The Functionalists Understanding of Society

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  • Created on: 02-11-12 12:04
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The Functionalists Understanding of Society
Functionalists see society working in a similar way to the human body. Society is seen as a system
where all its parts work together to form a whole.
Functionalists believe that society exists in a state of equilibrium with its institutions functioning to
maintain social order.
In order to survive, functionalism assumes that society has certain needs that have to be met and that
social order is the main need. Functionalists believe that social order requires members of society to
cooperate and have social solidarity.
According to functionalism, we have social solidarity because we share norms and values. We learn
this from childhood through the process of socialisation.
Primary socialisation: occurs during the child's early years, takes place in the family.
Secondary socialisation: occurs as the child moves into the outside world.
Functionalism is often referred to as consensus theory. It sees society as a social system based on
consensus (agreement). Consensus is necessary in order to maintain social order.
Over-emphasising consensus and order and failing to explain the social conflicts that
characterize the modern world.
Accused of ignoring the freedom of choice enjoyed by individuals.
They have been accused by Marxists of ignoring the fact that power is not equally
distributed in society.


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