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Functionalism - Department of Sociology, Iowa State University

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Functionalism
Functionalism
пЃ¬Reigned as the dominant theoretical
perspective.
пЃ¬Often referred to as structural
functionalism
пЃ¬Two leading functionalist
п‚ЎTalcott Parsons
п‚ЎRobert Merton
Intellectual Roots of Functionalism
пЃ¬The most significant forerunners of
functionalism were:
пѓ�Auguste Comte
пѓ�Herbert Spencer
пѓ�Emile Durkheim
пѓ�Max Weber
Auguste Comte (1789-1857)
пЃ¬ Science relies upon empirical
knowledge.
пЃ¬ Through his notions of social statistics
and social dynamics he established a
direction for social research.
 Through social static’s Comte
maintained that units of investigation
were the individual, family, society and
the species.
Auguste Comte (1789-1857)
пЃ¬Social dynamics, which today is known as
social change.
пЃ¬Organic Analogy
пЃ¬Described the social structure as
пѓ�Elements (families)
пѓ�Tissues (classes)
пѓ�Organs (cities)
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
пЃ¬ Influenced by Von Baer.
пЃ¬ Acknowledged the role of
environmental variables
in social organization
пѓ� Super Organism (society)
пѓ� The Organism (body)
пЃ¬ Concept of differentiation
is very important.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
пЃ¬Process of growth is a process of
integration.
пЃ¬In 1898 argued that societies change from
incoherent homogeneity to definite
heterogeneity.
пЃ¬Premodern Societies vs. Modern Societies
пЃ¬Social institutions arise from structural
requirements.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
пЃ¬ His study on suicide rates
was recognized for one of
the most important
programs of research in
the last generation.
пЃ¬ Theory supported by
empirical data provides
legitimacy.
пЃ¬ Validity of a structural
functioning system is
needed.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)
пЃ¬ His sociology maintained a focus on structural analysis
rather than individual action.
 Shared Comte’s functionalist, evolutionary and positive
premises.
пЃ¬ Functionalism was the idea that society is a system.
пЃ¬ Interested in how societies change over time.
пЃ¬ Crime and deviance serve a functional role in society.
Max Weber (1864-1920)
 He caught Parson’s interest by
his spiritual orientation.
пЃ¬ Stated that Protestant ethic was
responsible for rise of the spirit
of capitalism.
пЃ¬ His analysis marked the 1st
major development in
systematic discrimination.
Linguistics and the Anthropoligical
Tradition
Ferdinand de Saussure
(1857-1913)
пѓ� Saussure was a Swiss
linguist who was very
significant in the
development of
functionalism.
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
пЃ¬Distinction between Langue and Parole
пѓ�Langue
пѓ�Formal, grammatical system of language
пѓ�Meaning of words can be altered
� Ex: the word gay once meant “happy”; now it also means
“homosexual”.
пѓ�Parole
пѓ�Actual speech such as facial expressions and body
language.
пЃ¬Anthropologists who influenced
functionalism:
пѓ� Clause Levi-Strauss
пѓ�A.R. Radcliffe-Brown
пѓ�Bronislaw Malinowski
Claude Levi-Strauss
пЃ¬ Applied structuralism
more broadly to all
forms of
communication.
пЃ¬ Major innovation was
to reconceptualized
social phenomena.
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown
пЃ¬ Organismic
analogizing presents
teleological
implications.
пЃ¬ Attempted to
eliminate problems.
Bronislaw Malinowski
пЃ¬ Malinowski and
Radcliffe-Brown both
committed to scientific
methodology.
пЃ¬ Focused attention of
existing societies.
Defining Functionalism
пЃ¬ A macro sociological theory that examines
social patterns and structures.
пЃ¬ Views society as having interrelated parts.
пЃ¬ Explains social change by variables such as
population growth and increased technology.
пЃ¬ Two basic assumptions:
1) Idea of interdependent parts
2) Consensus of values.
Talcott Parsons (1902-1979)
пЃ¬ One of the most
prominent theorists of
his time.
пЃ¬ Attempted to
generate a grand
theory of society.
Robert Merton (1910-2003)
пЃ¬ Raised in South
Philadelphia slum.
пЃ¬ Merton was not the
family name, he
changed his name
from Meyer R.
Schkolnick.
пЃ¬ Received B.A. from
Temple University
and doctorate from
Harvard.
Robert Merton (1910-2003)
пЃ¬Always stressed importance of empirical
research.
пЃ¬Goal was to keep functional assumptions
to a minimum.
His functionalist theories are “middlerange” variety.
пЃ¬Despite differences, Parsons and Merton
are known as the leaders of the structural
functionalism school of thought.
Theories of the Middle Range
пЃ¬Merton felt grand theories were too
abstract.
пЃ¬Middle range is principally used to guide
empirical inquiry.
пЃ¬They are functionalist theories that consist
of limited sets of assumptions.
Durkheim’s Suicide and Weber’s
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Capitalism are examples.
Theories of the Middle Range
пЃ¬Role sets are an important element.
пЃ¬For Merton, the term function does not
mean the same thing as purpose.
пЃ¬Merton promoted a process referred to as
codification.
Anomie Theory
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
Initially developed by Durkheim.
The success goal in American culture leads many
feelings of anomie.
It is the conflict between cultural goals and
availability of institutional means.
Theory on the study of social deviance.
Two most important elements of structures:
(1) culturally defined goals
(2) Institutionalized Means
Merton described five types of individual
adaptations
1) Conformity
2) Innovation
3) Ritualistics
4) Retreatism
5) Rebellion
Manifest and Latent Functions
пЃ¬ Merton came to distinguish between two
usages for the word function:
1) Manifest Functions
-consequences that are expected
2) Latent Functions
-consequences that are not intended
Dysfunctions
пЃ¬A performance with disrupting
consequences.
пЃ¬Dysfunctional events lessen the effective
equilibrium of society.
Merton’s concept of dysfunctions is central
to his argument that functionalism is not
conservative.
Empirical Research
пЃ¬Different research methods are necessary
for different empirical problems.
пЃ¬Consistently drew links between theory
and research.
пЃ¬For Merton theorizing was always
important.
Neofunctionalism and Post Functionalism
пЃ¬Well known neofunctionalists:
пѓ�Niklas Luhmann
пѓ�Anthony Giddens
пѓ�Jeffrey C. Alexander
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998)
пЃ¬ In 1949 received a law
degree at the
University of Freiburg.
пЃ¬ Spent a year studying
under Parsons.
пЃ¬ Witnessed firsthand
his country’s defeat
and concluded that
modern society was
not a better place to
live.
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998)
пЃ¬ Argued that modern world is too
complex.
пЃ¬ Very difficult to read his work.
пЃ¬ Stressed the importance of grand theory.
пЃ¬ Described general systems theory as
having two important elements:
1) Distinction of the whole
2) The concept of self-referential systems
Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998)
пЃ¬His focus remains on the system not the
individual.
пЃ¬Social systems consist primarily of
communication networks.
пЃ¬Created a communication theory that
stressed human communication as
reflexive.
Anthony Giddens (1938-present)
пЃ¬ Few theorists have
been as productive.
пЃ¬ Produced 31 books
and more than 200
articles.
пЃ¬ Takes a postmodernist
point of view.
пЃ¬ Believes classical
ideas must be repaired
Anthony Giddens (1938-present)
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
пЃ¬
Referred to his approach as the theory of
structuration.
Views social systems as continuous flows of
conduct in time and space.
For years has been working in area of
globalization.
Three key areas of power:
1) Government
2) Economy
3) Communities of Civil Society
Jeffrey C. Alexander and
Neil Smelser
пЃ¬ Alexander is credited
with coining term
neofunctionalism.
пЃ¬ Views
neofunctionalism as
part of the
evolutionary growth.
пЃ¬ Smelser is considered
a top level theorist in
neofunctionalism.
пЃ¬ Believes people seek
to avoid experience of
ambivalence.
пЃ¬ Ambivalence refers to
such phenomena as
death and seperation.
Relevancy
пЃ¬ Every sociologist is a functionalist because
sociology IS functionalism.
пЃ¬ Functionalism fails to explain social change.
пЃ¬ Functionalism fails to explain most important
terms:
1) Structure
2) Function
3) Social system
пЃ¬ Safe to say functionalists approach will remain
around for many years to come.
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