Theories and Methods - Society as a Functional Unit

Durkheim and Social Facts

  • Durkheim believed that sociology should be the study of social facts
  • Social facts are objective, external and constraining
  • Society has a distinct quality that cannot be reduced to the motives of individuals
  • In his theory of suicide, Durkheim was arguing that the level of external constraint in society could shape behaviour
  • His main concern was how society hangs together through shared values
  • This is the collective conscience

Parsons and Society as a Social System

  • Society is a functional unit
  • People have the capacity to make decisions
  • Core values and norms create social integration
  • Society has three systems - the personality system, the social system and the cultural system
  • The social system is the central system, for it to function and survive it must fulfill the functional prerequisites
  • These are - adaption, goal attainment, integration and pattern maintenance
  • The systems are interconnected
  • However Parsons is keen to link social structure to social action and suggests people can choose their own…


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