One of the controversial debates that have dominated US economics and politics is the disadvantages of having large corporations such as Wal-Mart. Many have argued that corporate firms such as Wal-Mart create unfavorable competition for small businesses. However, the fact remains that millions of Americans today shop at Wal-Mart due to a couple of factors. Some of the factors include the fact that prices of goods and services at Wal-Mart are greatly subsidized compared to other small businesses. In addition, unlike other small firms Wal-Mart provides quality services and is also a source of employment for millions of Americans. One of the key question that many scholars in the world have sort to answer is whether corporate firms really work for the benefit of the general public or whether these firms only seek to address the needs aof the corporate class. Different theories have been formulated to answer this question. Some of these theories include functionalist theory, critical theory, and pluralist theory. This paper takes the position that functionalist theory is the best theory in explaining the role of the elite and the corporate class in society today.
- Functionalist Theory.
In order to support the central idea that the functionalist theory is the best theory in explaining the role of the elite in society today, this paper will explain the assertions of both functionalist and critical theory, compare and contrast the assertions of both theories, and explains some of the weaknesses that might be associated with the idea that functionalist theory is the best theory in explaining the role of elite and the corporate class in society today. Beginning with the functionalist theory, proponents of this theory explain that the society has over the years become complex in nature. The needs of society and the problems facing society have become very complex (Kerbo 206). For example, twenty years ago the consumer base was not pre-occupied with the idea of technology for example the speed and efficiency of gadgets such as the I-phone. However, this is the scenario today. In order to deal with the complex needs and problems facing the society today, there is a need to have experts who can be able to deal with these socio-economic and political issues(Zurko 29). Considering that the elite and the corporate class are the most educated and the people who have resources they are best suited to deal with the needs of society and solving the problems that face society today (Kerbo 207). Functionalist theorists maintain that though the corporate class may benefit from occupying this role in society, the fact remains that at the end of it all, they benefit society as a whole(Kerbo 207).
- Critical or Conflict Theory
Contrary, to the assertions of functionalist theories, conflict theorists are opposing to the idea that the elite and the corporate class can work towards benefiting the whole society (Kerbo 208). One of the key arguments that the conflict theory is based is the Hobbesian view of man. Conflict theorists view human nature as being evil and selfish. They argue that the corporate class and the elites will work towards meeting their own selfish gains at the detriment of the rest of society (Kerbo 208). In specific conflict theorists explain that the capitalist system today is driven by individual profits and not benefiting the society as a whole. Kerbo explains that the society is not a harmonious entity as we may sometimes think. Instead, critical theorists perceive the society as being characterized by competition and conflict between different social classes and interest groups (Kerbo 208). Though the benefits of the elites may overflow to other members of society, the and the elite corporate class will always work towards meeting their own selfish interests unless they receive major opposition from other social classes and interest groups.
- Comparing and Contrasting between Functional and Conflict Theories.
First of all, there is a consensus between the two theories that the elite and the corporate class have a great influence in both the economic and political life of society. It is also clear that the elites work within a capitalist system where every individual works to benefit. However, the discord that exists between functional and conflicts theorists is the idea of who benefits from the role played by the corporate class in shaping societal politics and the economic life of society. Functionalists in this case argue that both the corporate class and the rest of society benefit from the leadership role that is assumed by the elite and the corporate class in both the economy and politics(Waters 45) However conflict theorists view the elite and corporate class as the only people who benefit in the system. They argue that the corporate class and the elite works to protect its own interests without caring about the welfare of the other social classes and interest groups within society.
- Use of Evidence to Support Thesis
Functionalist theory is the best theory in explaining the role of the elite in the economic and political life of society. First of all, it is important to understand that corporate firms require high skill management skills to keep them running. Not many people in the world can be able to effectively control and manage key corporate firms. It is worth noting that some corporate firms are actually richer than some nations. In his book, Rich country, poor country: the multinational as change agent, Benjamin Bobo explains that a multinational corporations such as Exxon Mobil generates more profits that are higher than the fiscal budgets of some developing nations(Bobo 9). Based on this argument, it is clear that running some of the large corporations is similar to running a country. This means that there is a need to make sure that there are experts that run large entities such as corporation.
As much as critical/conflict theorists argue that corporations work towards meeting their own interests, the fact remains that many corporations and elites are sources of millions of jobs in society today. The shutdown of an entity like Wal-Mart today would leave millions of workers unemployed in the United States. As of 2013, writes Copeland and Labuski, Wal-Mart is America’s largest private employer with more than 2.1 million employees (Copeland and Labuski 2). This clearly shows that despite the fact that Wal-Mart generates millions of dollars in the United States, the company meets the needs of the members of society by both providing them with employment opportunities and the same time enhancing the availability of different goods at a low price.
It is important to note that the pessimistic perception of the elite and the corporate class, similar to that of conflict theorists, is one of the reasons why some policy makers, have passed harsher legislations that make it difficult for corporate firms to operate in the United States. The eventual result of this pessimist view present by conflict theorists has been the shipment of jobs by corporations overseas where the business environment is more favorable. Therefore, the fact that we benefit from the work of the elite and the corporate class in the society indicate that indeed the corporate class plays a vital role in society today.
- Possible Objections to my argument
Some people might argue that the elite and the corporate class prevent the growth of small businesses and small businesses in society today. However, it is worth noting that small businesses today cannot effectively meet the needs of society today(Smith 37). Due to poor management and the lack of strong financial base small businesses might not be able to effectively overcome competition in the market. However, large corporate firms that have large financial base and managerial expertise, as well as the economies of scale make sure that the welfare of members of society regardless of their social class or status are adequately met(Morrow 49). For example, both the rich and the poor can shop at Wal-Mart.
In conclusion, functionalist is the best theory to explain the role of the elite and the corporate class in both the economic and political life of society. It is worth noting that society has become more complex in terms of its needs and problems. Therefore, there is a need to allow the elite and the corporate class to solve the needs and problems of society. This is because they are the people who are experts, more educated, and more richly endowed with resources that are vital in assuming this role in society. The pessimist view staged by conflict theorist can have detrimental effect on society because as much as human nature is evil, the fact remains that we continue to benefit from the elites and the corporate class.
Bobo, Benjamin F. Rich country, poor country: the multinational as change agent. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2005. Print.
Copeland, Nick, and Christine Labuski. Walmart and the American Dream. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print
Kerbo, Harold. Social stratification and Inequality. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2011. Print
Morrow, Raymond Allen. Critical theory and methodology. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1994. Print.
Smith, Anthony D. The concept of social change; a critique of the functionalist theory of social change. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. Print.
Waters, Malcolm. Modern sociological theory. London: Sage, 1994. Print.
Zurko, Edward Robert. Origins of functionalist theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1957. Print.