Functionalism Essay

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Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of society. The functionalist theory is a based on consensual structuralism. This means that they way how society is view is on a top-down/macro scale which looks at the way how society's institutes shape how and who we are. Functionalisms main concepts consist of society having a value consensus, meritocracy, specialised roles and social cohesion. Emile Durkheim is one of the most influential sociologists in the early stages of functionalism. He believed that within society there’s institutes that bind us together and make us have a collective conscience. He also that there’s a value consensus within society and people have a common set of rules which they follow, from this the organic analogy evolved. This is the comparison between the biological matters of the organs in the body playing a vital part in order for the body to survive. Likewise, society would cease to exist if it didn’t have vital institutes such as the family and education even crime and deviance to a certain extent. However, Sharrock et al, criticise Durkheim’s concept of functionalism as it overemphasises the value consensus. Other sociologists argue that not everyone will buy into society’s norms and values not because they are ‘deviant’ but because it favours the capitalist ideology. From the organic analogy, Parson’s 1951 developed Durkheim’s theory and postulated functional prerequisites. According to Parsons’ there are four main prerequisites such as: adaption (economic), goal attainment (political), integration (cohesion) latency; pattern maintenance. Parsons’ saw these as necessities which are vital in any given society, however from these prerequisites emerged the pattern variables. This is because he concluded that society has two modes of orientation: the instrumental and the expressive roles and this is what divides our
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