Functionalist Theory Essay

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Functionalism Functionalism is one of the oldest theories, and is still used today. In functionalism society is made up of different parts, and these parts work together to keep the society stable. Functionalism relies very much on the scientific method. By relying on the scientific method, the study of sociology can be observed in the same way one would view the physical world. (McClelland) Most of the ideas of functionalism came from Emile Durkheim. He was a French sociologist that wrote the basis for functionalist theory. Durkheim was one of the first sociologists to use the scientific method and statistical techniques in sociological research. Talcott Parson played a major part in the development of functionalism also. He was a sociologist from Harvard University. He saw that society worked as a whole, with a system of connected parts that made the whole stable. (McClelland) In functionalism, change is said to happen when pressure is put on individuals by social structures. This is what is known as a macro theory. Macro theories work from the society downward, the society forces the people to change, not the people change society. “In the period from the late 1930s to the late 1950s, functionalism came as near as any perspective to constituting sociological orthodoxy” (Downes & Rock, 2007 p69). Functionalism attempts to explain how the relationships of societal participants’ practices fit together to sustain stability and subsequent social welfare. ‘The 'function' of a practice is just its role in sustaining the overall social structure….’ (Radcliffe-Brown 1957). Functionalism is also known as ‘Order Theory’, as described by Sargent, because it attempts an answer to the problem of order within society, and assumes that society’s purpose is to maintain order and stability, and that all parts of society function in such a way as to maintain
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