Structural Functionalism

Category: Functionalism
Last Updated: 02 Apr 2020
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Structural functionalism Introduction A: (Chagua hii) Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. [1] This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole, and believes that society has evolved like organisms. [2] This approach looks at both social structure and social functions.

Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions, and institutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole. [3] In the most basic terms, it simply emphasizes "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system".

For Talcott Parsons, "structural-functionalism" came to describe a particular stage in the methodological development of social science, rather than a specific school of thought. [4][5] The structural functionalism approach is a macrosociological analysis, with a broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole. INTRODUCTION B: (au chagua hii) Functionalism is a consensus perspective that sees society as based on shared values into which members are socialized. It sees society as like an organism, each part performing functions to maintain the system as a whole.

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For example, religion, the education system and the family perform socialization functions. The functionalist theory though developed from the ideas of theorists such as Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim, can trace its origins as far back as the founding father of sociology, Auguste Comte. Stratification refers to the system where society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy of classes (upper, middle and lower class) based on a criterion or a combination such as religion, color, race, age, sex, wealth, occupation, and education.

It represents the structured inequality characterized by groups of people with differential access to the rewards of society because of their relative position in the social hierarchy. SRENGHTS AND WEAKNESSES The functionalist theory has much strength as well as weaknesses. One of the strengths of Functionalism is that it asserts that there are purposes for social conditions or facts. For example, under a functionalist point of view the janitor and the sewer worker all contribute to the function of the entire unit.

Without serving these purposes, the social structure would not function properly. Functionalists are of the assumption that the needs of society are greater than the needs of individuals: in order words, the good of society is greater than the good of the individual thus contributing to the maintenance of society. Davis and Moore argue that all societies need some mechanism for insuring effective role allocation and performance. One of the weaknesses of this perspective, however, is that some could arguably assert that poverty serves a function in such a society.

You can make this argument, but as Durkheim saw "function", he was much more optimistic and may have argued that poverty was more a product of "anomie" than actually serving a function. Another, more general criticism of functionalism is the argument that it is somewhat "naive" in that it assumes that there is consensus: that everyone in the structure holds the same norms and values; that we all essentially believe in and work for the same thing.

Many theorists take issue with this component and argue that Western society is more accurately characterized as groups of people in a society competing for resources, wealth, and power. More importantly, these groups do not all believe the same thing (in fact, many are counter-culture) and are thus in conflict with each other. Many Conflict theorists would take the pessimistic view expressed earlier that poverty serves a function in a society.

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Structural Functionalism. (2017, Mar 02). Retrieved from

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