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A2 Sociology - Sociological theory lesson 2

Functionalism: Durkers & Parsnip

Amanda Lane

on 18 November 2014

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Transcript of A2 Sociology - Sociological theory lesson 2

There was a time when religion ruled the world......
There came a time in the 18th century where SCIENCE became the way in which we understood the world.

Macro, Structural theory
Consensus theory
Modernist theory
The man... the leg-end....
Durkheim started it all off in the late 19th century. He identified that there was rapid social change when rural society changed to industrial society.
Rural society = 'Mechanical solidarity'
Little division of labour
Everyone was similar
Strong collective conscience
Industrial society = 'Organic solidarity'
High division of labour
Everyone different
Weak collective conscience
Rapid social change = undermining of old norms without replacing them with new ones.
This then creates a state of ANOMIE - a state of normlessness which threatens social cohesion, social order and value consensus.
Durkheim also had a rather smashing idea society in general....
He saw society as an inevitable force that shaped our behaviour....
This force is shaped by 'social facts' that make us behave in way that serves societies needs
Durkheim said that society exists as a separate entity to the people within it.
Clever Durkheim...
Until science ruined it all!
There is another dude that is just as much of a leg-end as Durkheim....
He be Talcott Parsons
This is he
Parsons took what Durkheim said an kinda made it a bit better......
He saw society as a kind of organism and made this analogy:
Society, like the body, is self-regulating.
They both consist of inter-relating, interdependent parts.
Society, like the body, needs to be nourished or it will die.
Each of the 'parts' contributes to the functioning as a whole as they meet the needs of the body (Institutions).
Value consensus is like the skin of society, it holds everything in place.
This is the agreed set of norms, values, beliefs and goals that society lives by. This is what shapes social order and how we are expected to behave.
These norms are integrated into us through the process of socialisation and the implementation of social control.
These processes ensure that society's needs are met by making its members conform.
It's like becoming a member of a club that you have to fit into, providing you have the right socialisation and conform like good boys and girls.
So what are society's needs?
Goal attainment
Society meets the members material needs through the economic system.
Society needs to set goals for its members and the resources to achieve them. This is done through the political system.
Different parts of the system need to be integrated together in order to pursue shared goals. This is obtained through religion, education and the media.
Processes that maintain society over time. This is done through socialisation and tension management.
Parsons's key terms:
Structural differentiation:

Moving (dynamic) equilibrium:
a gradual process whereby institutions develop to meet different needs.
As changes occur in one aspect of society, it produces compensatory changes in another.
Criticisms of Functionalism:
Merton, who is funnily enough, a functionalist, argued a bit with Parsons.
He said that there were 3 distinct flaws in Parsons's theory:
1) Indispensability
2) Functional Unity
3) Universal Functionalism
Yeah!.... ok then.....
So basically this means that:
1) There are functional alternatives - for example primary socialisation is equally effective from single parent families, not just nuclear ones.
2) Not all society's parts are interconnected - complex modern societies have many 'parts' that function autonomously from the others. For example the structure of banking and the rules of netball have no connections.
3) Not everything is functional for the right reasons: what might be functional for some maybe dysfunctional for others (conflict of interests).
Society is not the well oiled machine Parsons thought it was....
Merton contributed the idea of manifest and latent functions...
Actions of people that have an intentional outcome
Actions of people that have an unintentional outcome
This is Merton's way of identifying that social phenomena links to the functioning of society.
Other criticisms....
Fuctionalism is criticised for being a bit backward. For example, functionalists state that families exist because children need to be socialised.... WRONG!
Families don't just exist because of socialisation, that would imply that socialisation would exist BEFORE families... but how can this be?
Functionalism is not very sciency...
Functionalists say stuff like 'crime is functional' and the say 'crime is dysfunctional' so where on earth would you start measuring???
Marxist say that it doesn't explain conflict and change....
The 'body' analogy indicates that everything in society runs smoothly and harmoniously....
Socialisation is merely a puppet master
What about free will??
Postmodernists would argue that functionalism does not account for the diversity in modern society.
Can there be one theory that describes the whole of society? (Meta-narrative)
What do you think?
Who do you agree with?
Lesson Objective:
To understand the finer points of functionalism
Full transcript