Pure Functionalism


Pure Functionalism: Structuralist and Macro

  • society fits together and works as a whole
  • this whole unit is harmonious
  • society directs and determines behaviour
  • favour positivist methodology

Biological Analogy

  • society is like the human body
  • societal institutions are similar to organs, if one breaks down, so does the whole of society
  • each insitution must make its own contributions to society
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Value Consensus

' a general agreement on how society should run and how we should behave'

every society needs norms and values to function

everyone upholds the same norms and values within society - much disputed

this integrates people into society, everyone being commited towards the same goal

shared goals offer incentive for cooperation

norms can be seen as expressions of values

Durkheim: Social Solidarity and Collective Conscience

social life is achieved through consensus within the collective conscience

the comon beliefs and morals bind individuals together to form a solid social unit

social obligation is formed, backed by moral force

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Parsons: Functional Prerequisites

Adaptation - social systems must have some degree of control over their enviornment as to provide a minimum of food and shelter, the economy is the primary institution for this

e.g. building houses and providing sanitary facilaties

Goal attainment - all societies need goals to which social activites can be directed, then we can allocate resources

e.g. GCSEs and RPA

Intregration - the coordination and mutual adjustment of parts of the social system, this is regulated by the legal system

e.g. marriage and divorce

Latency - the maintenance of basic patterns of values institutionalised in society

e.g. family, education and religion

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Pattern Variables

1. Affective or Affectivity - gratification is immediate (traditional society) or deferred (modern society)

e.g. leaving school v.s. going to univeristy

2. Diffuseness of Specifity - the relationships people have is based on one link (modern society) or many (traditional society)

e.g working with your family v.s. just knowing your teacher as your teacher

3. Paticularism and Universalism - the same rules apply equally to everyone (modern society)

e.g. employing someone because they are related v.s. employing the best candidate

4. Ascription or Achievement - abilities vs. social staus

5. Collective - orientation or self orientated

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Parsons: Social Change

- change is gradual and evolutionary, increasing in complexity and structural differentiation

- as society develops, the kinship system loses functions (structural differentiation)

- seperate, functionally specialised institutions form, each meeting a differenent need

- society has an equilibrium, when once change occurs, so do others to compensate for the original change

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Internal Criticisms

Indespensability -

Parson assumes all institutions can change and this will be for the better, this is simply not true

Univeral Functionalism -

there are some negative forms of institutions with conflict in interests

Functional Unity -

not all parts of society are closesly connectd as suggested, instead there is a functional autonomy

Manifest and Latent Functions -

manifest = intended function

latent = promotes solidarity in times of hardship

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External Criticisms

Logical Criticisms -

real explanations should offer a cause, this approch is very unscientific with little evidence to support it

Conflict Perspective Criticism -

functionalism fails to explain conflict and continual change due to this, the idea of conservative idelogy is wrong

e.g. marxism and feminism

Post Modern Criticism -

functionalism assumes society is stable and organised, this meta narrative is wrong

Action Perspective Criticism -

Wrong (1961) functionalism is oversocialised and deterministic, ignoring free well and the individual

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