You are on page 1of 2

Q1: Examine the relevance of the Functionalist and Marxist perspectives to an

understanding of social change in Caribbean society.

Social change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and
cultural values and norms. By significant alteration, sociologists mean changes
yielding profound social consequences. The functionalist views of Emile Durkheim
and the conflict perspectives of Karl Marx have offered a view of why human beings
behave as they do and how they fit together in society. Each theory has to some
extent been shaped or influenced by the approach of others and many sociological
explanations have comparisons or contrast that can be made.
The functionalist perspective is based largely on the works of Herbert Spencer,
Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. According to functionalism,
society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to
maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. The functionalists
are not big fans of social change because this would mean that they have to accept
that society is not uniform and stable.
The question to ask is: If society is always working for the benefit of people, why
does it change? Well it changes due to the forces at work within society, contact
between societies, and changes in the natural environment. Within a society,
processes leading to change include invention and culture loss. Inventions may be
either technological or ideological.
Should it not be stable? The functionalists argue that social institutions have to
change to cater to the needs of people this is why society changes over time. The
functionalist perspective may be applied to the region given the changes in the
social institutions:
Carl Stones Article Race and Economic Power in Jamaica, though specific to
Jamaican`s context sheds light on logic castle stratification and economic
exploitation which resulted from slavery based plantation economies throughout the
Caribbean .Of further interest is Stone s attempt to maintain substantial define of
race and class within Jamaica and also the wider Caribbean community. Carl Stone
mastered the use of public opinion surveys, better known as the Stone Polls. Dr.
Derek Gordon was a renowned Sociologist, responsible, along with many other
coetaneous minds, for developing Sociology in the Caribbean through his many
legendary discourse. Gordon is remembered for his study of class, status and
gracious mobility in Jamaica. He raised numerous valid points on the incident of
societal mobility as he analyzed the tender mobility of the male and female labour
force and its impact on the vicissitude of the class structure of the contemporary
Jamaican society. Carl Stone and Dereck Gordon were also responsible for the
change from an agricultural perspective to a highly professional sector to encourage
better standards of living and ensure that Caribbean people are able to move up the
social ladder. The political system the rise of blacks to power to cater to the
needs of those at the bottom of society, the expansion of the educational system all
form part of understanding the social change in Caribbean society.

The Marxists are convinced that social change is quite relevant in society and is
caused because of exploitation. By this, the people at the bottom of society rise to
challenge their social position. The Marxists position on social change in the region
could be seen in:
The Rastafarian movement which began in Jamaica, though it has since spread
throughout the Caribbean, in fact, practitioners can be found around the globe. It
began in 1932 when Rastafarian Haile Selassie, became Emperor of Ethiopia. The
religious movement begun by Marcus Garvey still bears his princely name.
Although most beliefs are considered Christian, the Rastafarian movement
associates Africa with heaven. Believers are said to return to Africa after their death,
though the precise manner in which this occurs is not stated - some see it as a
spiritual movement, while others feel it is almost like reincarnation. However, the
Rastafarian movement also draws from Creolized Jamaican beliefs in Obeah and
Myal, spiritual practices that associate the world of the living with the world of the
dead. The Slave Rebellions and the activities of the slaves after emancipation, the
Morant Bay Rebellion, the rise of Garveyism and the Indentureship period are all
related to social changes in the Caribbean society.
Although Marx's view is based on theory it is remotely similar to the functionalist
approach of harmony and resolution. The apparent differences between the Marxist
and Functionalist perspectives are not as conflicting as it would first appear. Both
the functionalist and the Marxist perspectives place emphasis on society as
something which influences an individual. Therefore there theories have impacted
social change in Caribbean society.