•Functionalism is a macro structural theory because it focuses on the needs of the social system as a whole and how these needs shape all the main features of society. •It’s also a consensus theory because it see’s society as based on a basic agreement. •Lastly, it’s a modernist theory and shares the goals of the enlightenment project. Functionalists believe that we can obtain true knowledge and this can be used to improve society.
Functionalism - Talcott Parsons (1970)
There are 3 similarities between biological systems and society:
- organisms are made of interdependent parts that fit together in a certain way. In society these parts are the individual roles (e.g. being a teacher is a role) and the institutions (e.g. family, religion etc)
- System needs
- society, like organic systems, have basic needs to be met in order to survive e.g. socialization
- Every system part has the function of contributing to meeting the system needs which ensure survival
- social order is achieved through a central value system which provides people with a framework which tells individuals how to behave and what others expect of them. Social order is possible when member agree with this central value system. Parsons calls this value consensus
Functionalism - Talcott Parsons (1970)
The value consensus integrates individuals into the social system and directs them towards meeting the systems needs through socialization (teaches the norms) and social control (maintains the norms).
The AGIL Schema
There are 4 needs in society which need to be met to ensure its survival. Adaptation and goal attainment are instrumental needs (the means to an end) and integration and latency are expressive needs (they relate to emotional expression)
Adaptation - the social system meets its members material needs ( this is the economic systems function)
Goal Attainment - society sets goals and then aims to meet them (this is the political systems function)
Integration - The system needs to be integrated in order to pursue shared goals (through sozialization + social control)
Latency - The processes that maintain society over time (e.g. the family socializes and provides tension management)
Functionalism - Talcott Parsons (1970)
Types of society - Traditional Vs Modern society
- Status based on ascription Vs Status based on achievement
- Relationships have a range of purposes Vs Relationships have a specific purpose
- Particularism (treat people differently) Vs Universalism (treat people the same)
- Affectivity (immediate gratification) Vs Affective Neutrality (deferred gratification
- Collective orientation (groups needs come first) Vs Self orientation (own needs first)
- change is a gradual process where societies move from a simple to a more complex structure
- E.G. the family used to perform the whole AGIL schema but social change made other institutions take over these functions
- Structural differentiation is the name for the process where specialized seperate institutions develop to meet different needs
- Moving equilibrium is the name for change in one part of the system making compensatory changes happen in other parts of the system
Functionalism - Merton's internal criticism
Indispensability - Parsons assumes that everything in society is functionally indispensable in its EXISTING form. Merton argues that it’s a untested assumption and he points to the possibility of ‘functional alternatives’ e.g. Parsons: primary socialization is best performed by nuclear family, Merton: single parent family/communes may do it better Functional Unity - Parsons assumes that all parts of society are integrated into a unity and that each part is functional for all the rest. He also assumes that a change in one part will affect the rest. Merton disagrees and argues that modern societies have many parts that are only very distantly related so there isn’t always functional unity – instead there are autonomous parts e.g. netball and banking are unrelated Universal Functionalism - Parsons assumes that everything in society performs a positive function for everything and everyone. However some things might be functional for one group but dysfunctional for another group. There may be conflicts of interest and some groups may have the power to keep arrangements that benefit them at the expense of others. We can’t always assume that society is smooth running.
Functionalism - Merton's internal criticism
Functionalism - External Criticisms
- Functionalism assumes society is stable and orderly so can’t account for the diversity and instability of postmodern society
- Functionalism is an example of a metanarrative (big story) that attempts to create a model of the workings of society as a whole.
- However postmodernists argue that such a theory no longer applies because today’s society is becoming increasingly fragmented
Action Theory - Dennis Wrong
- The functionalist view assumes that the social system uses socialisation to shape peoples behaviour so that they'll meet the systems needs by performing their prescribed roles.
- Individuals are mere passive puppets whose strings are being pulled by the social system.
- From an action perspective this is fundamentally wrong as individuals create society by their interactions rather than functionalists idea of humans being shaped by society.
Functionalism - Marxist Criticisms
•Society isn’t the harmonious whole that functionalists claim, society is instead based on exploitation and is divided into classes with conflicting interests. Stability is because the dominant class prevents change through coercion (force) or ideological manipulation. •Shared values are simply the interests of the dominant class .... •functionalism focuses on harmony and stability rather than conflict and change •This helps justify the existing social order as inevitable and desirable. •This legitimates the privileged position of powerful groups who would have most to lose from any fundamental changes in society
Marxism - Karl Marx
Hegel – Hegel was Marx’s influence. He believed that history was moving forward and that if there wasn’t a communist or socialist society in the future eventually workers will become alienated and the capitalist system would collapse. Karl Marx Capitalist Society: Is based on self interests. Workers a exploited for maximum profit. Eventually problems will occur because this imbalance between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat can't be maintaind
Communist Society: Where all goods are freely distributed, communal and moving towards a perfect society.
Socialist society: Where the state distributes the wealth, goods and equality. Without the state this society would result in communism or anarchism. Socialism is the transition from capitalism and communism Marxists agree with functionalists that society is a structure/system that shapes people's behaviours and ideas. But Marxists argue that the social structure is based on conflict between the social classes rather than consensus.Unlike functionalists they believe that revolution is possible because stability is only due to the dominant class imposing their force on society
Marxism - Karl Marx
Capitalism's 3 features:
Marxism - Karl Marx
- The concentration of ownership and the advance in technology deskilling the labour force has produced class polarisation .This is where a society is dividing into a minority bourgeoisie and a majority proletariat. According to Karl Marx the two “face each other as two warring (military) camps”. This will lead to the proletatiat changing from a class in itself where all the members have the same economic position, to a class for itself with class consciousness who are aware of the need to overthrow capitalism.
- The bourgeoisie also own the means of mental production and use their institutions to spread their values and legitimate the inequalities in order to maintain the proletariats false consciousness
- Marx argued that Alienation occurs when people lose control of the means of production and this peaks in capitalism because workers have no control over the forces of production and the worker is deskilled and forced to repeat meaningless tasks
- The state is an armed body of men (the army, police etc) because the state is there to protect the bourgeoisie and suppress a proletariat revolution. The proletariat revolution will be the first where the majority overthrow the minority. It will involve: abolishing the state to create a communist society, abolishing exploitation by removing private ownership and ending alienation by letting workers have control of the means of production
Marxism - Criticizing Marx
Marx ignores other forms of oppression
- Weber : status and power differences are also important sources of inequality because a ‘power elite’ can still rule without owning the means of production.
- Feminists: gender is also an important source of inequality
The two class model Marx used is simplistic
- Weber subdivided the proletariat into skilled and unskilled workers and also added the middle class and petty bourgeoisie (lower level bourgeoisie)
Marx predicted a revolution would occur in advanced capitalist countries, but instead it happened in economically backwards countries such as russia
Class polarisation hasn't occurred because the middle class haven't been swallowed by the proletariat. Instead the middle class have been explanding and the working class has shrunk in western societies. HOWEVER the working class in China and India have grown so Marx's predictions can be applied to these countries.
Marxism - Gramsci
Gramsci - The humanistic Marxist
- The ruling class maintain their position with COERCION and CONSENT.
- Coercion = using the armed bodies of men to make other classes accept their position
- Consent = using hegemony. Hegemony is when a dominant class successfully prejects their ways of seening the world onto everyone else so that it's seen as common sense
- In capitalist societies the bourgeoisie rely heavily on consent (hegemony) to maintain their rule and they're able to do so as they control the institutions. There won't be a revolution as long as people accept this hegemony
- BUT the hegemony's never complete because the ruling class are a minority so have to compromise for the middle classes support and because the proletariat have a dual consciousness because they're influenced by both the bourgeoisie and their exploitation. This means that they can partially see through the bourgeoiusie's hegemony
- Gramsci believed that a revolution will only occur when the bourgeoisie create a counter hegemony through a revolutionary political party which will offer a new socialist way of running society and capitalism can be overthrown
Marxism - Criticizing Gramsci
He doesn't take into account economic factors that would affect the proletariats revolution as well as the state coercion (armed bodies of men). E.g. the proletariat might want to overthrow capitalism but will be scared because they don’t want to be unemployed or fear the police etc. Sociologists that work within a Marxist framework adopt a similar approach. E.g. Paul Willis described that the working class lads he studied ‘partially penetrated’ the ideology and could see that meritocracy is a myth
Althusser: we aren't free agents as humanists believe. This is just an example of false consciousness created by the ideological state apparatuses. Socialism won't come from a change in consciousness, it will fall from contradictions between the different levels of the structural determinism model ( use after explaining Althusser's theory)
Marxism - Althusser (the structuralist marxist)
Unlike Gramsci, Althusser believes that social structures are what shape history rather than humans conscious actions.
He created a model of society which Craib refered to as 'structural determinism'
The 3 levels:
- Economic (all the activities which produce something to satisfy a need)
- Political ( all the organisations and institutions)
- Ideological ( the way people see themselves, the future and the world)
The economic level dominates in capitalism but the ideological and political levels are still indispensible. E.G. capitalism needs workers to be socialized (ideological level) and for those who rebel to be punished (the political level)
The state reproduces capitalism with the repressive state apparatuses (the armed bodies of men) and the ideological state apparatuses (media, education, everything used to create false consciousness)
Marxism - Craibs example
Marxism - criticizing Althusser
- It discourages political activism by suggesting that individuals won't change anything
- Althusser thought he was creating a scientific analysis of society but his work has been a huge influence on postmodernism which rehects the idea that scientific knowledge can be used to improve society
Ian Craib: Althusser offers the most sophisticated conception of social structures available in the social sciences
Social Action Theory - Max Weber
An adequate sociological explanation invols a level of cause (how structural factors shape people's behaviour) and a level of meaning (why people do what they do out of free will)
E.G. Britain changed from catholicism to protestantism because Henry the 8th wanted to divorce. The protestant church is what led to calvinism (the idea that working hard leads to God rewarding you). The level of cause: the protestant religion (the structure) enforced calvinism. The level of meaning: People believed in the religion and so believed in Calvinism as it has a religious meaning
Weber identified 4 typed of actions:
Instrumentally Rational Action: the actor calculates the most efficient way to achieve their goal e.g. low wages = profit
Value Rational Action: The actor does that they think will achieve their value based goals e.g. volunteers in africa to help malaria
Traditional Action: Acting out a habit without thinking about it e.g. crossing with a traffic light
Affectual action: Acting on emotions e.g. shouting when angry
Criticizing Social Action Theory
Sometimes actions come under more than one category! So the types of actions can be hard to apply!
Weber tried to understand peoples actions through verstehen but you can never truly be that person so can never truly understand their actions
Schutz: Webers view of actions doesn't explain the shared nature of meaning. E.G. at an auction people raise their arm to bid. Weber doesn't explain why everyone uses the same gesture for the same meaning
- Our behaviours aren't innate, we give meanings to things by attaching symbols to everything we encounter.
- We have to interpret the meanings of things in the worldto choose an appropriate responses
- We interpret other people's meanings through empathy and seeing ourselves as they see us
- For society to function we need to be able to do this so we know what others expect of us
- Agrees with Mead that our actions are based on the meanings we give to things in the world and they're a result of putting ourselves in others shoes
- The meanings we give to things in the world are negotiable and changeable to some extent
- Our behaviours are shaped by the labels we're given. Once an individual is labelled other people will treat the individual differently. Through the looking glass self (when we put ourselves in their shoes and look at ourselves as they see us) the label bevcome part of the individuals self concept which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy
- During labelling the individual is in different stage of their 'career' with a different status and problem E.G. For someone labelled as having a mental illness the first stage would be pre-patient, then hospital in-patient and then discharge.
- Individuals want to present an image of themselves and they constantly evaluate ho they're acting in order to make the image convincing
- There are front stages (Where individuals play their roles) and back stages (Where they can act themselves
- e.g. classroom = front stage, sixth form common room = back stage
- People aren't truly the roles they play, society loosely scripts them but individuals have freedom in how they play the roles.
Criticizing Symbolic Interactionism
It ignores wider social structures e.g. class inequality
Weber: Not all actions are meaningful. We may perform things unconsciously. Symbolic Interactionism doesn't explain this
It's more of a loose collection of descriptive concepts than an explanatory theory
Phenomenology - Schutz
- To make sense of the world we make typificiations (categories and concepts)
- As the meaning of something varies according to context shared typifications are important in making the meanings of actions clear in order to make sense of our experiences
- E.G. they help us to understand that a hand up in an auction means something completely different than rasing a hand in a classroom
Individuals assume the social world and its processes are natural
- when posting an order to a bookshop we assume people will do the processes which are necessary for the book to arrive
- i.e. that the postman will take the letter and deliver it and the person in the bookshop will find the book for you.
- This encourages us to believe that the social world and processes are just natural
Ethnomethodology - Garfinkel
- Meanings are always potentially unclear and this is called indexicality
- Indexicality threatens social order because meanings being unstable would make communication break down
- Indexicality suggests we can't take meanings as fixed but we constantly do it
- Reflexivity is the process of constructing a sense of order from the knowledge we acquire everyday
- Reflexivity helps to stop indexicality from occurring
An example of reflexivity: Coroners make sense of deaths by selecting certain features which they think indicate suicide and treat these as a real pattern. Anything that fits this patterned is classified as reflixivity.
BUT Garfinkel ignores how power and inequality affect the meanings individuals construct. ALSO, if everyone creates patterns to provide fictional explanations then surely that's what ethnomethodology is - a fictional explanation.
Women's oppression isn't part of a bigger system or structure. It's due to discrimination at work, in schools and in the media.
Distinguished between sex and gender
Sex differences are fixed but gender differences aren't.
Gender differences are different in different cultures so they're socialle constructed through socialization
- equal opportunities through laws + other democratic means
- Look to work through the current legal system and gradually make it more equal to remove the discrimination against women
- Aim to change socialization to remove the creation of sexist gender differences
Criticizing Liberal feminism
Greatly contributed in the advancement of women in the past
Don't deal with the root causes of gender inequality as it doesn't acknowledge that women's oppression is embedded in society
The solutions focus on only a partial picture of gender inequality
Radical Feminists: liberal feminists encourage women to accept an unequal society
Patriarchy exists over time and culture. Men are responsible for and benefit from women's exploitation
The family is the primary source of oppression as men exploit women for their free labour at home
- Men also deny women access to powerful positions in society
- Some believe tha tmale violence is part of patriarchy rather than isolated cases with psychological/criminal routes
Firestone: Men control women's reproductive and child rearing roles because women can biologically have children so are reliant on men for resources. This biological inequality is socially organized in nuclear families
The solution: patriarchal order being overturned
Criticizing Radical Feminism
- It doesn't allow for historical or cultural variations
- It ignores the importance of class, ethnicity, race etc on the nature of oppression
- Marxists: class inequalities are more importan than gender inequalities
- Patriarchy can't be seen as universal because it can lead to biological reductionism (blaming gender inequalities on the distinction between men and women)
Capitalism is the root of women's oppression in the current social context
Engels: Private property led to the nuclear family in order for men to control women to be sure their children were truly theirs in order for property to be inherited by legitimate heirs. The economic dependence of a wife on her husband provided this control
Benston: The nuclear family benefits men and the capitalist system by producing and rearing the future workforce and providing domestic labour to look after the male labour force
THE SOLUTION: BYEBYE CAPITALISM
Criticizing Marxist Feminism
It doesn't account for women's rejection of domestic labour
It doesn't explain why women's roles are different in different cultures e.g. housewife role isn't present everywhere
Many male-female relationships are based on mutual love rahter than exploitation and male dominance
Many find mortherhood rewarding and fulfilling
Gender prejeduice is socially constructed . Women don't fall intro one category, they all face different forms of oppression
Butler + Scott: Emphasize the importance of discourses (the wat people think about something). Discourses create womens roles and discourses are different in different cultures which means that women are different everywhere. Different discourses therefore have a different way to oppress women everywhere
The solution: women need to stand for contraception and abortion rights, equal pay for equal work, access to female culture (at the moment they only have access to male culture)
Criticizing Post Structuralist Feminism
Ignores the similarities between women
Women could dilute into different feminist sub groups - weakening the feminist movement
It lack social structures by focusing on subjective discourses
Modern Society's characteristics:
- the state organizes social life on a national basis
- Capitalist economy
- Scientific thinking dominates
- Collectivist cultures become individualist
Globalization has led to changes in the concepts of time + space, a global market and production in different countries, increased cultural interaction, political changes
Durkheim: modernity is defined by the weakening of collective conscience. It has advantages such as more freedom but disadvantages such as weakened morals which could lead to anomie.
Marx: modernity is defined by capitalism. Society has advanced and improved but capitalism is negative as it causes exploitation and alienation
Weber: modernity has the problem of the iron cage of rationality (where rational thoughts stop humans from expressing natural characteristics)
Key features of post modernism: constant choice, science is only one of the sources of knowledge, People know longer know who you are, people create who they want to be, Postmodern society recreates the past and entwines it with the future
Foucault: there are no true foundations of knowledge or definitions of the self. We're now defined by discourse (the way we think about something). E.G. we act in a certain way because we believe we're being monitored and controlled - not because we are being monitored and controlled.
Lyotard: all meta narrative theories such as Marxism are simplistic and reductionist. Science helped to destroy these meta narratives and now knowledge isn't a tool for the authorities to use against us. Ideas are now judged on usefulness rather than truthfulness.
Baudrillard: We live in hyper realities where appearances are everything. We're customers who's desires are created by the media and we pursue images attached to products. E.G. disneyland is a real place that exists but it's importance is because of the image media have attached to it.
Criticizing Post Modernism
- it ignores the inequalities in power e.g. Baudrillard ignores how the ruling class control the media
- people in poverty don't have the ability to create their own identities through consumption
Marxist theory of post modernism
Post modernism represents a developed form of capitalism because it commodifies virtually all aspects of our lives and identities
Flexible accumulation is the new way of achieving profitabiliy which replaces the previous mass production system.
It's bought about diversity, choice, instability, leisure, culture and identity.
It has also bought about political changes such as a weakened social class, socialist movement and these have been replaced by environmentalism and womens liberation
Marxists accept that capitalisms opposition has fragmented into other social movememnts which suggests they abandon the possibility of a revolution
Giddens: We're at the stage of late modernity which involves disembedding (the change from needing face to face contact to interact to not needing it to interact) and reflexivity (where we have to modify our actions based on risks and opportunities). We face high consequence risks such as military risks, economic risks and environmental risks.
Beck: We become risk conscious and seek to minimise/avoid risks as a result of reflexivity. The previous risks were natural but now the risks are manufactured risks.
The poor are exposed to more environmental risks and may be unable to reshape their lives as reflexivity suggests e.g. poor housing = heavily polluted area, move house = too expensive.
Capitalisms pursuit of profits is the source of risks
- Believe you can apply the logic and methods of the natural sciences to the study of society and it'll bring true objective knowledge
- Nature is made up of objective, observable and physical facts which exist and society is also a real thing made of social facts, just like the physical world
- Reality has patterns and these patterns are observable through induction (gathering data in order to find patterns)
- This data can then be used to develop a theory to explain the observations and once the theory has been verified by further observations we can claim we have found a law e.g. the law of gravity
- Positivists support macro theories because they see society's structures as social facts which shape our behaviours
- Quantitative data should be used to uncover the patterns - like the natural sciences
- It allows a causal relationship to be produced
- Researchers shouldn't allow their values to affect the outcomes of their research or how they analyse the findings.
- As sociology is dealing with people methods with maximum detachment and objectivity should be used i.e. quantitative methods
Positivism + Durkheim
If an individual social act such as Suicide is shown to have social caused then sociology will be established as a science
Official statistics showed a patten in suicide rates:
Protestants were more likely than catholics to commit suicide
The social fact responsible was the levels of integration
Protestantism: low integration (high suicide), Catholicism: high integration (low suicide)
This demonstrated that social facts can be explained scientifically
The natural sciences study matter with no consciousness and its behaviour is a simple response to external stimuli. Sociology studies people with a consciousness, their behavour is based on meanings they attach to the world. Therefore we can only understand Sociology's subject matter by interpreting the meanings and motives of the people involved by seeing the world through people viewpoints
They reject the positivist idea that objectivity is necessary. Instead Interpretivists argue that Verstehen should be used. This is why interpretivists favour qualitative data ( b/c it produces richer, more personal data with high validity).
Phenomenologists: People think for themselves and have reasons for their behaviour so sociology shouldn't be concerned with cause and effect, It should be looking at how people make sense of the world. Sociology can't be a science because the social world isn't a real structure determining our actions - therefore it cannot be measure objectively.
Postmodernists: The natural sciences claim to have the truth but its account of the world isn't more valid than any other so there is no reason for science to be adopted as a model for sociology. A scientific approach is actually dangerous because it claims a monopoly of the truth so a scientific sociology would be a form of domination
Feminists: Quantitative methods oppress women by not capturing the reality of women's experiences
Interpretivism + Douglas
External social facts don't determine our behaviour because people choose to act on meanings they apply to the world
SO when understanding suicide we have to uncover the meanings of those involved
For this reason we should use case studies because they reveal the meanings the actor places on suicide and gives us a better idea of the real suicide rate
Douglas also criticizes Durkheim for using official statistics because they're social constructs from the way coroners label some deaths as suicide
Atkinson: statistics shouldn't be used, you can't truly study suicide however because you'll never know the meanings the dexeased held. You can study the way deaths are classified by coroners though.
Karl Popper - Sociology isn't a science
We should reject verificationism because we can never prove a theory by providing evidence to verify it
e.g. you can observe a large number of swans and say all swans are white BUT you can't prove all swans are white because you can observe one white swan which would destroy the whole theory
The distinct feature of science is FALSIFICATIONISM (it can be proven wrong). a scientific statement can be falsified by evidence e.g. a test would disprove tha law of gravity if an object was let go of and it didn't fall
A good scientific theory is falsifiable but has stood up to attempts to disprove it and it explains a large number of events so it's at greater risk of being falsified. All knowledge is temporary because it can be falsified at any moment, therefore a good theory isn't necessarily true - it just hasn't been falsified so far.
Sociology isn't scientific because it consists of theories which can't be falsified e.g. Marxism predicts a revolution but it hasn't happened yet because of false consciousness - can't be falsified because no matter if the revolution happens or not Marxism is right.
Sociology can be scientific because it can create falsifiable hypotheses e.g. comprehensive schools will produce social mixing of pupils from different social classes (can be proven wrong)
Thomas Kuhn sociology is pre-scientific
A paradigm is a set of norms that tells scientists how to think and behave. Scientists who conform to their paradigm have published research and a successful career whilst those who don’t conform to the paradigm may have their work unpublished Normal science: where the paradigm is unquestioned, everything is known in advance apart from the detail, the challenge is to obtain the known rather than the know. BUT during the normal science process scientists obtain anomalies which mount up and contrast the paradigm Crisis: where the basic principles of science are questioned Scientific revolution: scientists produce rival paradigms and eventually one wins and becomes accepted by the scientific community Normal science: Continues based on the new set of basic assumptions Sociology is prescientific and pre-paradigmatic so sociology cannot be scientific because there isn't a shared paradigm e.g. marxists and functionalists disagree on if society is based on consensus or conflict
There are closed systems where the researcher can control and measure all variables. e.g. physics
There are open systems where the researcher can't control and measure all variables e.g. meteorologists can't predict the weather with the accuracy
Realists argue Sociologists study open systems
Science often assumes the existence of unobservable structures. Interpretivists are therefore wrong in asusuming that sociology can't be scientific
Sociology is scientific. The only difference between the natural sciences and sociology is that some science can study closed systems