1) The Functionalist Perspective
• In the view of the functionalist, a society is like a living organism in which each part contributes to the
survival of the whole. This perspective emphasizes how the parts of society are structured to maintain
its stability. If an aspect of social life does not contribute to a society’s stability or survival, it will not be
passed from one generation to the next.
• The functionalist would point out that, although racial hostility is hardly to be admired, it serves some
1) Racist ideologies provide a moral justification for maintaining a society that routinely deprives a group
of its rights and privileges.
2) Racist beliefs discourage subordinate people from attempting to question their lowly status; to do so
is to question the very foundations of society.
3) Racists ideologies not only justify existing practices but serve as a rallying point for social movements.
4) Racist beliefs relieve the dominant group of the responsibility to address the economic, educational,
and other social problems faced by subordinate groups.
• Dysfunctions are elements of society that may disrupt a social system or decrease its stability. There
are a variety of ways in which racism is dysfunctional to a society, including to its dominant group:
1) A society that practices discrimination fails to use the resources of all individuals. Discrimination limits
the search for talent and leadership to the dominant group.
2) Discrimination aggravates social problems such as poverty, delinquency, and crime.
3) Racial prejudice and discrimination undercut goodwill and friendly diplomatic relations between
4) Social change is inhibited because change may assist a subordinate group.
5) Discrimination undercuts the peaceful resolution of disputes.
2) The Conflict Perspective
• The conflict perspective argues that social structure is best understood in terms of conflict or tension
between competing groups. Specifically, society is a struggle between the privileged (the dominant
group) and the exploited (the subordinate groups). Such conflicts may not be physically violent and may
take the form of immigration restrictions, real estate practices, or disputes over cuts in the federal
budget. • The conflict perspe