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Functionalism www.educationforum.co.uk. Durkheim “consider social facts as things” Society exists over and above individuals. A social fact is both external.

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Presentation on theme: "Functionalism www.educationforum.co.uk. Durkheim “consider social facts as things” Society exists over and above individuals. A social fact is both external."— Presentation transcript:

1 Functionalism

2 Durkheim “consider social facts as things” Society exists over and above individuals. A social fact is both external to individuals and something which exerts some form of constraint over individuals – a good example is language – language is both separate from us and constrains our expression in many ways.

3 Social Facts Functionalists like Durkheim say sociologists should study social facts – specifically the causes of social facts and the functionality of social facts for society.

4 Morality Moral codes are seen as ‘social facts’ – they are external to us and exert constraint over us Moral codes (norms and values) have the essential function of maintaining social order. Durkheim says humans have a ‘Dual Nature’ – on the one hand they want to maximise their own pleasure and on the other they desire social order (the ‘collective conscience’) Moral codes (norms and values) stop the former from destroying the latter

5 Anomie Durkheim introduces the idea of anomie (normlessness) – this is when the collective conscience breaks down and egotism rules – anomie leads to social disintegration. Norms and values and their transmission therefore essential to the maintenance of social order

6 Evaluation of Durkheim 1. The idea of human nature – society morally regulates the individual is the polar opposite of the Marxist view that ‘good’ human nature is corrupted by capitalist society 2. Determinism – Durkheim and the early functionalists can be criticised for seeing social forces as the only determinants of human behaviour (interactionists would disagree!) 3. Inequality – Functionalists tend to ignore inequalities in society. ‘Norms and values’ might simply reflect class ideology rather than being shared throughout society

7 Parsons Says there are 4 functional pre requisites for a successful social system AGIL A = ADAPTION G = GOAL ATTAINMENT I = INTERGRATION L = LATENCY

8 ADAPTION Refers to societies ability to adapt to the environment and meet the material needs of the people – an economic function

9 GOAL ATTAINMENT Refers to society’s ability to set and meet gals for future development e.g. to make profits, raise taxes, plan and manage services – the political function

10 INTERGRATION Refers to societies ability to maintain cohesion by defining and dealing with deviance – social control and socialisation

11 LATENCY Refers to societies need to have norms and values internalised by its members through families, schools, religion etc.

12 Society as an Organic Whole Parsons asserts that any part of society can be placed in one of the AGIL classification. All parts of society are interconnected and work for the benefit of the whole

13 Merton Criticises Parsons from within a recognisably functionalist position: 1. Merton says it is wrong to assume that everything within society right now is functionally indispensable – society is not static there are functional alternatives to existing modes e.g. reconstituted family maybe just as ‘functional’ as the nuclear family 2. Merton claims society is becoming more and more complex and can’t be treated like some big organic whole – some parts of society are only distantly related to other parts and have what he calls ‘functional autonomy’ 3. Dysfunction – not everything is functional – some things are dysfunctional, some things are functional for one group and dysfunctional for others – e.g. capitalism


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