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Outline and Evaluate the Functionalist View of Society

  • Submitted by: harrietsawers
  • on February 24, 2013
  • Category: Social Issues
  • Length: 888 words

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Functionalism is a structuralist theory that looks at society as a structure. They see society as more important than the individual, it is their belief that the individual are the product of society, the person is shaped by the norms and values that society teaches. Functionalists see religion, family, the political system and education as part of a complex system that has all the necessary parts in order to keep the system going.

The modern day functionalism began with the work of Émile Durkheim. He started the work of positivism; this was biological analogies to explain how society should function. Durkheim used the human body to show how society should work, based on the natural human process that every organ or part of the body has a part to play in keeping the person alive, and without these vital parts the person will not survive. According to Durkheim’s theory society works in the same way, society develops in the same way the body does, without the education system society would not be able to produce the next generations intellectual and even social skills in order for them to perform in the workplace or for the part in society. Durkheim believed that society should share the same culture; through this everyone would be socialized in the same way causing a society with the same values, norms and goals. Using the same body analogy he compared the way the body fights disease, to the way our society deals with problems using mechanisms such as police and the legal system.

Talcott Parsons was another key functionalist thinker. He thought that socialization was the key to understanding the human behavioral patterns. Socially acceptable patterns of behavior are achieved and passed on through generations by the role of social institutions such as education, religion and family. The importance of nuclear family life is socialized into people usually by the media, family and education, as one of the key values of society. Parsons felt it was important to...

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