Decent Essays
Asses the contribution of ‘functionalism’ to an understanding of society. Functionalist often use an organic analogy; they say society is like a biological organism. Parsons (1970) identifies three similarities between society and a biological organism. He argues that the organisms such as the human body and society are both self-regulating systems of inter-related, interdependent parts that fit together in order to work successfully (for example, the education system and the state.) They also have a series of needs or the organisms will die, for example, it members must be socialised if society is to continue. However it could be argued that the education system has changed and in some cases, the private system is not linked to the…show more content…
Traditional society was based on ‘mechanical solidarity with little division of labour, where all its members were fairly alike. A strong collective conscience bound them so tightly together that individuals in the modern sense did not really exist. However in modern society, the division of labour promotes differences between groups and weakens social solidarity. It brings greater freedom for the individual, but this must be regulated to prevent extreme egoism destroying all social bonds. Similarly rapid change undermines old norms without creating clear ones, throwing people into a state of anomie or normlessness that threatens social cohesions. These ideas are echoed in the functionalists concern with social order and value consensus. Another contribution of Durkheim’s is the idea that society exists as a separate entity over and above its members; a system of external ‘social facts’ shaping their behaviour of individuals to serve society’s needs. This is similar to Parsons’ idea of a social system with its own needs. Similarly, Durkheim’s belief that social facts can be explained in terms of their function is the basic principle of functionalist analysis on society. In contrast, conflict perspective critics provide us with a contrasting view on society as a whole, for example, Marxists argue that functionalism is a conservative ideology that seeks to justify the existing social order as inevitable and desirable. In conclusions, functionalism seeks to answer
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