Assess the strengths and weaknesses to the functionalist apporach to society

Assess the strengths and weaknesses to the functionalist apporach to society (33 marks)

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Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society
(33 marks)
Functionalism is seen as a macro-scale approach to society; it sees society as a whole
rather than looking at parts of it. Due to this, functionalism sees society as a body (organic
analogy), all the institutions work together to make society. This is particularly useful when
observing society in order to understand the way in which it functions and the way in
which all the institutions (organic analogy: organs within the body) work together to
sustain society as a whole. Functionalism being a macro-scale approach is therefore seen
as a strength as it allows functionalist sociologists to observe society, and its institutions,
as a whole. Functionalism is also seen as a consensus theory, it sees society as fair and
just, and it acknowledges that many societies, including the majority of western ones,
have democracy and all individuals within a particular society share the same or similar
norms and values. This could therefore be seen as a strength as it acknowledges that
democracy does exist in many societies.
However, as functionalism is a macro-scale approach and sees society as a whole, it could
miss crucial factors/ groups which contribute to the functioning of society; these include
small groups and tribes, such as gipsies. Not acknowledging these minority groups within
society could lead to functionalist sociologists lacking crucial information about how
society functions and how minority groups live within a large society. This could therefore
be seen as a weakness of functionalism as it fails to acknowledge that there are minority
groups within society. Also, as functionalism is a consensus theory where all individuals
within a particular society share the same or similar norms and values and sees society as
being fair and just; however, it fails to acknowledge that there are inequalities within
society, these inequalities could be present amounts social class, gender or ethnicity.
However, other approaches, such as Marxism and Feminism acknowledge that there are
inequalities within society which raises the question as to whether functionalism is the
most appropriate approach to use when studying society. This is therefore seen as a
weakness of functionalism as society does have many inequalities which functionalism
fails to acknowledge.
Talcott Parsons, a functionalist sociologist who elaborated on Durkheim's work about
society and its functions, claimed that society is like an organism, in particular, the human
body. He argued that all institutions, such as the family and the education system, within
society function together to maintain society just as the organs within a human body
work together to maintain life. In particular, Parsons identified three similarities between
the human body and society; he claimed that they were both systems within themselves
­ all the parts of a body and the institutions within society fit together in fixed ways. He
also identified that these `systems' have needs ­ the human body needs nutrition to help
it sustain life, whereas society needs adequate socialisation in order for society to
continue functioning in the way that it does. Parsons also stated that both the human
body and society have functions ­ the functions of the systems within the human body
ensure that the body's needs are meet thus maintaining life; whereas, in society, the
economy functions to maintain the social system. As parsons' analogy helps sociologists
to better understand the way in which institutions in society work together to maintain a
`healthy' society, it can be seen as a strength of functionalism as it helps to structure
sociologists' perceptions about how society functions.
Parsons also identified four needs of society and how they are met. He claimed that
society needs adaptation, this is where the material needs of society are met; for
example, individuals within society work in order to gain their wages which in turn provides
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He also argued that society needs goal attainment - society
needs to set goals and achieve them; this need is met via the political ­ political leaders
set goals for society to achieve and these goals help to improve society. Integration is
another need which Parsons identified, this is where cohesion between the different
institutions, such as the family and education system, is promoted; this is done to avoid
chaos and conflict.…read more

Comments

Fatima Albaloushi

nice

kaybee456

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