Comparison of Marxism and Functionalism


Comparison of Marxism and Functionalism


  • Both are DETERMINISTIC approaches, seeing individuals as passive and controlled, as if like puppets, by society.
  • Both theories are IDEOLOGICAL, stating that society is maintained by systems of prevailing ideas and beliefs.
  • Both Marxism and functionalism argue the importance of SOCIALISATION in the maintenance of society.
  • The STRUCTURE of society shapes us as individuals not vice versa.
  • Both theories are MACRO-PERSPECTIVES- studying the whole of society.
  • Both theories suggest a degree of SOCIAL OBJECTIVITY. They reify society suggesting that it moves under its own force, it is not reliant on humanity.
  • Functionalism and Marxism agree that social life operates on the principles of CAUSE AND EFFECT. Everything within society is caused by something else.
  • Both theories are POSITIVISTIC. They emphasise empiricism and a belief in the scientific study of society.


  • Marxists see society as having a material structure and emphasises economic determinism whereas functionalism sees society as based on shared culture and emphasises cultural determinism.
  • Marxism believes that culture is an instrument of social control and a source of power for the dominant class. However, Functionalists believe that culture is a means of institutionalising people into the shared norms and values.
  • Marxism emphasis socialisation into a capitalist society only benefits the ruling class. However, functionalism argues that socialisation is the mechanism by which value consensus is formed, allowing social order and stability.
  • Marxism looks at how material rewards, such as capital, are distributed in order to look at society. Functionalists look at how individuals are socialised in order to understand society.
  • Marxists believe that norms of society are influenced by economic factors, however, functionalists argue that it is the norms that determine the structure of society.
  • Marxism is a conflict perspective whereas functionalism is based on consensus.
  • Marxism is inherently pessimistic about the ability of a capitalist society to improve whereas Durkheim believed that modern society could resolve it's own problems.

Overall comparison

The most important thing to note is that both theories are macro-structural perspectives that hold a deterministic view of society. However, Marxism is based on economic factors whereas functionalism emphasises the importance of socialisation, shared culture and value consensus. Always note that Marxism is a conflict perspective and Functionalism based on consensus. 




Excellent comparison of the two key perspectives used in sociology.



more clarity required



this was a huge, huge help, thanks!