Critically Evaluate the Contributions of Functionalism to the Study of Society Essay

Critically measure the parts of functionalism to the survey of society. Functionalist theory is one of the major theoretical positions in sociology. It can be argued that the functionalist theory has made a important part to the survey of society. It originates from the work of Emile Durkheim who suggests that societal order is possible and society remains stable due to the operation of several establishments. Everything has a specific map in society and society will ever work in harmoniousness.

The chief establishments studied by functionalism are the household. the instruction system. faith and offense and aberrance. Murdock argues that the household performs four basic maps in all societies – sexual. reproductive. economic and educational. These four basic maps are indispensable for societal life since without the sexual and generative maps there would be no members of society. without the economic map life would discontinue and without instruction there would be no socialization or civilization. Without these four basic maps human society could non last.

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The household does non execute these maps entirely nevertheless it makes of import parts to them all. Murdock is frequently criticised for his image of the household as he did non see whether its maps could be performed by other societal establishments and he does non analyze options to the household. Equally. Murdock illustrates the atomic household as really harmonious and perfect. There are many ill-functioning households in society which Murdock fails to analyze and explicate. What is the map of households when the hubby and married woman fail to hold an integrated division of labor and have a healthy sexual relationship?

Talcott Parsons offers an alternate position of the maps of the household and suggests it serves two intents: primary socialization and the stabilization of the grownup personality. Primary socialization refers to socialization during the early old ages of childhood. which take topographic point chiefly within the household. This is of import in lending to society as our parents purportedly bring their offspring up to turn to be well behaved. obedient persons with the right values to assist society map. The stabilization of grownup personalities emphasises on the matrimony relationship and emotional security the twosome provides for each other.

This acts to antagonize the emphasiss of mundane life and maintain the personality stable. Parsons claims that the household hence provides a context in which hubby and married woman can show their infantile feelings. give and have emotional support. reload their batteries and so brace their personalities. However. Parsons’ positions on the household are criticised for being uncomplete and idealizing the household with his image of well-balanced kids and sympathetic partners caring for each other unconditionally.

It is a over-optimistic and modernist and has small relationship to world. because as mentioned before. non all households function absolutely. Similarly to Murdock. Parsons besides fails to analyze options to the household which may supply the same maps for the development of society. The overall functionalist theory on the household is criticised by Marxism. women’s rightists and some postmodernists. A Marxist would reason that the map of the household is to function capitalist economy. Some women’s rightists would reason that the map of the household is for adult females to function work forces and that households are so diverse it is difficult to reason that the household has a intent.

Some postmodernists suggest that the atomic household is non every bit common as it seems and that there are now many diversenesss of households due to cultural and societal alterations. These positions are clearly in struggle with the positions of functionalism ; therefore it allows us to oppugn their cogency. Functionalism besides has its set of positions on the instruction system. Emile Durkheim claimed that the chief map of instruction was to convey society’s norms and values through coevalss. Social solidarity is indispensable for the welding of mass persons into a united whole.

Functionalists such as Durkheim argue that instruction builds a sense of committedness and belonging to a society and a belief that the whole of society is more of import than a individual person. Durkheim argued. ‘to go affiliated to society. they will come to see that they are portion of something larger themselves ; they will develop a sense of committedness to the societal group’ . Durkheim besides claimed that the school serves a map which can non be provided by the household the equal group. Persons must larn to collaborate with those who are neither their household nor their friends.

In this manner. kids learn to esteem authorization figures. such as instructors. and acquire along with other members of society they would be forced to interact with in ulterior life such as foremans and co-workers. These societal interactions are indispensable for maintaining society harmoniously balanced and working. Durkheim claimed that along with learning us to interact with different societal groups. instruction serves to purely reenforce school regulations and guarantee that kids realise that these should be followed.

Punishments should reflect the earnestness of the harm done to the societal group by the offense and Teach persons that it is incorrect to move against the involvements of the societal group as a whole. In Durkheim’s words: ‘it is by esteeming the school regulations that the kid learns to esteem regulations in general. that he develops the wont of self-denial and restraint merely because he should command and keep himself. It is the first induction into the asceticism of responsibility. Serious life has now begun’ . Durkheim eventually argues that instruction Teachs persons specific accomplishments necessary for their future businesss.

Schools transmit both general values which provide the necessary accomplishments for societal endurance. Industrial society is united by value consensus and a specialized division of labour whereby specializers combine to bring forth goods and services. Education is indispensable for this because it trains persons to develop the accomplishments which will be utile for their future businesss. In the current instruction system kids are given the chance to larn proficient and practical accomplishments every bit good as academic accomplishments which all come together to assist society map.

However. Durkheim is criticised for several grounds. First. he assumes that societies have a shared civilization which can be transmitted through the instruction system. Britain for illustration is now multi-cultural and it is hence problematic whether there is a individual civilization on which schools could establish their course of study. If a school bases their course of study on a individual civilization they are frequently accused of ethnocentrism. which is a hard issue to get the better of when schools bring together kids of many different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.

Second. his positions on the instruction system are in struggle with those of Marxism. which argues that instruction serves to convey a dominant civilization and serve the involvements of the governing category instead than the members of society as a whole. Finally. functionalism has its positions on the manner offense and aberrance applies to society. Functionalism looks at society as a whole and looks for the beginning of aberrance in the nature of society instead than in the person. Social control mechanisms such as the constabulary and tribunals are argued to be necessary to maintain order in society.

Durkheim argues that offense is inevitable because non every member of society can be every bit committed to the corporate sentiments of society. Durkheim besides claims that offense can be functional because all societal alteration begins with some signifier of aberrance and a certain sum of societal alteration is healthy for society. Merton. 1968. argued that aberrance consequences from the civilization and construction of society itself. Since members in society are placed in different places in the societal construction. for illustration different societal categories. they do non all have equal chances.

This state of affairs can bring forth aberrance – for illustration. members of the lower categories. such as the working or under category may fall back to offense due to their place in the societal construction because they are deprived of things indispensable for endurance. Merton besides outlined the five responses to cultural ends: conformance. invention. ritualism. retreatism and rebellion. The first manner in which society can react to cultural ends is through conformance. Members of society conform both to success ends and to the normative agencies of making them.

They strive for success by recognized agencies. The 2nd response is invention in which persons reject normative agencies of making success and bend to deviant agencies such as offense. Merton argues that members of the lower societal strata are more likely to choose this path to success. Merton claims that they have small entree to conventional and legitimate agencies of going successful. Low makings mean small chance for occupations and promotion since their path to success is blocked. Therefore they turn to offense. which promises greater wagess than legitimate agencies.

Membership of the lower societal strata is non entirely plenty to bring forth aberrance nevertheless – force per unit areas from society contribute to an persons need to divert. The 3rd response is known as ritualism. Those who select this as an option are aberrant because they have mostly abandoned the normally held success ends. Members of the lower in-between category who have less chance than other members of the in-between category are likely to take the way of ritualism. However. they have been strongly socialised to conform to societal norms so they do non turn to offense.

They scale down or abandon their success ends. Ritualists are aberrant because they have rejected the success ends held by most members of society. The 4th and least common response is retreatism which applies to ‘psychotics. chronic alkies and drug addicts’ . They have strongly internalised both the cultural ends and institutionalized agencies. nevertheless they are unable to accomplish success. They resolve their state of affairs by abandoning both the ends and the agencies of making them. They ‘drop out’ of society defeated and resigned by their failure.

They are aberrant in two ways: they have rejected both the cultural ends and the institutionalized agencies. The fifth and concluding response is rebellion. This involves both rejection of both success ends and institutionalized agencies and replaces them with their ain different ends and agencies. They wish to make a new society. Merton says ‘it is typically members of a lifting category instead than the most down strata who organise the resentful and the rebellious into a radical group’ . Hannon and Defronzo. 1998. carried out a survey which gives empirical support for Merton’s five phases.

In a survey of 406 metropolitan counties in the USA. they found that those with higher degrees of public assistance proviso had lower degrees of offense. They argued that the public assistance proviso opened up chances for people to accomplish the end of stuff success. They argued that the public assistance proviso opened up chances for people to accomplish the end of stuff success through legitimate agencies and hence reduced anomy and the offense which could ensue from it. However. critics have argued that Merton’s five phases neglect the power relationships in society as a whole within which aberrance and conformance occur.

Taylor. 1971. criticised Merton for non transporting out his analysis far plenty and neglecting to see who makes the Torahs and who benefits from them. The whole game may hold been rigged by the powerful with regulations that guarantee their success. These regulations may be the Torahs of society. Merton is besides criticised for being deterministic because it fails to explicate why some people who experience effects of anomies do non go felons or pervert. It over-exaggerates working-class offense and underestimates middle-class and white neckband offense.

Furthermore. Taylor. Walton and Young. 1973. criticise that Merton’s theory can non account for politically motivated felons such as freedom combatants who break the jurisprudence because of committedness to their cause instead than the effects of anomy. In decision. functionalism has made great part to the survey of society as it offers accounts for the maps of the major establishments in society. However. the whole functionalist theory is based around the thought that these establishments serve to maintain society operation and harmonious.

About all their thoughts are criticised by Marxism. which suggests the complete opposite – that all establishments serve the involvements of the opinion category and capitalist economy instead than functioning the demands of the general members of society as a whole. As shown above. we can compare positions such as Marxism. feminism and postmodernism with functionalism to measure its advantages and disadvantages. The functionalist theory is an of import position widely covering most facets of society. nevertheless it falls level where it is criticised for being excessively deterministic and neglecting to see the pandemonium and disorganization in society.


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