Critically Asses the Usefulness of the Functionalist Perspective to Our Understanding of Society (33 Marks)

In: Social Issues

Submitted By twoidon
Words 1083
Pages 5
Critically asses the usefulness of the functionalist perspective to our understanding of society (33 marks)
The functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. Functionalists take a structural approach towards society that concentrates on the way society controls the individual. Functionalists believe there are forces that influence our behaviour as well as the way we think. These are said to be as a consequence of the society we live in. There are many functionalists theorists who try to explain society which will be discussed below.
A main Functionalist is Emile Durkheim who believes that sociology is a science. He is a structuralist and positivist and thus disagrees with empathy, meanings and the social action theory. Functionalists believe that society is based around a value consensus and social solidarity, which is achieved by socialisation and social control. Other theorists such as Marxists and feminists would argue against this. Durkheim sought to explain social stability through the concept of solidarity, and differentiated between the mechanical solidarity of primitive societies and the organic solidarity of complex modern societies. According to Durkheim, more primitive or traditional societies were held together by mechanical solidarity; these societies have people involved in similar roles so labour division is simple. Therefore, a similar lifestyle is lived with common shared norms and values and beliefs. They have a consensus of opinion on moral issues giving society a social solidarity to guide behaviour. As there is a societal agreement, there is pressure to follow the value consensus, so therefore most do. Organic Solidarity showed that Industrialisation meant population grew rapidly with urbanisation occurring. As society develops, a division of labour occurs. This is when work…...

Similar Documents

Assess the Usefulness of Social Action Theories in the Study of Society (33 Marks)

...studying society; they look at how individuals within society interact with each other. There are many forms of social action theories, the main ones being symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and ethnomethodology. They are all based on the work of Max Weber, a sociologist, who acknowledged that structural factors can shape our behaviour but individuals do have reasons for their actions. He used this to explain why people behave in the way in which they do within society. Weber saw four types of actions which are commonly committed within society; rational, this includes logical plans which are used to achieve goals, traditional-customary behaviour, this is behaviour which is traditional and has always been done; he also saw affectual actions, this includes an emotion associated with an action and value-rational actions, this is behaviour which is seen as logical by an individual. Weber’s discovery of these actions can therefore be seen as useful in the study of society. Weber discovered these actions by using his concept of verstehan, a deeper understanding. However, some sociologists have criticised him as they argue that verstehan cannot be accomplished as it is not possible to see thing in the way that others see them, leaving sociologists to question whether Weber’s social action theory is useful in the study of society. Social action theories have also been referred to as interactionism as they aim to explain day-to-day interactions between individuals within......

Words: 759 - Pages: 4

Assess the Usefulness of Micro Sociology to Our Understanding of Society

...Assess the usefulness of micro sociology to our understanding of society (33marks) Micro sociology focuses on the actions and interactions of individuals and is a bottom-up approach. Such micro approaches, see society as shaped by its members, who possess agency, in other words, the ability to act as free agents. Micro approaches, also known as action theories, include social action theory, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and ethnomethodoly. However, macro sociologists take a deterministic approach, as they believe that our actions are determined by society. Macro theories include Functionalism and Marxism, who see individuals as puppets, under the control of social structures. One micro approach to sociology is Weber’s social action theory. According to Weber, in order to understand human behaviour, we must take into account both the level of structural cause, and the level of subjective meaning that individuals attach to their actions. Weber argues that there are an infinite number of subjective meanings that actors give to their actions; however he attempts to classify actions into four types. Instrumentally rational action refers to action that is driven by a given goal, in order to achieve through the most efficient means. Value rational action involves action towards a goal that the actor regards as desirable, for example worshipping god in order to get to heaven. Unlike instrumentally rational action, there is no way of calculating whether the means of......

Words: 1093 - Pages: 5

Outline and Evaluate the Functionalist View of the Role of the Family in Society (33 Marks).

...the functionalist view of the role of the family in society (33 marks). Murdock, a functionalist, describes the family as a universal institution based on the nuclear family model. The functionalist view of the role of the family in society is that it maintains social order. The family is a tool for socialisation and a key social institution in sustaining the value that society works by consensus. Murdock identified four main functions of the family: sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. These four functions cover the role of the family in society. The sexual and reproductive functions are what keep society populated. If they became dysfunctional then society would not have the people inhabiting it. The economic function is the parent’s responsibility to take care of their family financially, usually through the division of labour where the man will take on the instrumental role of financial provider for the family while the woman will adopt the expressive role and take care of the home and family members. Marxists would contest this viewpoint arguing that the division of labour is capitalist dogma used to control the labour force and stop them from developing consciousness. The final function identified by Murdock was the educational functional, this is function where the family learns how to be socialised. It is this function that maintains the value consensus which allows society to remain functional. This is a key role of the family to functionalists if......

Words: 587 - Pages: 3

Asses the Contribution of Functionalist Sociologists to Our Understanding of the Family.

...Asses the contribution of functionalist sociologists to our understanding of the family. A function is a purpose and explains how this institution contributes to the maintenance and smooth running of society this approach to society is called functionalism. From a functionalists point of view a family is a heterosexual couple with dependent children, male is the breadwinner and woman is the housewife. Functionalists believe that the nuclear family supports society because it is geographically mobile and allows the family to move around with little trouble. Functionalists believe that society is based on a shared value consensus, this is a set of shared norms and values into which society socializes its members this enables society to work harmoniously and meet society's needs and goals. George Murdoch said that their are four main functions of the nuclear family these are; sexual, it strengthens relations in the family. Reproductive, family is the main unit of production. Educational, family is responsible for primary education. Economic, the family has to produce and consume something in order to satisfy its needs and wants. The nuclear family can be extended vertically, horizontally or by polygamy. Some may argue that Murdoch's definition is weak because at that time sex before marriage was not accepted as was single mothers and homo-sexual families. Talcott Parsons argued that although there are many functions that the family......

Words: 438 - Pages: 2

Assess the Contribution of Feminist Perspectives to Our Understanding of Society

...Assess the contribution of feminist perspectives to our understanding of society. (33 marks) Feminism is a set of ideologies used to advance the cause of women’s equality and to end the sexist theory and practice of social oppression. It is a structuralist theory which is made up of several versions, but they all argue that society is patriarchal. The types of feminism I will be reviewing are liberal feminism, radical feminism, marxist feminism, and difference feminism. Aside from all agreeing that society is patriarchal, these versions of feminism disagree on two levels; the extent of patriarchy in society and also what needs to be done to create gender equality. Firstly, liberal feminism. Liberal feminists believe all humans should be treated equally; however they believe that women aren’t treated equally to men in society. Liberal feminists suggest that to create greater gender equality laws that are unfavourable to women need to be changed in order to present women with greater opportunities. Oakley distinguishes between sex and gender, referring to sex as the biological differences between males and females such as their reproductive role, whereas she refers to gender as culturally constructed differences between masculine and feminine roles and identities assigned to males and females. Liberal feminists therefore disagree with the functionalist Parsons who believed that males and females perform the roles they are biologically suited to do, contrarily......

Words: 912 - Pages: 4

Assess the Contribution of Marxism to Our Understanding of Society (33 Marks)

...Assess the contribution of Marxism to our understanding of society (33 marks) - June'13 A popular group of sociologists , who have conducted various amounts of research in regard to society, are Marxists, who believe that power in society is largely stemmed from wealth, which has created a capitalist society (a society in which people are employed for wages, and businesses are set up with the aim of making profit). In capitalism the working-class employees (proletarian) are exploited by the bourgeoisie (the ruling-class), because they were not paid the full value of their work since the bourgeoisie kept surplus value. According to Marxism, family developed so that men were able to feel certain of the paternity of their children. Engels (Marxist) believes that marriage would allow men to control women's sexuality and minimise the chances of women having an affair. This is supported by Murdock (Functionalist) who believes there are 4 functions to the family, one being the sexual function, which states that family prevents disruption to society by limiting sexuality to monogamous relationships, therefore preventing any conflict that may arise from sexual desire. This suggests that Marxists believe that society created the idea of family in order for men to feel confident they are passing down their property to their biological offspring. In addition, Marxist Feminists believe that society is controlled by men and the ruling-class; and that family encourages the......

Words: 1266 - Pages: 6

Using Material from Item 2b and Elsewhere, Assess the Contribution of Functionalist Sociologists to Our Understanding of the Family. (24 Marks)

...Using material from Item 2B and elsewhere, assess the contribution of functionalist sociologists to our understanding of the family. (24 marks) Functionalist sociologists believe that the family is the key institution of society and that it performs vital functions for the maintenance of society as a whole as well as for individual members. According to Murdock, it provides important sub-system that provides stable satisfaction for the sex drive and therefore avoids social disruption. As well as this, Murdock says the family reproduces the next generation and thus ensuring current society to continue. Parsons argued that the pre-industrial society was focused on the extended family. Roles in these families were always based on social class, not achievement. According to parsons, industrialisation had many effects on the family. This meant that the economy demanded a more geographically mobile workforce. Nuclear families were formed as people moved away their extended kin in order to take advantage of job opportunities. New nuclear family provided the husband and wife with clear social roles. Wives were expressive, Husbands were Instrumental. Parsons concluded that the nuclear family is the only family that can provide the achievement orientated and geographically mobile workforce needed by modern industrial economies. Functionalists believe the family has specific functions: Stabilisation of adult personality. Parsons spoke about the warm bath theory, where the......

Words: 557 - Pages: 3

Assess the Usefulness of Feminist Contributions to Our Understanding of Society Today (33 Marks)

...subordination. There are different types of feminism and the types I will be evaluating in this essay are Liberal, Radical, Marxist and Difference/poststructuralist feminist. Feminists criticise mainstream sociology for being ‘malestream’. By contrast, feminists examine society from the viewpoint of women, they see their work as part of the struggle against women’s subordination. However, although all feminists oppose women’s subordination, there are disagreements among feminist’s theories about its causes and how to overcome them. Liberal feminist are concerned with the human and civil rights and freedoms of the individual, they believe that all human beings should have equal rights. In liberal feminism, the concept of society changing itself to adapt to women does not occur. Liberal feminists insist that all that is needed to change the status of women is to change existing laws that are unfavourable for women and that will open up more opportunities for women to prove themselves as equal to the opposite sex. Oakley (1972) distinguishes between sex and gender. She claims sex differences are seen as fixed and gender differences vary between cultures and over time. Therefore what is considered a proper role for women in one society or at one time may be disapproved of or forbidden in another. Sexist attitudes and stereotypical beliefs about gender are culturally constructed and transmitted through socialisation, meaning in order to achieve gender equality, liberal......

Words: 1483 - Pages: 6

Assess the Usefulness of These Theories in Our Understanding of Society

...Assess the usefulness of these theories in our understanding of society. (20 marks) In this essay I will be writing about how useful macro and micro theories are in our understanding of society. Macro theories are explanations that look at society as a whole, and the effect society has on people within it. In academics, macro theories attempt to explain the entirety of a subject in general or broad terms and example of a macro theory is Marxism. Micro theories are explanations that look at individuals how they act and interact with others, and how they make sense on the world. Micro theories also focus in detail on more specific elements of the discipline. An example of a macro theory is Feminism which was first introduced by the Suffragettes which was solely focused on political equality and then brought light to the topic in 1918, when women were given the right to vote if they owned their own house and were over the age of 30, shockingly it took another 10 years for the age to lower to vote to 21. They focused on the gender division between men and women. Feminists characterise our society as patriarchal, which means male dominated, and they argue that mainstream sociology focus on the concern of men and not on the concern of women. There are many elements within feminist attitudes and this incudes Marxism feminists. Liberal feminists, Radical feminists and Black feminists all have a similar goal which is to end male patriarchy in society and free society of exploitation...

Words: 652 - Pages: 3

Evaluate the Usefulness of Labelling Theory to Our Understanding of Crime and Deviance (40 Marks)

...Evaluate the usefulness of labelling theory to our understanding of crime and deviance (40 marks) Synopticity – Crime & Deviance and Theory Labelling theorists such as Becker and Lemert argue that because of the diversity of different values in society, there can never be a universally agreed definition of what constitutes ‘normal’ or ‘deviant behaviour’. What is deviant for one person may not be deviant for another. Labelling theorists argue that social reactions means labels are attached to certain people. For example, studies of the media by Cohen, Young etc. indicate that media social reaction may result in groups such as gays being labelled folk devils (such as aids carriers etc.). Fundamental to labelling’s traditional belief is that negative social reaction, in the form of labelling, causes an actor to become one with the deviant activity placed upon him, and, in many cases, leads to development of further deviance. Theorists believe that the stigma people feel from this labelling propels them toward, instead of away from, future deviance. Lemert made a distinction between Primary deviance and Secondary Deviance that labelling truly acquire prominence. Primary Deviance refers to an individual committing any norm-violating behaviour, usually without personal or social consequences. Secondary Deviation is deviant behaviour generated when one is placed in a deviant social role as a result of negative social reactions – having been processed and labelled as......

Words: 1311 - Pages: 6

Asses the Usefulness of Functionalist and Subcultural Theories of Crime and Deviance for an Understanding of Why the Working Class Commit Crime

...Assess the usefulness of functionalist and subcultural theories of crime and deviance for an understanding of why working class people commit crime (21 marks) Functionalists see society as based on shared norms and values which societies members are socialised into, known as a value consensus. This produces social solidarity, binding individuals together into a unit that works with other units to keep society running; it has been compared to the parts of the human body in the organic analogy. Durkheim was one of the first functionalists to investigate crime, he sees crime as part of a healthy and forward moving society; and that crime is inevitable in a modern society. This is because there is a not only a gender divide in labour, but a specialised divide in labour which causes diversity within subcultures. Because of this, the members of these subcultures become increasingly different from one another the shared norms and values become less clear. Durkheim describes this as Anomie, a state in which society becomes normless. Durkheim also believes all crime starts a deviance; this is because for changes to occur, individuals must challenge the current and accepted values of society. This will appear deviant at first, but as time passes could become the norm, or if it is supressed the individuals who challenged society will become outcasts. In the eyes of Durkheim, working class people commit crime because they want to see a change within society, this means that...

Words: 827 - Pages: 4

Compare and Contrast the Functionalist and Marxist Perspective to Our Understanding of Society

...contrast the Functionalist and Marxist perspective to our understanding of society The Functionalist perspective to our society is that we are controlled by society by aspects of our society such as media, religion, education and government to name a few. Auguste Comte developed a theory known as the organic analogy which explained that each part of society played a vital role in making the body of society work coherently, for example the education system may represent the brain as it is this which teaches us not only what to think but how to think. Marxism is comparable in the way that it is also a structural theory and that society controls us all via social control and sanctions however Marxism focuses on the brainwashing of the proletariat by the media, so that we are indoctrinated into believing what society wants us think and also the control of social inequality so that society maintains itself and the relations of production continue. Louis Althusser, a Marxist developed the idea of “ideological state apparatus”, this idea that the ideological state apparatuses, such as churches, schools, family, media and such reinforce the rule of bourgeoisie over the proletariat primarily through ideology in form of norms and values. This demonstrates the view that we are controlled by society as it teaches us and forces it's norms and values on us in order for us to conform to the group, although this is a Marxist point it also is identical to the Functionalist......

Words: 560 - Pages: 3

Assess the Usefulness of Feminist Contributions to Our Understanding of Society Today (33 Marks)

...subordination. There are different types of feminism and the types I will be evaluating in this essay are Liberal, Radical, Marxist and Difference/poststructuralist feminist. Feminists criticise mainstream sociology for being ‘malestream’. By contrast, feminists examine society from the viewpoint of women, they see their work as part of the struggle against women’s subordination. However, although all feminists oppose women’s subordination, there are disagreements among feminist’s theories about its causes and how to overcome them. Liberal feminist are concerned with the human and civil rights and freedoms of the individual, they believe that all human beings should have equal rights. In liberal feminism, the concept of society changing itself to adapt to women does not occur. Liberal feminists insist that all that is needed to change the status of women is to change existing laws that are unfavourable for women and that will open up more opportunities for women to prove themselves as equal to the opposite sex. Oakley (1972) distinguishes between sex and gender. She claims sex differences are seen as fixed and gender differences vary between cultures and over time. Therefore what is considered a proper role for women in one society or at one time may be disapproved of or forbidden in another. Sexist attitudes and stereotypical beliefs about gender are culturally constructed and transmitted through socialisation, meaning in order to achieve gender equality, liberal......

Words: 1483 - Pages: 6

Assess the Usefulness of Feminist Contributions to Our Understanding of Society Today (33 Marks)

...Feminists study society today through the viewpoint of oppressed women who are seen to be subordinated by men. Their main aim is to liberate women from men, patriarchal society and the socially constructed stereotypes of women. In order to do so, there are different strands of Feminism, which are, Liberal, the least extreme or violent, Marxist, who link in capitalism to Feminism and Radical Feminists, the most extreme. These groups seek to bring about equality through different means and on different levels of severity. In addition to these, there are smaller and more modern groups of Feminism which are Dual Systems Feminists, who are similar to Marxist Feminists and Poststructuralists who believe other Feminists disregard differences between women. Liberal Feminists are concerned with the human civil rights, therefore they seek legal reforms and changes in attitudes and socialisation to bring about gender equality, which does not require a violent revolution. They are the closest Feminist theory to a consensus view on today’s society even though it focuses on the conflicts between men and women. Liberal Feminists reject the idea that biological differences make women less competent or rational than men or vice versa. They distinguish between sex and gender; whereby sex refers to the biological differences such as their reproductive role and physical differences and gender refers to culturally constructed differences between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles. As gender is......

Words: 1397 - Pages: 6

Assess the Contribution of Feminist Perspectives to Our Understanding of Society (33 Marks)

...Assess the contribution of feminist perspectives to our understanding of society (33 marks) Feminists see society as patriarchal. They seek to describe, explain and change the position of women within society. The first ‘wave’ of feminism appeared in the late 19th century with the suffragette’s campaign for the right for women to vote. Even though all feminists oppose women’s subordination, there are disagreements on its causes and how to overcome it. Liberal or reformist feminists believe that traditional prejudices and stereotypes about gender differences are a barrier to equality. They believe all human beings should have equal rights. Since both men and women are human beings, both should have the same opportunities. Liberal Feminists argue that laws and policies against sex discrimination in employment and education can secure equal opportunities for women. Campaigning for changes in law can bring about change and we can bring about change through a cultural shift within society. They reject the idea that biological differences make women less competent or rational than men or that men are biologically less emotional or nurturing than women. To bring about change we must shift society’s socialisation patterns. For example society must seek to promote appropriate role models in education and the family by doing this we will benefit from a cultural shift and gender equality will become the norm. Liberal Feminists believe that changes in socialisation and culture are......

Words: 1744 - Pages: 7