Functionalist's perspective on society

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  • Fuctionalist's view on society
    • Functionalism is a macro theory where it bring a consensus approach to society.
      • Social order is maintained through values and consensus being internalised from a young age; the young learn their social position.
      • Conflict is minimised, as individuals accept their position in society; as every role has a function (cog theory)
        • Society is made up of system parts: education, mass media, religion and family, which all contributes to social solidarity.
          • Functionalism sees society as a body (organic analogy), all the institutions work together to make society
      • Focuses too much on harmony and co-operation and fails to take into account the differences and conflicts between groups in society.
    • Family
      • Murdock- 4 Functions of the family; Sexual, Reproductive, Education and Economic. 
        • Sexual: Healthy sex life,stable adults. Reproductive: Producing the next generation. Economic: Man works, Women house keeps, taxes paid, food and shelter. Educational: Primary socialisation and norms and values. 
      • Parsons- 2 Functions of the family; Primary Socialisation and Stabilisation of Adult Personalities.  
        • Primary Socialisation:  typically occurs during childhood and is when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture.
        • Stabilising Adult Personalities: the idea that the family provides a relaxing environment for the stresses of the day to be relieved.
    • Durkheim
      • Domestic Division of labour: In early society, everybody farmed and similar lives. In modern society, our lives a vastly different, yet we still all depend on each other and pull together.
      • Mechanical Solidarity: is used to describe early society, where people were unified through shared experiences, similar activities and responsibilities; very religious and had strict laws.
      • Organic Solidarity: describes societies with very different jobs and roles, which encouraged co-dependence, moral individualism(judged by own standards), restitutive law(offenders pay for harm), less religious and rigid.
    • Dynamic Density, caused shift from mechanical to organic solidarity- this means population increased while there were fewer rescources (food&energy). This created more competition and the idea that some didn't deserve to have things.
      • We had to find new ways to resolve conflict through cooperation and greater efficiency, so people took a wider variety of roles to give us what we needed (industrialisation)
    • Social Facts are all the social structures (like laws), norms and values that control us.
      • Material Social Facts: are directly observable, like demographics& populations. Non-Material Social Facts: things like culture, norms and values that are put their through socialisation.
    • Criticisms:
      • There is no evidence to suggest that in the absence of collective conscience, humans become like cave people.
      • Durkheim's functionalist theory is morally prescriptive and conservative which isn't good for social change.
      • It doesn't address conflict; which is what causes it and what to do about it.
      • Struggles to be relevant to modern society, which is far more complicated than in Durkheim's day.
    • Structural Functionalism
      • Parsons said there are 4 main aims of social systems: Adaption, Goal Attainment, Integration and Pattern Maintenance.
        • Adaption: How we change to meet needs of society.
        • Integration: How we rake on norms, values and culture.
        • Goal Attainment: How we use our personalities to get what we want in life.
        • Pattern Maintenance: How we use the cultural system (schools) to pass on culture from generations.
        • He focuses on how societies have evolved; and how socialiazation and social control allow the social system to maintain and balance, to keep us on track.
        • Divided functions up into latent & manifest. Latent functions related to what was the intention behind an act and Manifest is what actually happened.
          • Banning the Burka in France might have the Latent function of integrating Muslim women into the French culture, but it might have the Manifest Function making them feel excluded.
        • Criticisms:
          • Parsons does not really examine the history roots of society.
          • His theories are based on American society, so they'll not be entirely applicable to other societies.
          • Only focuses on harmonious relationships.
          • Has a conservative bias because of what it ignores (conflict & inequality) and what it focuses on (family values)
    • Crime
      • Merton
        • Crime exists due to society sharing the American dream- rich, successful and fulfilled.
        • A strain exists between the goals and ambitions of people and their ability to achieve them.
          • Conformity, Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism and Rebellion.
          • Lower class and ethnic minorities are more likely to commit criminal acts because of their position in the social structure.
      • Durkheim argues that crime is needed within society; if it was reduced then it would result in Anomie (a lack of usual social norms and values)
        • Inevitable, Functional, Universal and Relative
        • Punishment reinforces the norms and values of society


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