January 14, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Sociology
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Functionalism The Basics

Functionalism is mainly associated with the work of two sociologists

Emile Durkheim 1858-1917

… and Talcott Parsons 1902-1979

Sociological theories always have to be understood in terms of the time in which they were developed

For Durkheim key features of the C19 were:

Industrialisation - the specialised division of labour

..and the movement of people from country to city –urban life

…and it’s still going on in other parts of the world

For Parsons two particular things struck him about life in 1950s USA The considerable affluence enjoyed by many

..and the vast scale of urban society

Downtown Los Angeles – early 1900s and 2010 Times of progress and improvement ? Functionalists thought so.

Both sociologists developed a view which focuses on the idea that societies

EVOLVE , grow or develop - a bit like living organisms

Societies are simply organised to start with, but over time they grow and become more complex

Like an organism, societies have certain needs

Needs are called ‘functional prerequisites’

All societies have these needs

– but they can achieve them in different ways

Systems are developed to meet the needs

An education system

A political system…..

.. And so on

The systems and the society are held together because everyone shares the same values

There is a shared culture

The shared culture is transmitted through socialisation into common norms and values

Social order is created through the use of sanctions

Society changes as systems or structures become more complex

In large scale industrial society new ways have to be found to meet functional prerequisites

The need for specialised workers and professionals means the old system of aristocratic elites will not work

industrial society therefore becomes meritocratic

Functional Necessity

..anyone can make it – if they have talent

But things don’t always work so smoothly

Robert Merton said industrial societies could be Dysfunctional

…if essential needs are not being met or if some groups cannot achieve the goals of the whole society

So don’t think that all functionalists are the same – it’s a complex body of theory

Not a bad theory But how could you criticise it?

it assumes value consensus

Clockwise Taiwan, Turkey, UK, Ukraine

Political discussions around the world

It generally has an inadequate view of power – everyone seems fairly equal

Do we all start from the same position with equal power and resources?

it seems deterministic – as with Marxism, people still seem very much at the mercy of social structures

Over to you Like all theories it has strengths and weaknesses But one point worth remembering is that even sociologists who don’t likefunctionalism much, usually recognise the importance of Durkheim – he believed in the idea of social structures.

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