Functionalism: Society as a system

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Society as a system:

Functionalists use an organic analogy to describe society.

Parsons identifies 3 ways in which they are similar:

1. System:

They are both self-regulating systems of inter-related parts.

2. System needs

Both organisms and societies have needs that need to be met in order to survive.

For example: Society needs its members to be correctly socialised to a shared culture in order to continue to survive.

3. Functions

Both organisms and societies have functioning systems aimed at contributing to the systems needs and therefore ensuring their survival.

For example: The economy helps maintain the social system by meeting the need for shelter and food.

Value consensus and social order:

For Parsons, the central question in sociology is how social order is possible.

He argued that social order is achieved through the existence of a shared culture ('central value system).

A culture is a shared set of norms, values, beliefs and goals shared by all members of society.

It provides a framework in which members are able to cooperate by laying down rules abotu how they should behave and what others may expect of them, defining goals that they should pursue.

Social order is only possible as long as members of society agree on these norms and values.

Parsons calls all members agreeing on norms and values value consensus.

Value consensus creates social cohesion.

Integration of individuals:

The basic function of value consensus is therefore to make social order possible.

It does this by integrating individuals into the social system which direct them towards meeting the system's needs.

For exampel: the system has to ensure that people#s material needs are met and so the consensus may include a general value about the need for people to work. To achieve this goal, tehre also needs to be a set of specific rules of conduct or norms.

For example: Puntuality is key to…


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