Functionalist Perspective

  • Created by: theshyone
  • Created on: 04-04-18 08:21
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  • Functionalist Perspective
    • Society as a system
      • biological organanism - Parsons identified 3 similaraties
        • System - self regulating systems of inter-related, independent parts that fit together in fixed ways.
        • System needs - Organisms have needs like nutrition. Social system has basic needs that need to be met, otherwise will die.
          • Meeting the needs
        • Functions - function of any part of a system is the contribution it makes to meeting the system's needs and thus ensuring its survival
          • Family, and Education provide this.
      • Value Consensus and Social Order
        • Parsons - Social order is achieved through shared culture/shared value system.
        • Social order only possible when members agree on these norms and values. Called Value Consensus - glue holding society together.
      • Integration of individuals
        • to make social order possible need to integrate individuals into the social system. E.G - material needs -- people need to work -- rules of conduct or norms (punctuality)
        • Ensuring people conform to shared norms and meet needs is Socialisationand Social Control.
          • Crime - punishments Inevitable - Durkheim 'Healthy societies'
      • The system's needs
        • 'AGIL Schema'
          • Adaptation- social system meets members' material needs through the economic sub-system
            • Capitalist Society
          • Goal Attainment - society needs to set goals and allocate resources to achieve them - Parliament
          • Integration - different parts of the system must be integrated together to pursue shared goals - religion, education and media.
          • Latency - processes that maintain society over time. Kinship subsystem provides pattern maintainance
      • Social Change
        • Parsons - 2 types of Society. Traditional and Modern. Both has different sets of norms.
          • Modern Society - pursue self interest, achieve our status and are all judged by the same universalistic standards.
          • Traditional Society - collective interests first. Status is ascribed and they are judged by particularistic standards.
        • Change is gradual - Organic analogy - organisms evolved from simple structures. Society has done the same.
    • Merton's internal critique of functionalism
      • Criticisms - Merton Functionalist.
        • Indispensability - Parsons assumes that everything in society is functionally indispensable in its existing form. Merton - untested assumption. 'Functional alternatives.'
        • Functional Unity - all parts of society are tightly integrated into a single whole or 'unity' is wrong. He also says that change in one part will have a knock on effect in other parts.
          • Not true. Complex modern society has many different parts that may be distant from one another.
            • Some parts may have 'functional autonomy' from others. It is hard to see the connections between the structure of banking and the rules of netball.
        • Universal functionalism - assumes everything in society performs a positive function for society as a whole. Some may be functional for some groups and others it's dysfunctional.
          • idea of dysfunction introduces a neglected note into functionalism May be conflict of interests and some groups may have the power to keep arrangements in place that benefit them at the expense of others.
        • Manifest and latent functions
          • useful distinction between 'manifest' and 'latent' functions. Examples of the Hopi Indians who, in times of drought perform a rain dance with the aim of magically producing rain.
            • latent function- promoting a sense of solidarity in times of hardship, when individuals might be tempted to look after themselves in expense of others.
              • help to reveal the hidden connections between social phenomena, which the actors themselves may not be aware of.
    • External Critiques of functionalism
      • Action Perspective- Wrong - criticises functionalism's 'over socialised' or deterministic view of the individual. They have no free choice so mere puppets whose strings are pulled by the social system
        • functionalism - shaped by society Action perspective - individuals create society by their interactions.
      • logical-  functionalism is teleological. Family exist because children need to be socialised. A real explanation is one that identifies its cause. Cause and effect. Socialisation can only come after families.
        • unscientific, only scientific if in principle it is falsifiable by testing. If deviance is both dysfunctional and functional it can't be disproved and therefore unscientific.
      • conflict perspective- Marxists - its inability to explain conflict and change.  Society is not harmonous based on exploitation and divided classes. Stability result of the dominant class being able to prevent change by using coercion.
      • Postmodernist (P.M) -  Functionalists assume that society is stable and orderly. Cant account for the diversity and instability in today's postmodern society.
        • Functionalism is the example of meta narrative, attempts to create model of the workings of the whole of society. According to P.M such an overall theory no longer possible because today's society increasingly fragmented.


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