Question

Sociology

QUESTION: Critically discuss whether the conflict theory or functionalist theoretical perspective on




health and illness is better suited to understanding the South African context.




In your discussion, compare and contrast the two perspectives and use examples from South Africa




during the current COVID-19 pandemic to support your argument.

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Answer #1

The functionalist perspective looks at how health and illness fit into a fully functioning society, the conflict perspective is concerned with how health and illness fit into the oppositional forces in society. The sick person is not responsible for his condition. The sick person must try to get better.


According to the functionalist perspective, health is vital to the stability of society, and therefore sickness is a sanctioned form of deviance. Talcott Parsons (1951) was the first to discuss this in terms of the sick role: patterns of expectations that define appropriate behavior for the sick and for those who take care of them. According to Parsons, the sick person has a specific role with both rights and responsibilities. To start with, she has not chosen to be sick and should not be treated as responsible for her condition. The sick person also has the right of being exempt from normal social roles; she is not required to fulfill the obligation of a good person and can avoid her normal responsibilities without censure. Parsons argues that since the sick are unable to fulfill their normal societal roles, their sickness weakens society. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary for various forms of social control to bring the behavior of a sick person back in line with normal expectations. The South African government pushed for its citizen to be vaccinated from Covid 19 so that their population can get herd immunity and be able to work again.


Conflict perspective suggests that issues with the healthcare system, as with most other social problems, are rooted in capitalist society. According to conflict theorists, capitalism and the pursuit of profit lead to the commodification of health: the changing of something not generally thought of as a commodity into something that can be bought and sold in a marketplace. In this view, people with money and power the dominant group are the ones who make decisions about how the healthcare system will be run. South Africa is a capitalist economy and majorly they control the healthcare system increasing inequality levels. They, therefore, ensure that they will have healthcare coverage, while simultaneously ensuring that subordinate groups stay subordinate through lack of access. This creates significant healthcare and health disparities between the dominant and subordinate groups.


During the Covid 19 pandemic, In South Africa, a disproportionate number of racial minorities also have less economic power, so they bear a great deal of the burden of poor health. It is not only the poor who suffer from the conflict between dominant and subordinate groups. Further adding to the issue, doctors hold a disproportionate amount of power in the doctor/patient relationship, which provides them with extensive social and economic benefits.

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