Functionalism and inequality

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  • functionalism
    • class
      • society is a meritocracy, where those most talented and hard working are rewarded. inequality is inevitable and healthy. economic inequalities ensure the most qualified achieve the most important jobs.
      • Davies and moore: pay is related to talent. there is a general consensus that the most important jobs are achieved by most qualified and thus the highest paid. this legitimises the system of inequality.
        • Criticism: argued by Marxists that they underplay the importance of social class and class conflict. the degree of social consensus is debatable.
        • Tumin: what is meant by 'functionally important' roles in a social system.
    • ethnicity
      • ethnic inequalities are based on a common value system. inequalities are based on cultural differences between the minority and the host nation. sue to collective conscience groups assimilate over time, preventing anomie.
        • Criticism: there is no agreement of what constitutes a common value system. is it a white, M/c male perspective?
        • criticism: no evidence that ethnic minorities assimilate into mainstream culture. the UK is multi-cultural and diverse.
      • Parsons: argued the American negro was a second class citizen, but over time they have become integrated in society sharing the same values, and playing a full role in the meritocratic society.
        • evidence suggests that inequalities experienced differ due to location, fuctionalists suggest that all societies are the same.
    • age
      • disengagement theory: the elderly move away from mainstream society to make room for the younger generation. in this they leave some social roles, making them available for the next generation.
        • may not align with ideas of collective conscience
      • parsons: teenage culture as a transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, associating it with issues of insecurity as they sort to fulfill their social roles. whereas, old age was associated with dependency and isolation, drop of status.
      • Eisenstadt: differential age groups enable individuals to learn and acquire new social roles thus contributing to social cohesion.
      • Criticisms: it assumes homogeneity of experience whereas, age is characterised by diversity of experience. Also neglects issues of class, gender and ethnicity which interescts.. Finall they could be said to lack generalisability do
    • Gender
      • parsons: men are more suited to employment due to their instrumental role and women to domestics because of their expressive role. thus, women are lower paid, as they are less suited.
        • human capital theorists, would argue men are worth more due to their ability to commit to work. the theorists also argue many women choose to prioritise their role as homemaker and thus responsible for their own position.
          • however, they have been criticised for ignoring the structural constraints that disadvantage women in society such as expensive child care.
        • Criticism: Olsan and walby: more systematic, women are paid less because a higher percentage occupy lower paid jobs.
        • Oakley, a feminist argues that gender roles are socially constructed not ascribed. critics of Parsons argue that is theory is malestream, and thus the 'traditional' gender roles were convenient.


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