Funtionalism (Theory)


Key concepts

Functional prerequisites: Basic needs of society.

Functional alternatives/equivalents: When two different institutuions perform the same function.

Determinism: The idea that humans have no free will, their thoughts are caused by factors outside of themsleves.

Socialisation: The process through wich culture is internalised.

Value consensus: society sharing the same set of values.

Social order: The way institutions in society are organised and work together to maintain status quo.

Meritocracy: Everyone having an equal opportunity to succed, rewards and status are achieved not ascribed.

Organic analogy: The institustions of society are interpendent.

1 of 4

Emile Durkheim

  • Society maintains order through shared values
  • Share values= the collective conscience
  • Sociology should be a study of social facts and can and shouold be studied objectively
  • Studied suicide- was interested in how society can externally constrain ('social integration' and 'social regulation')- shapes our behaviour
  • Adopted a positivist approach using official statistics to conduct multivariate analysis
  • Needs are met by 4 major sub systems- broken into Instrumental needs and Expressive needs
  • Instumantal (material) = Economic and Political subsystems
  • Expressive (emotional) = Kinship and Cultural subsytems
2 of 4

Talcott Parsons

  • Value consensus is maintained through socialisation and socila control agencies
  • Scoiety is made up of linked elements that meet functional prerequisites
  • Made up of three interliniking systems- Personality, Social, Cultural.
  • Personality: A persons beliefs, goals and internalized values
  • Social (central system for parsons): Institutionaolised expectations expressed in roles such as teacher/student in education
  • Cultural: Core values and shared history that make a society distinct
  • Must meet four funtional prerequisites- Adaptation, Goal attainment, Integration, Latency
  • Adaptation: Economic production to ensure physicla needs are met. each society must provide adequate standard of life
  • Goal attaintment: Societies must develop ways of making decisions for the masses
  • Integration: The need to control conflict through socila control agencies
  • Latency: Maintenance of value consensus/ role alloctaionso people are motivated to belong to society
3 of 4

Robert Merton

  • Challenged som functional assumptions
  • Argued that Organic Analogy is less likely in a complex and highly differentiated society
  • Functional unity should be investigated and shouldn't be assumed to automatically exist
  • Argues that not all parts of society have positive functions but that some parts of society may be dysfunctional or non-functional
  • Argues taht Parsons and Durkheim ignore possibility of distinguishing between positive function (Manifest functions, Latent Functions)
  • Manifest functions: The deliberate and intended function
  • Latent Function: The unintende function that may still have a positive effect
  • Argues that it is wrong to assume society could not function without some institutions as institutions can have Functional alternatives/equivelants
4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Sociological theory resources »