Principal Sociological Perspectives P1 Unit 7 Functionalism This is the relationship between the parts of society; how aspects of society are functional (adaptive). A strength of Functionalism would be that it states that there are purposes for social conditions or facts. For example, under a functionalist point of view the newspaper deliverer and retail worker all contribute to the function of the entire unit–without serving these purposes, the social structure would not function properly. Also functionalism is considered vital for the smooth running of society, as Durkheim stated.
A criticism of the functionalist approach would be it does not address areas of conflict, which undoubtedly characterise modern societies and in principle could be found in all societies. Functionalism 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. Functionalism is a theory about the nature of mental states.
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According to functionalists, mental states are identified by what they do rather than by what they are made of. Functionalism is the most familiar or “received” view among philosophers of mind and cognitive science.
Family Functionalists look at how the family as an institution, helps in maintain order and stability in society, and the significance of the family for its individual members. A well know functionalist who have written about the family is George. P. Murdock. Murdock carried out a study that included 250 families. From this he argued that the family achieves four basic functions for its individual members and society. He says these are ‘sexual’, ‘reproductive’, ‘economic’ and ‘educational’ functions. The sexual function refers to the sexual activity.
Murdock argued that the family provides to the sexual needs of its adults and also limits sexual access of other member of the society thereby maintaining stability. The ‘reproductive’ function is manner and raising children. The family provides the society with new members and assume responsibility for raising them. The family is an ‘economic’ unit, with a division of labour along gender. Murdock considers this division of labour as rewarding for the spouses and as strengthening the bond between them, as they are perceived as doing distinct but complementary work.
The ‘educational’ function that Murdock refers to, can also be known as ‘socialisation’. The family has the responsibility of transmitting a society’s way of life, norms and values to the younger members. This function is important because without culture the society wouldn’t survive; too much deviation from the norm would disrupt the stability of the society. Marxism The sociological perspective sees society as structures with interconnected parts, and focuses on the structural features of society, emphasising social differences and the conflicting interests and values of different groups in society.
Proletariat – Class of poor people who work for wages. Bourgeoise – Class of wealthy people who have their own means of wealth. Strengths would be that it recognises the power interests of different groups and is good at explaining conflict and change in society. It stresses the role of class struggle (conflict) within society between the proletariat (workers) and the bourgeoisie (owners). Weakness would be that it doesn’t recognise that people are socially active, with some power and the ability to make choices and influence the direction of their own lives.
It focuses on the economy as the driving force of social behaviour and ignores other important influences such as gender, ethnicity and religion. Marxism is a political and sociological perspective based on the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) Marx provided an account of the new class based society that emerged after the industrial revolution. The Marxist perspective questions the functionalist idea that business owners and bosses are morally entitled to keep profits for they are part of the ruling ideology in capitalist society. Family Friedrich Engels is a famous Marxist.
He believed that during the early stages of human evolution that property was collectively owned and that the family did not exist. The community formed the family and there was no restraint to sexual access. Although with the development of private ownership of property and the idea of having successors who were to inherit the property, the question of paternity grew in importance and the rules of monogamous marriage were created to control woman’s sexuality and assure the legitimacy of heirs. Feminism Capitalist – Another word for a member of the bourgeoisie
Feminism is a movement for social, cultural, political and economic equality of men and women. It is a campaign against gender inequalities and it strives for equal rights for women. Feminism can be also defined as the right to enough information available to every single woman so that she can make a choice to live a life which is not discriminatory and which works within the principles of social, cultural, political and economic equality and independence. Strengths that the sociological feminist theorists had were on how their perception of womanhood was socially constructed and not even real.
A weakness of it is that it felt as though the sociological feminists are very judgmental and it feels as though almost all men and most people looked down on women. There are 3 main types of feminist approach: * Marxist feminism * Radical feminism * Liberal feminism Marxist feminism Marxists feminists see woman as oppressed by capitalism and by men or the patriarchal society. They believe that woman produce the next generation of workers and those they provide all the key needs to meet for their children; and prepare them for the work life.
They support their partners and cook, clean, and care for the family. Radical Feminism Radical feminists believe that it is not capitalism that dominates woman, and that it is men. They see the woman as the housewife and mother. Liberal Feminism These feminists believe that changes have happened. They believe that since new legislations have been bought out that there is now more equality. Legislation and policy changing, leads to liberal feminists believing that improvements will always be made Family Feminists have sought to analyse the impact of family life on women.
Regardless of the numerous differences in their approach and main concern, different feminists tend to agree that women occupy a subordinate position in the family and are exploited in various ways. The Marxist feminists consider capitalism as the main exploiter. This exploitation is seen in terms of the unpaid work they carry out at home. Like the Marxist, they believe that the family also serves capitalism by reproducing the future labour force, but they also assert that it is not the family as such that suffers more, but the women.
It is women that bear the children and assume the main responsibility for their care. Women are also exploited in that they are expected to provide outlets for all the frustration and anger that their husband experience at work and therefore prevent them from rebelling against their employers. Interactionism The interactionist’s perspective is a major theoretical perspective; it focuses on the concrete details of what goes on among individuals in everyday life. It derives social processes (such as conflict, cooperation, identity formation) from human interaction.
Its focus is on small groups and how they influence individual behaviour in society. A strength of this would be that it takes into account an individual’s choices they make and how they behave (their free will). It cannot explain where people get the meanings to symbols and that it ends up drawing these answers from other sociological theories, and it doesn’t explain social order and how it comes about; this would be a weakness. They do not study where the social roles come from. The evidence of symbolic interaction is that humans use symbols to understand and interact properly with the natural and social world.
Symbolic interactionism is a theory of social cognition, which models human interaction among significant concepts like identity, language, meaning, labeling and roles. Family The interactionalist perspective looks at the family dynamics. This view explores the interaction of the family members; this is back and forth talk, gestures and actions that go on in families. The interactionist perspective refuses to identify a “natural family structure”. The family is not a stock social unit but the creation of its participants as they spontaneously relate to one another. Postmodernism
This is an approach that emphases on the quick changing and uncertainty in our society. Postmodernists suggest that we cannot talk about well-known institutions such as the family, religion or the economy because nothing stays the same. Postmodernists think that because there is constant change you cannot use structuralist perspectives such as Functionalism and Marxism to understand society. Strength of postmodernism would be that it provides a good critique of modernism and helpfully stresses the use of the aesthetic. Weakness would be that Postmodernism, like modernism, is characterized by astounding arrogance. Family
Other theories believe that nuclear family is dominant family type within society; postmodernists disagree with this opinion and have different views. Postmodernists argue that this structural approach ignores moral relativism of individuals that they always have a choice of family type and nobody can judge them. Also modernists ignore the increase of family diversity; however there is no ‘best’ family type anymore. Collectivism Collectivism is an approach to providing health and social care services that is reinforced by a government commitment to provide care and support for the vulnerable, funded through taxation and National Insurance.
This contrasts with the ‘New right’ that consider welfare to be the responsibility of the individual and their family and believe that the state should play a minimal role. An emphasis is placed on unification and a common purpose. Families are considered very important for personal growth. An advantage to living in a collectivist society is that the group members are close-knit and care for and help one another, which is not always the case in an individualistic society.
Another strength would be that communication is very important in a collective group. No one is left out of the mix, and everyone is involved in making decisions. A weakness would be that collectivism stifles individuality and diversity by insisting upon a common social identity, such as nationalism, racialism, feminism, or some other group focus. Also collectivism is linked to statism and the diminution of freedom when political authority is used to advance collectivist goals. Family
Family ties will be different in different cultures; they will be strong in a collectivist society, Collectivist societies will be more characterized by coexistence of several generations within the household and stronger ties towards the larger family clan. ‘New right’ This is political movement made up especially of Protestants, opposed especially to secular humanism, and concerned with issues especially of church and state, patriotism, laissez-faire economics, pornography, and abortion. They believe that welfare should be largely seen as the responsibility of the individual and their family. The New Right regarded tate support as intrusive and supporting a dependency culture. Mrs Thatcher thought the welfare state produced a society in which people relied on state benefits rather than planning for the future and taking responsibility for their own needs and responsibility. A Strength of this would be that it would get more people that can work but don’t, to go out and work. Also it would benefit people because they would be going out earning their own money and it would be a good social factor. A Weakness of this would be that how do you get the people that have been off work for such a long time back into education and work.
Family The New Right Family Ideology is patriarchal, the family is male dominant. Feminists argue that this is negative for women. It ignores the dark side of the family e. g. domestic abuse, poverty, conflict. It is harmful, calling other family-types ‘inadequate’ – schools, advertisements and television reinforce this idea. It is anti-social – it stereotypes, labels and discriminates against other family-types; ‘inadequate’ and has a ‘Them and Us’ theory – Nuclear families are the only family type, other family types aren’t families.