AQA A2 Sociology- Theory- Functionalism

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  • Theory: Functionalism
    • Comte
      • Uses the biological analogy to describe society.
      • As a positivist he uses science to study human behaviour.
        • These methods are used because social change can be planned rationally, it gave a comprehensive picture of society and was a practical way of studying humans.
      • Postivism
        • Social phenomana has causal links that science uncovers. A hypothesis can be developed that then must be verified or refuted.
    • Durkheim
      • He wanted to establish sociology as a science so used stats and the comparative method when studying suicide.
      • Social facts: something that is greater and external to you and that constrains your behaviour.
      • Social solidarity.
        • Mechanical: Pre modern societies, people's lives were very similar so social order was easy to maintain helped by a strict religious and legal system that keeps your behaviour in check
        • Organic Solidarity: Modern societies, increased individualism but social order can be maintained because there is inter-dependance  (people rely in one another to do things they can't do)
      • Social Order
        • Humans have 2 sides: one side is selfish and egoistical but the other is moral and altruistic. Society must appeal to the 2nd side.
        • He sees social order as being society's functional prerequisite (a basic need) which if not achieved society won't exist.
        • Social institutions promote altruism and morals through  a collective conscience. Social order requires the individual to see society as bigger than  themselves and teaching history does this. Social order is threatened by anomie as it weakens the bonds in society.
      • Eval:
        • Positivism is relevant as societies rely on scientific knowledge to produce stats and factual info which creates patterns.
        • Social solidarity/order is seen at the brink of collapse. Durkheim was right to see order as important as we see it in places like Syria where conflict affects everyone.
    • Parsons
      • Basis of Social order:
        • Value consensus: society commits to the same values by sharing common values which provide unity and punishment shows how conformity is important.
        • Functional prerequisites: institutions are needed for this.
          • Adaptation: how societies use the environment to survive- economy ensures proper uise of resoruces .
          • Goal attainment: societies make goals- the political system makes rules and regulations to make sure we pursue the goals.
          • Integration: bahviour must be integrated according to society's norms and values- legal system punishes those who don't conform
          • Maintain basic values: society must be fed dominant norms and values helped by media.
        • Social equilibrium: when all parts of society are in balance, maintained by  socialisation and the institutions that act as social control.
        • Social Change: In reality we have a moving equilibrium- change does occur but slowly
        • Social evolution: cultural changes societies see is from pattern A (simple) to Pattern B (modern) societies. Social changes are evolutionary and don't happen over night.
        • Social differentiation: institutions change roles- Church no longer teach children they focus on their religious role.
    • Merton
      • Institutions have manifest (obvious) and Latent (hidden) functions. E.g. school's manifest = teach children and latent = ensures conformity.
      • He asks if institutions have inter-related functions. E.g. the political syetm may need support from the religious system
    • Eval:
      • Illogical: they see institution's existence in terms of their effects first not the cause of their existance.
      • Biological: can society really be compared to a human body = weak analogy
      • Consensus: they don't explain social conflict- Marxists argue the world is in constant conflict, a result from inequality. Feminists say  stability won't occur because societies are patriarchal.
      • Too deterministic: Durkheim says we are told how to behave through socialisation- Interactionists disagree as people will choose how to act which may defy what is expected of us so behaviour is unpredictable.
      • Outdated: Functionalism is a classic theory, rooted in Enlightenment- Postmodernists argue this has no place in modern societies, society is fragmented and people pick 'n' mix their lives as consumers.


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