Sociology is the study of objective social facts, which are external and constraining. Society has a distinct quality which cannot be reduced to the motives of individuals. He developed the idea of constraint into his theory of suicide; too much or too little integration leads to suicide. External constraint, therefore, shapes individual behaviour. Drunken established Sociology as a subject by suggesting that individual's actions are shaped by society as part of a collective conscience.
Society is made up of linked elements which meet basic needs: society s a functional unit, people have decision-making capacity and core values create integration. Society is made up of three systems: social, personality and cultural, which fulfilled functional prerequisites: adaption, goal attainment, integration and pattern maintenance. These institutions fulfil basic needs. The personality and social systems are linked through the idea of social role, these roles become institutionalised in the social system and are learnt via socialization. Parsons believed people make their own decisions and pattern variables are the dilemmas they face (ie: whether to become emotionally involved, affective, or behave in a business like manner, affective neural).
Criticisms of Parsons
Although he includes personal choice (which was missing for Durkheim's theory), the expected social roles effectively determine how we should act.
Furthermore, Parsons assumes that everyone conforms meekly to society and ignores to inequalities of the Capitalist system. His research is based on speculation and not empirical research, an 'armchair sociologist'.
Can be used to criticise other Functionlists
He believed Parsons' work missed how people can be motivated by material interests, they may accept the goals of society and not conform. He developed this idea into 5 responses to the American Dream, for example, if someone cannot afford what they want, they may use crime to get it. He also suggested not all parts of society are connected, some institutions are dysfunctional and there are viable alternatives to these institutions.
General criticisms of Functionalism
Neglects the meanings individuals give to situations.
Ignores social conflict.