- Sociology is the study of social facts which are objective(they can be measured), constraining (collective values place limits on our behaviours) and external (exist before and after us).
- Society has a distinct qulaity which cannot be reduced to the motives of individuals.
- He developed constraint into his theory of suicide in which he suggested too little or too much intergration or regulation could lead.
- Thus, external contraint to certain levels shapes individual behaviour.
- His concept of social facts established Sociology as a subject.
- His main concerns were that an individual's actions are shaped by society and shared values lead to a collective conscience.
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- Society is made up of basic linked elements which meet basic needs: it is a functional unit, people have decision making capacity and core values and norms create intergration.
- Society is made up of 3 systems: personality (person's beliefs and internalised values), social (institutionalised expectations) and cultural (core values and shared history).
- The social system has to fulfill functional prerequisities: adaptation (economy), goal attainment (power), intergration (control) and pattern maintenance (socialisation).
- All 3 systems are interconnected, for example, social system links to the personality system via social role which is a learned expectation of how to behave in a given situation, such as a student who has learned to sit quietely in class. These roles are institutionalised into the social system and are passed on through socialisation.
- People make their own decisions and pattern dilemmas variable represent the dilemmas they ecounter (affective versus affective neutrality).
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Evaluation of Parsons
- Parsons does include choice through pattern variables but the expected social roles effectively determine how we should act.
- His emphasis on shared values assumes people automatically conform.
- Deterministic, as his theory fails to explain how people create roles.
- Ignores the inequality of Capitalism and divisions in social groups.
- Based on speculation not empirical research ('armchair sociology')
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- Parsons' work had failed to understnad how people can be motivated by material interests, people may accept the goals of society but do not conform.
- He developed 5 responses to the 'American Dream': conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion.
- He put forward 3 arguments against early Functionalist theory:
functional unity: not all parts of society are seemlessly connected.
universal functionalism: some institutions are dysfunctional
indispensibilty: there are functional alternatives to some institutions
- He was keen to identify the functions of actions and did this via manifest (intented function) and latent (unintended consequence) functions.
- Sociologists should proceed by examining latent functions to question the degree of order in society.
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