How useful is ‘structural functionalism’ or ‘society as an organism’ as theoretical frameworks in considering the problem of ‘death’ as a sociological

1775 WordsJun 20, 20188 Pages
The essay will critically analyse theoretical accounts of society, in particular how useful they are in understanding how death is viewed socially in the West. It will be argued that all different theoretical models of society can be useful, but that the model ‘society as an organism’, which emphasises symbolic interactionism, is often more useful than structural functionalism on its own. My analysis will start with a look a critique of structural functionalism, using Durkheim’s analysis of suicide (1953) as an example. I then look at ‘society as an organism’ in the thought of Rousseau (1913), before turning to consider these models specifically in relation to the problem of death. I discuss our Western fear of death, and suggest, drawing…show more content…
He talks of the "artificial body of the government" (1913: 53) and “the body of the nation" (1913: 29), "the body and each of its members" (1913: 29). He saw that the health of the social body depends on unity: "public enlightenment leads to the union of understanding and will in the social body: the parts are made to work exactly together, and the whole is raised to its highest power" (1913: 34). As we see, this model demands that we understand ‘the whole’ as more than its mere parts. It is not just the parts that need to function, but they need to function in their own nature which is determined by ‘the whole’ (e.g. the organism or social body). While structural functionalism sees an ordered society as a functional society, Rousseau’s model can recognise that while society might like to appear ordered, such order could be a mask of disorder. For example, he writes: "So long as government and law provide for the security and well-being of men in their common life, the arts, literature and the sciences, less despotic though perhaps more powerful, fling garlands of flowers over the chains which weigh them down. They stifle in men's breasts that sense of original liberty, for which they seem to have been born" (1913: 130-131). As such, the appearance of order is covering over disorder: "What happiness would it be for those who live among us, if our external appearance were always a true mirror of our

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