Functionalist Theory of Class

The Functionalist Theory of Class

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The Functionalist Theory

Functionalists argue that everything is as it is in order for society to function effectively

An occupational division of labour exists so people have different jobs, skills- of which are necessary, but some more necessary than others, which accounts for the difference in pay and rewards

Functionalist would see capitalism as a positive structure, leading to economic  growth, and improved living standards for all social classes


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Saw class as being a key beneficial factor to social order. People accept these differences because there is an agreement on what is important for society. VALUE CONSENSUS. By having a stratification system, people could understand what their limits are and not try to achieve beyond their abilities. It is not effective if people are resentful of their position if we are to main. SOCIAL ORDER.

He acknowledge that if people were forced into positions and not allowed to strive for something more, then there could be unrest in society. As long as society is MERITOCRATIC in terms of equal access to gaining qualifications, then everyone will feel they have been given a chance. Sudden changes can affect the social order (recession). People get disgruntled with their position in society if they don’t have a job and start to apportion blame. This could lead to a breakdown in social order

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David and Moore

Generally agree with Durkheim. Roles have to be filled by people who the most talented and efficient. As these are in short supply it is vital, if society is to function effectively, that the right people get the right jobs. This is why high rewards are essential.

The important jobs are unique. The people doing these jobs cannot be substituted. Other people’s jobs are likely to depend on the person doing the important job too. 

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Thought that stratification was based more on respect and approval. STATUS.

There is a CONSENSUS on how jobs should be ranked in society, according to their importance  or value to society.

Normative Consensus 

Agreed by everyone. So it is agreed that parents have a higher status than children. This could extend to beauty and intelligence. These are subjective characteristics and their measure varies from society to society and even within societies

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Positive Points

Highlights positive aspects of society- meritocracy, benefits of capitalism.

Points out that stratification is an inevitability in society- so it must have a function.

Realistic in pointing out that some jobs are more important than others.

Highlight the importance of rewards in encouraging the best people for the important jobs.

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There are many poorly rewarded important jobs in our society- nurses, emergency service.

Ignore that society is more meritocratic for some than others due to a person’s starting point in life.

Largely ignores that sexism, racism and disablism contributes to a person’s opportunities of securing a job to match their ability and qualifications.

Naive in thinking that people accept their place in society.

Right wing view of social class, ignoring the inequalities in modern society.

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