Many theories have come up to explain the modern world, due to social change there has been changes in all aspects of life, according to Karl Marx in the conflict theory he predicted a down fall in the capitalist society and a socialist society will emerge from the ruins of the capitalist society. According to Talcot Parsons who formulated the structural functionalist theory social changes occur but he argues that a society is always at equilibrium and when there are changes the society moves from one point of stability another.

Is the modern world better than the traditional ways of social life? Many scholars have explained the advantages and disadvantages of the modern world and some of the disadvantages according to Karl Marx are growth and acceptance of the capitalist form of society that will lead to increase in conflicts, alienation and polarisation. This paper will focus on the structural functionalist theory and the conflict theory to explain the modern world.

Conflict theory:

This theory is based on the work of Karl Marx, according to this theory the society consist of two groups of people namely the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the bourgeoisies are the owners of the means of production while the proletariats are the workers, the owners of the means of production will want to maintain the status quo while the workers will struggle to change the situation and as a result there exist conflict in the society. [1]


The structural functionalist theory:

This theory is based on the work of Talcot Parson who used the concept of equilibrium to show how societies move from one point of stability to another, societies according Talcot will tend toward stability or balance, when a change occurs in the society there must be adjustments in the other parts of the society. [2]


This is the process of being isolated from the society, this will occur when individuals no longer feel as members of society, the members of the society seem to be controlled by the system they themselves created. An example in the world we are in today we set rules and regulations that have to be adhered to but sometimes these rules tend to control the individuals way of life against his or her will, example rules that dictate that we are only allowed specific time to be out of office whereas one may be having other important appointments. Therefore in the modern world we are in today we are alienated from work and the social life, we have very little power to change the way of life and the world now seems to be over and above the individual. [3]



The concept bureaucracy was coined by Max Weber where Bureaucratic organisation enables organisations to be structured and be more efficient also bureaucracies help organise a large number of people in order to pursue set goals and also help accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously.

According to the Peter Principle, there exist bureaucratic failure where promotions of individuals in a bureaucracy is undertaken to the level where they are incompetent, promotions are offered to the most competent individual to a level where they are less competent to perform their duties. [4]

The bureaucratic organisation has also be criticised by the rise in making waste which is also referred to as Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fill the space available for its completion, therefore there is the growth in time for doing work and the multiplication of workers. [5]



To Marx modernity was synonymous with the emergence of capitalism and the modern world has been criticised for the emergence of alienation, according to Weber one characteristic of the modern world is the emergence of rationality and the rise in the lion cage of rationality where people were imprisoned and unable to free themselves. To Gidden the modern world is a juggernaut, which is an engine of enormous power that threatens to run out of control, it can resist us and crashes those who resist. [6]

Therefore the modern world is one that is characterised by alienation and it is not always rewarding, there is the rise of capitalism, which is now legitimised, and people now live in a state of false consciousness according to Karl Marx.

The growth in the industry of war

In the world we live today war is a big industry in the society, the rise in the number of armed forces and the police force is a good example, the societies have increased conflicts among themselves in an attempt to maintain peace but instead they make war. Example the terrorist campaign initiated by the US which has million of soldiers all over the world, the US therefore is a good example of what constitute the modern world, the growth in the industry of war.

The modern world according to the theories:

The conflict theory predicted the collapse of the capitalist society, which will be replaced by a communist form of society; only a few societies have undergone this transformation example Ru ssia


although this form of society did not work out. The capitalist society is characterised by conflicts, which is caused by different opportunities caused by the two-class division in the society. Today the capitalised society has been legitimised but according to Karl Marx the legitimating of the capitalist form of society is caused by false consciousness, this means that we are oppressed but we tend to assume that life should be the way it is, this is the case in our modern world where those who have power and own resources will tend to determine the way policies and ways of life depending on their needs.

The structural functionalist theory describes the society as one that is characterised by stability and when change occurs this causes instability but finally changes will occur in other parts in order to restore the instability. In the world we live in such changes, as increased population will cause changes in the structure of the family, where people now will only have one or two children to restore the instability in the society.


According to the theory the future of the our society is that the capitalist societies will be replaced by the communist form of society, there will be increased conflicts and many of the proletariats will be marginalised out of the oppression by the owners of means of production, we are now living in the state of false consciousness but this will change when we become poorer and poorer while the rich will continue to become even more rich, this will cause a revolution where the resources of production will be now be owned by the society as a whole and this will be the communist society.

To the structural functionalist theory changes in society will occur but a change in one part of the society will cause changes in other parts of the society, to this theory the future of the modern world is that changes will occur but this changes are unpredictable in that changes can occur in any direction, at any time and to any part of the society.



John Nordskog (1960) Social Change, McGraw Hill publishers, Michigan

Randal Collins (1983) Sociological Theory, Jossey-Bass publishers, US

Adam Bert and Sadie R (2002) Contemporary Sociological Theory, Pine Forge Publishers, US

[1] Collins (1983)

[2] Collins (1983)

[3] Sadie R (2002)

[4] Sadie R (2002)

[5] Sadie R (2002)

[6] Nordskog (1960)