The purpose of this research is to assess the relative merits of functionalism versus conflict theory according as each theory explains the historical emergence and maintenance of social inequalities based on race, ethnicity, or gender in the U.S. The plan of the research will be to set forth the principal tenets of each theory of sociology and then to discuss, with reference to concrete examples, how each theory appears to explain prejudicial stereotypes, personal and institutional discrimination, and pervasive patterns of socialization.
Even the most superficial look at the field of sociology reveals that various "schools" of sociological thought, method, and theory appear to be associated with one or more specific core theorists whose writings define the principal bases on which1 social analysis will take place. In the case of functionalism theory, the principal theorist appears to be Emile Durkheim, who is also considered the father of all sociology. Functionalism was, indeed, the dominant tradition of social theory from the nineteenth century onward, and it appears to be the basis from which a whole range of modern social theory proceeds. Durkheim's work as a functionalism theorist is notable because he sought to apply the scientific method to the task of examining the form, function, and substance of contemporary society (for Durkheim the Western, particularly French, society of the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries).
Durkheim views society as the sum tota