Social Inequality - Functionalism

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SOCIAL INEQUALITY ­ FUNCTIONALISM ­ GENERAL VIEWS
Outline and assess Functionalist explanations of inequality [40]
Durkheim
Believes social inequality has a function in society ­ society needs people to take on
the jobs with differing status in order for it to function smoothly; this is known as the
division of labour
People are accepting of the inequality which exists within society as there is a value
consensus; this is the idea that the more valued positions should receive greater
rewards ­ as if society should be a meritocracy
He concludes that as long as people perceive the system is fair and they are given
opportunities to succeed, they will accept the inequality in society
Do people truly hold a value consensus on the large amount of bankers who receive
way too much money in their bonuses and the tax evaders such as Philip Green who
are still getting away with it and receive no repercussions?
th
Durkheim's ideas were written in the 19 century and it's debatable whether
they're relevant today
Marxists would criticise Durkheim; people `perceiving the system is fair' is similar to
that of Marx's `false class consciousness' ­ from a Marxist viewpoint it could be
argued that this unawareness of the real inequality and exploitation in society is
much more damaging than Durkheim believes (this highlights how invalid consensus
theories are; Marxists more accurately depict this from a conflict view point)
Parsons
Has similar ideas to Durkheim in that society shares a value consensus regarding
which jobs are the most important
This agreement occurs because people are socialised into the same norms and
values by agents such as the family and education ­ people all agree and so they
continue to work to keep society being a happy and cohesive place
Believes stratification is an inevitable part of society, and because our roles are
ascribed, inequalities in society are unequal but still functional
Parsons went on to argue how women are socialised into more expressive roles,
involving being a mother figure and meeting the family's emotional needs, while
men were socialised into instrumental roles, involving being the breadwinner and
providing financially for his family
In 2013 the gender pay gap was still estimated at 19.7% for men and women
working in the same job, supporting Parsons' ideas of gender roles; though its hard
to see how there is a value consensus regarding this ­ women will not perceive this
as fair and inevitable
Feminists Dunscombe and Marden would contradict the idea of men and women
being better suited to specific roles; they argue gender wise, women are performing

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­ the roles which Parsons describes lead to inequalities regarding
how much work men and women would be doing
Davis & Moore
Believe social stratification serves a functional purpose in society; they help it to
meet its needs and survive
One way this occurs is through role allocation; all roles must be filled, therefore it
would be wise to fill them with people who perform them best ­ they must have the
necessary training and they must be conscientious (desire to do a task well)…read more

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Outline and assess Functionalist explanations of age inequality [40]
Parsons ­ Childhood
Childhood is a period when socialisation into a societies culture takes place; children
learn the norms and values associated with different social roles ­ this enables them
to contribute to society as adults
Believes girls have more opportunities to practice adult roles in childhood in
comparison to boys ­ this is because Parsons believes women's roles are being a
housewife and mother, while men are more focused on paid employment and being
the…read more

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He believed, particularly in the USA, that the elderly become isolated from
participating in the most important social structures and interests
Cunnings and Henry came up with the disengagement theory of ageing; elderly
people actively begin to disengage from their previous social roles as they realise
that they will die in the near future ­ supports Parsons as it shows how the elderly
become less necessary in fulfilling social roles; their compliancy is functional for
society and it allows people to see them as less…read more

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Human Capital theory
Proposes that men and women serve different roles, and therefore the pay gap is
justified as men have more `human capital' than women
This is because women are less committed to paid work and are more likely to take
career breaks; many women choose to prioritise their role as homemaker
Therefore women will have less experience in their jobs than men because they are
less likely than men to be in long term employment ­ this makes it difficult for
women to…read more

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Immediate family comes first and other obligations and relationships come second
Murdock therefore assumes that the nuclear family is positive and a beneficial
institution in which family members receive nurturing, unconditional love and care
Leach said that nuclear families have become so close-knit and isolated from
everything else that a lot of emotional stress is caused.…read more

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Believes social inequality has a function in society ­ society needs people to take on
the jobs with differing status in order for it to function smoothly; this is known as the
division of labour
Working class people are more likely to be in manual labour, while the middle class
are found more commonly in white collar jobs
People are accepting of the inequality which exists within society as there is a value
consensus; this is the idea that the more valued positions should receive…read more

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The old boys network is also an example of how the classes may hold social closure
away from the other classes, socialising their children to have the same values
Davis & Moore
Believe social stratification serves a functional purpose in society; they help it to
meet its needs and survive
One way this occurs is through role allocation; all roles must be filled, therefore it
would be wise to fill them with people who perform them best ­ they must have the
necessary training and…read more

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Such differences are inevitable for a period of time until the groups assimilate ­
when the minority groups give up their own cultural values and adopt those of their
host nation, the ethnic majority
Believes racism is a result of ethnic minority groups not assimilating
Why should ethnic minorities have to lose their culture to be accepted into a new
host country? Britain is normally praised for its ethnic diversity so we should not be
telling ethnic minorities to assimilate
Even when minorities and immigrants…read more

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