Assess the Contribution of Functionalism and the New Right Theories and Research in Understanding Society Today. Essay

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Assess the contribution of Functionalism and New Right theories and research to our understanding of society today. (33 marks) Functionalism, devised by Durkheim and Parsons, is a structural theory focusing on the needs of the whole social system and how these shape society’s main features (e.g. social institutions, humans’ behavioural patterns). It is a consensus theory, seeing society as based on value consensus (agreement) between its inhabitants about their values, goals and rules. The New Right is a conservative, political perspective that shares similarities with Functionalism (e.g. believing some people are more naturally talented than others) but contradicts it in arguing that the state should have less involvement in society (e.g. by cutting welfare). Durkheim saw modern industrial society as based on a complex division of labour which promotes differences between groups, weakening social solidarity. He argued that the resultant freedom to the individual must be regulated by society to prevent extreme egoism from destroying all social bonds. Resultantly, he saw society as external and independent to individuals, being made up of ‘social facts’ that constrain and shape people’s behaviour to meet society’s functional prerequisites (needs). Durkheim further believed that if any one thing (‘social fact’) exists, it has a function which will help meet society’s needs, the key ones of which are goals (met through political institutions, e.g. parliament), adaptation (meeting members’ material needs, e.g. through the economy), integration (socialising members into the shared values and goals of society, e.g. through education and the media) and latency (maintaining society through reproduction of its members). Functionalists describe society using an organic analogy and comparing it to a biological organism. Parsons argues that society and the human body are

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