In sociology, it is possible to identify four major perspectives with regard to social organizations and groups: functionalist perspective, feminist perspective, conflict perspective and the perspective of symbolic interactionism (Benokraitis, 2011). The purpose of this paper is to choose two sociological perspectives and to compare the explanations of groups and organizations in the context of these perspectives. The perspectives chosen for this analysis are functionalism and conflict perspective.
Functionalism states that all social groups and organizations have their specific functions (and in fact can be regarded as social institutions). All of these institutions are necessary for the stability of the society. According to functionalist perspective, all groups and social parts are interdependent, and different interactions of these groups help the society reach equilibrium (Benokraitis, 2011). If one of such parts is not functioning properly, all other parts react appropriate and change in order to reach social stability.
Conflict perspective stresses the changing and conflicting nature of the society. According to this theory, society is divided into groups and organizations due to the political and economic resources these groups possess. Since different groups have different share of resources, conflicts between these groups emerge (Benokraitis, 2011). Conflict perspective implies that those groups and organizations which have resources impose the power over other groups. Modern version of conflict theory also states that not only economic powers and economic inequality lead to social conflicts, interactions and change. Instead, any inequality between groups (gender, racial, ethnical, religious, etc.) leads to the competition and conflict between these groups (Benokraitis, 2011).
In my opinion, functionalism describes the reality in a more exact way; it is possible to witness how the “missing” parts of the society emerge and how the groups and organizations with necessary functionality occupy their places. For example, if the state’s educational system does not provide sufficient or effective education, private schools and alternative organizations emerge. If the state bans certain organizations or social groups, they become even more consolidated and still operate in the society (e.g. prohibition of religions). In all cases when something is lacking in the society for its survival and balance, appropriate social groups and organizations emerge sooner or later. Although functionalism in its early form is referred to as ahistoric (Benokraitis, 2011), neofunctionalism which integrated ideas of different approaches (conflict between social groups, feminist views, etc.) seems to be the system which describes the dynamics of groups and organizations in a most reasonable way.