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Functionalism - Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society.
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| Words: 820 | Submitted: 17-Jan-2012
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DescriptionAssess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society.
Q- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society.
Functionalism is a macro, structuralist theory. This means they see human behaviour being shaped as an influence of social forces. It is also seen consensus theory, as functionalists’ argue that, individuals are socialised into a shared value to ensure conformity and social order. However, this functionalists approach is criticised by action theorists, as they argue that individuals create society through their interactions. Unlike other functionalists, Parsons argues that individuals are integrated through socialisation and social order. He sees some similarities between society and a biological organism i.e. body parts are inter-related, so is society, as different institutions assist in socialisation. However, over socialization, as Durkheim argues, could be a motive to suicide as individual tends to put others before themselves.
One of the main objectives of functionalism is to find out, how social order is possible. Parsons identifies that social order is possible only if its members adhere to society’s norms and values. He argues that for this to happen, individuals have to be integrated into the social system. Primarily, the social system has its needs and to ensure that they are met, it requires the different agencies of socialisation i.e. media and family, to teach its individuals the systems norms and values so that it becomes part of their personality structure. Another is the idea of social control; he argues that those who conform to the value system are rewarded. However, those who do not are stigmatized as layabouts. This, therefore instils the idea of cooperation amongst individuals, making them work together to meet society’s needs.
Parsons furthers to explain the needs of the social system are met by different sub-system of institutions. These needs are known as the ‘AGIL schema’ (A- standing for adaptation which ensures that the material needs of society’s members are met, G- stands for goal attainment, meaning that society needs to set goals and allocate resources to achieve them, I- standing for integration, which means that all parts of the system must be integrated together to pursue shared goals and the L, refers to Latency, the process that maintains society overtime).
Parsons identifies that there are two type’s society, the traditional and the modern. Arguing that these different societies are governed by its own patterns of norms i.e. statuses of individuals in the traditional society are ascribed from birth and they are to put groups interest first before theirs. However, in the modern society, individuals have to pursue their self interest and achieve their statuses through efforts made towards education. Another is the idea of Particularism and Universalism i.e. in the modern society, norms emphasise that everyone should be treated the same. However, ...
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