Functionalists - organic analogy to describe socie
Functionalists - organic analogy to describe nature of society
- Talcott Parsons(1951) - organic analogy to show how society acts like a living organism. Series of organs interconnected and interdependent, likewise society.
- change is "evolutionary" - if one part of society changes, all others will slowly adapt
- social ills have a disabling effect on certain parts of the organism, and can gradually infect other parts
- interrelation can only happen because of value consensus. Values passed down through generations through socialisation.
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Functionalism - societies needs met by 4 subsystem
- all members of society have needs and desires that the social system must cater for. Can be broken down into instrumental and expressive needs
- Instrumental needs are material - food, home etc. Supported by economic subsystems(industries) and political subsystems(political parties and T.U's)
- expressive needs are emotional - e.g the need to belong. Looked after by a kinship subsystem(marriage and family) and a cultural subsystem(schools and churches)
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Functionalism tries to explain everything...
- Comte, Durkheim, Parsons - first attempt to make a theory to explain the whole of society. Called a macro-theory, as opposed to a micro(small scale) theory.
- useful in showing how all the main institutions in society are linked
- explains activities and actions that superficially seem unusual or strange. e.g Durkheim's(1897) study of suicide. Social structures and problems in modern world cause people to commit suicide. What seems individual act is caused by wider society.
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Functionalism criticised for ignoring conflict and maintaining inequality
- criticised for focus on harmony and cooperation. Fails to take in to account differences and conflicts
- tries to see a positive aspect in all of society. Durkheim - if a social phenomenon didn't serve a purpose it wouldn't exist.
- criticised for being a conservative approach to society that upholds inequality and injustice. Does not explain w/c problems
- Fatalistic approach to nature of equality - it's seen as innevitable. Parsons idea of "Meritocracy" assumes that society is already fair.
- conflict in society is minimal because people accept the innevitability of inequality. Conflict theoriests disagree on this.
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