Sociology Overview :)

An overview of sociology :)

Includes information about the different approaches and the sociologists that created them :)

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  • Created on: 21-03-12 11:18
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Functionalism:
Functionalism is a structuralist theory; this means that the social structure or
organization of society is seen as more important than the individual. This theory is
sometimes seen as `top-down' as it looks at society rather than the individuals within it.
Functionalism sees society as more important because the individual is produced by
society. People are the product of all the social influences on them: their family, friends,
educational and religious background, their experiences at work, in leisure and their
exposure to the media. All these influences help to shape individuals in society. All
individuals play their role within society during their lifetime, but after they die, society
continues to function; this is why society is seen as more important than the individual.
Functionalism looks at society as though it were a living thing, such as a human being. Due
to this, society is said to be like a human body:
Every part of the body has a function which helps to keep it alive and healthy - this
also applies to society ­ every part of society helps to keep society going; for example,
the family helps by bringing up the next generation.
The human body grows and develops; societies are similar in the sense that they
gradually develop and change.
All of the parts of the body link together into one big system ­ society also has parts
which work together and depend on each other; they are interdependent.
The body fights off disease ­ society has mechanisms to deal with problems when
they occur, such as the police and the legal system.
Society is seen as a system ­ a set of parts which work together to form a whole. These
parts are the institutions of society; for example, the family, the education system and
the political system.
Functionalists are often asked, `what is a function?' By `function' they mean its
contribution to the maintenance of the social system. This leads to the question `what is
the function of the family?' The function of the family is to socialise new members of
society and teach them the norms and values which are essential for social life; this is
called primary socialisation. This leads to the next question, `what is the relationship
between the family and other institutions, such as the educational system?' The
educational system continues the process of socialisation which started in the family; this
is called stabilisation. By doing this, the institutions of family and education work together
to maintain a social order.
Key sociologists in functionalism:
Talcott Parsons
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Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was a key functionalist thinker; he believed that socialization
is the key to understanding human behaviour patterns. Parsons believed that the role of
social institutions, such as family, education, religion and the media, is to ensure passing
on of socially acceptable patterns of behaviour.
Social institutions do this in a number of ways:
They socialize people into key values of society, such as the importance of nuclear
family life, achievement, respect for authority and hierarchy and so on.…read more

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Robert Merton viewed society having interrelated parts that contribute to the
functioning of the whole system. Merton contributed to the theory of functionalism; he
believed that functionalism was made up of two basic factors:
Interdependent parts: this is society's institutions (religion, education, politics, etc.)
that are all linked together. A change in one institution leads to a change in other
parts. In order to function properly the system will seek equilibrium, or stability.…read more

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The functionalist approach sees families as being an important part of society; this is
because families are responsible for shaping us, as individuals, and determining our
experiences and life chances.
Functionalism also sees families as an important part of society because they
function for the greater good of society. This is because families shape and benefit its
individual members.
Functionalism emphasises the importance of families.…read more

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Marxism is also a structuralist theory, like functionalism ­ it sees the individual as less
important than society. Marxism sees the economic organisation of societies as
responsible for the behaviour of individuals; this is because Marxism claims that individuals
are the product of the class relationships that characterize economic life.
Marxism sees society based on an unequal relationship where the bourgeoisie exploit the
proletariat; this is done by the bourgeoisie dominating the economy as they own the
means o production.…read more

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Karl Marx (1818 ­ 1883)
Karl Marx put forward the idea that the society in which we are living is capitalists as it is
divided into two main classes ­ the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and the working class
(proletariat). The bourgeoisie make the proletariat do hard labour in return for a small
wage which is much less than they deserve. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, benefit
from the capitalist society.…read more

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Evaluation
Strengths:
Marxism show the family in a more realistic view compared to functionalism which
does not show the dark sides of families.
Marxism has been supported by theoretical research.
Marxism highlights the family in a significant way.
Weaknesses:
Marxism stereotypes people as not being aware of their `real identity'; it does not
acknowledge the fact that some people do realise their true identity.…read more

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Liberal feminists
Liberal feminists are optimistic about the idea of equality between men and women.
They believe that there has been a steady improvement in the position of women, as
old-fashioned attitudes break down, more girls are doing well in education and more
women have successful careers.…read more

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Key terms:
Patriarchy ­ dominated by men
Gender ­ the behaviour that culture associates with femininity and masculinity
Equality ­ the state at which both men and women are treated the same
Gender quake ­ the radical change in attitudes, especially towards education and
work, experienced by younger women compared with women of previous generations
Repression ­ oppressive and exploitive
Evaluation
Strengths:
All the forms of feminism point out the difference and inequality between the two
genders.…read more

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