Sociological Theory

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Durkheim and Functionalism

He was concerned by rapid social change from a traditional society with a simple social structure to a complex modern society.

  • Traditional society- was based on mechanical solidarity with little division of labour.
  • Modern society-  Has a complex division of labour which promotes differences between groups and weakens social solidarity.
  • Rapid change- undermines old norms without creating new ones
  • Social facts- seeing society as a seperate entity exisiting over and above its members, these facts then shape societies behaviour to serve societies needs.

Parsons society is a system

The organic 'analogy' (a way of understanding something by saying it is like something else) Parsons identifies three similarities between society and an organism.

  • System- Both are self-regulating interdependent parts that fit together in fixed ways eg. The parts are social institutions with individual roles
  • System needs- Organisms have needs that must be met if they are to survive for example societies members must be socialised if society is to continue.
  • Functions- The function of any part of a system is the contribution it makes to meeting the systems needs which ensures its survival. Eg. the economy meets societies need for food and shelter.

Value consenus and social order

PARSONS central question is 'how social order is possible?' Social order can be achieved through a central value system this provides a framework which allows individuals to cooperate and social order to be maintained by ensuring that society agrees on what they are aiming to achieve. (This could also be known as a VALUE CONSENSUS) 

Integration of the individual

PARSONS- A value consensus makes social order possible by integrating individuals into the social system and directs them towards meeting the system's needs. Parsons identifies two mechanisms for ensuring that individuals conform to shared norms and meet the systems needs:

  • Socialisation- Through socialisation in the family, education, work. People internalise the system's norms and values.
  • Social control- Positive sanctions reward conformity and negative ones punish deviance.

Socialisation and social control ensure that we each follow society's shared norms abd this enables others to predict our behaviour with confidence and so makes cooperation easier.

The parts of the social system

PARSONS- creates a model of the social system from a functionalists perspective

  • Norms- These are at the bottom.
  • Status roles- These are a set


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