrated whole where the parts work to hold it all together and sometimes it does not function well and falls apart. (Macionis & Plummer p.37) Durkheim did not precisely define the factors and dynamics accounting for the unity of society. He focused most of his efforts in drawing a distinction between the societies a whole and the non-social elements. (Turner, p.112) Functional analysis established itself as a way of ‘bringing to light the significance of the institutional order and connecting it with the unintentional consequences of social action. (Turner, p.121) On page 35 of Back et al. it states that Durkheim’s argument is that classification is a process of ‘marking-off’, of showing things that are related, but have distinct points of difference to another. Functionalism assumes that society’s social institutions perform important functions to help ensure social stability. Rapid social change threatens social order, but slow social change is desirable.
Durkheim believed that the individual has no way of limiting passions, so the moral authority of society must do this. Individual aspirations are limited two ways, by socialisation and social integration. Socialisation helps us learn the rules of society and the need to cooperate. Social integration allows us to integrate into society and reinforce our respect for its rules. These both, as stated by Durkheim create a strong collective conscience.
Suicide, as an example of a social issue, is...