Functionalism theory • By: Maryam Mohammadi & PoonehSafaiyan
What is functionalism? Functionalism is the oldest, and still the dominant, theoretical perspective in sociology and many other social sciences. • According to the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society's functioning as a whole. .
Structural functionalism Structural functionalism is a broad perspective in sociology and anthropology which sets out to interpret society as a structure with interrelated parts. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions
1.Functionalists see the social world as "objectively real“ 2.Many of these ideas go back to Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the great French sociologist whose writings form the basis for functionalist theory.
Durkheim`s thought Throughout his career, Durkheim was concerned primarily with three goals. First, to establish sociology as a new academic discipline. Second, to analyze how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed; to that end he wrote much about the effect of laws, religion, education and similar forces on the society and social integration. Lastly, Durkheim was concerned with the practical implications of scientific knowledge. The importance of social integration is expressed throughout Durkheim's work.
Key Words in Durkheim's theory • Anomie: Anomie describes a lack of social norms; "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and their community ties, with fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his influential book Suicide (1897).
Social integration: Social integration, in sociology and other social sciences, is the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies. Social integration requires proficiency in an accepted common language of the society, acceptance of the laws of the society and adoption of a common set of values of the society.
integration does not require assimilation and it does not require persons to give up all of their culture, but it may require to forgo some aspects of their culture which are inconsistent with the laws and values of the society. In tolerant and open societies, members of minority groups can often use social integration to gain full access to the opportunities, rights and services available to the members of the mainstream of society.
Totemism: Durkheim hoped to discover a pure religion in very ancient forms and generally claimed to see the origin of religion in totemism. For Durkheim, the sphere of the sacred is a reflection of the emotions that underlie social activities, and the totem was, in this view, a reflection of the group (or clan) consciousness, based on the conception of an impersonal power.
Herbert Spencer, a Britishphilosopher famous for applying the theory of natural selection to society, was in many ways the first true sociological functionalist;in fact, while Durkheim is widely considered the most important functionalist among positivist theorists, it is well known that much of his analysis was culled from reading Spencer's work, especially his Principles of Sociology (1874-96). 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.
In fact, he was in many ways a political sociologist. • In other words, he saw a general trend towards the centralisation of power as leading to stagnation and, ultimately, pressure to decentralise. Perhaps Spencer's greatest obstacle to being widely discussed in modern sociology is the fact that much of his social philosophy is rooted in the social and historical context of Ancient Egypt. He coined the term "survival of the fittest" in discussing the simple fact that small tribes or societies tend to be defeated or conquered by larger ones. Of course, many sociologists still use him (knowingly or otherwise) in their analyses, as is especially the case in the recent re-emergence of evolutionary theory.
Durkheim was himself one of the first sociologists to make use of scientific and statistical techniques in sociological research (1951). Durkheim proposed that most stateless, "primitive" societies, lacking strong centralized institutions, are based on an association of corporate-descent groups.
Talcott parsons Talcott Parsons was heavily influenced by Durkheim and Max Weber, synthesising much of their work into his action theory, which he based on the system-theoretical concept and the methodological principle of voluntary action. Parsons determined that each individual has expectations of the other's action and reaction to his own behavior, and that these expectations would (if successful) be "derived" from the accepted norms and values of the society they inhabit.[As Parsons himself emphasized, however, in a general context there would never exist any perfect "fit" between behaviors and norms, so such a relation is never complete or "perfect."
Robert Merton Robert K. Merton was a functionalist and he fundamentally agreed with Parsons’ theory. However, he acknowledged that it was problematic, believing that it was too generalized. Merton tended to emphasize middle range theory rather than a grand theory, meaning that he was able to deal specifically with some of the limitations in Parsons’ theory. He identified 3 main limitations: functional unity, universal functionalism and indispensability (too important to be without. .
Mertone`s theory of anomie • Merton’s theory of deviance is derived from Durkheim’s idea of anomie(the lack of social or moral standards). • Merton believes that there are 5 situations facing an actor. • Conformity occurs when an individual has the means and desire to achieve the cultural goals socialised into him. • Innovation occurs when an individual strives to attain the accepted cultural goals but chooses to do so in novel or unaccepted method. • Ritualism occurs when an individual continues to do things as proscribed by society but forfeits the achievement of the goals. • Retreatism is the rejection of both the means and the goals of society. • Rebellion is a combination of the rejection of societal goals and means and a substitution of other goals and means.
What are the strenghts and weaknesses of Functionalism? 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 newspaper deliverer and the worker all contribute to the function of the entire unit--without serving these purposes, the social structure would not function properly.
One of the weaknesses of this perspective, however, is that some could arguably assert that poverty serves a function in such a society. 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.