1. Functionalism

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  • Functionalism
    • Society as a system
      • The human analogy; like the organs in the body, society's institutions must work effectively in order for it to function harmoniously as a whole
      • PARSONS
        • Social laws and order
          • Order is maintained through socialisation and agencies of social control
          • Agencies include the family, school, religion, work, peers and the media
        • Social sysems
          • There are individual actions at the bottom of the social system
          • Each action is governed by specific norms which come in clusters called status-roles
          • Status-roles also come in clusters called institutions which are in turn grouped into sub-systems
          • These sub-systems make up the social system
        • Functional imperatives
          • Society works as a system which has a number of functional imperatives
            • 1. Goal maintenance; the ability of society to set goals and allocate resources to achieve them
            • 2. Adaptation; the ability to adapt to new surroundings and continue to meet the needs of its members
            • 3. Integration; people and parts of the subsystem must be integrated together
            • 4. Latency; the ability to pass on shared culture and values to the next generation
          • In order to makes sure these needs are met societies evolve 4 distinct subsystems;
            • Political (government, local council)
            • Economic (business, banks)
            • Cultural (school, religion)
            • Kinship (family, friends)
        • Social evolution
          • Society is constantly working to maintain harmony
          • If there is a change in one part of society, others also change to maintain the balance; this is called homeostasis
          • This change takes one of 3 forms (AID);
            • Adaptation; institutions restructure to perform their functions more effectively
            • Inclusion; existing institutions take over new functions
            • Division; new institutions evolve out of existing ones in order to address new needs
          • As society changes so must in values; from traditional values (pattern variables A) to modern variables (pattern variables B)
          • Without values changing, society cannot change
      • DURKHEIM
        • The value consensus regulates our behaviour
        • All modern societies face the risk of anomie
        • In pre-industrial society order was maintained through mechanical solidarity (based on similarity)
        • In industrial society, order is maintained through organic solidarity (based on difference)
        • Social evolution
          • Over times, society becomes more complex
          • As a result more institutions evolve and take over the functions of old ones
          • We move from a society with few institutions performing many functions to many institutions performing few functions
          • This is called structural differentiation
          • Eventually, each institution is left only performing its irreducible functions
    • Merton's internal critique of functionalism
      • MERTON criticises PARSONS work on 3 grounds
      • Indispensability; PARSONS assumes that everything in society is functionally indispensable in its existing form. MERTON points to functional alternatives
      • Functional unity: PARSONS assumes that all parts of society are tightly integrated into a unity and that each part is functional for the rest. some institutions may have functional autonomy
      • Universal functionalism; PARSONS assumes that everything in society performs a positive function for society as a whole yet some things may be functional for some groups but dysfunctional for others
      • MERTON introduced the distinction between manifest and latent functions
        • Manifest functions are those identified by the group
          • E.g. the rain dance functions to make it rain
        • Latent functions are those that the institution actually performs
          • E.g. the function of the rain dance is actually to promote social solidarity
    • External critiques of functionalism
      • Logical criticisms
        • Teleology is the idea that things exist because of their effect of function e.g. the family exists because children need to be socialised
          • However, there must be a cause before the effect and socialisation can only be the effect and therefore come after families which contrasts with functionalsm
        • However, there must be a cause before the effect and socialisation can only be the effect and therefore come after families which contrasts with functionalsm
        • It is unscientific; it is not falsifiable
      • Conflict perspective criticisms
        • It ignores class and gender inequalities
        • Society is not in fact a harmonious whole
      • Action perspective criticisms
        • WRONG
          • Functionalism is over-socialised and deterministic
        • Functionalism reifies society- that is, treats it as a distinct thing over and above individuals, with its own needs
      • Postmodernist criticisms
        • Functionalism assumes society is stable and ordered so cannot account for the diversity of today
        • Functionalism is a meta-narrative

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