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Although it was once the dominant sociological theory, structural functionalism is now more of a relic. Recent decades have seen this theoretical orientation slip into the background as more contemporary theories (including neofunctionalism) have taken its place.

Structural functionalism is one type of consensus theory—it posits that society is based on mutual agreements, sees the creation and maintenance of shared values and norms as crucial to society, and views social change as a slow, orderly process. Examples of prominent consensus theorists include Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Robert Merton. These theories stand in contrast to conflict theories, such as those of Karl Marx, that view the world as based on a system of oppressive hierarchies, social order at the whim of dominant groups, and ...

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