Strengths and Weaknesses of the Functionalist View on Society

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Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist view on society. Functionalism is a consensus perspective, whereby society is based on shared values and norms into which members are socialised. For functionalists, society is seen as a system of social institutions such as the economy, religion and the family all of which perform socialisation functions. A strength of the functionalist theory is that it a macro level structural theory which uses an organic analogy- using the body as a way to describe the different parts within society. Parsons identifies three similarities; System, System Needs and Functions. The System being organisms such as the human body, and society which fit together in fixed ways. For example in the…show more content…
This shared culture provides a framework allowing individuals to co operate by doing things such as defining their goals they should pursue and laying down rules about how they should behave. One functionalist, Parsons, calls this agreement value consensus- the glue that holds society together. Value consensus makes social order possible, with Parsons indentifying that the system has two mechanisms for ensuring individuals conform to the shared norms, thus meeting the systems needs; Socialisation and Social control. The system can assure its needs are met by teaching individuals to want to do what is required of them, with positive sanctions rewarding conformity and negative ones punishing defiance. As individuals are integrated, the behaviour of each person will be quite predictable and stable, allowing cooperation. However this view can be seen as a weakness, as it is somewhat ‘naïve’ to assume that there is consensus; it is unlikely within society we all essentially believe in and work for the same thing. From an action perspective, Wrong criticizes the idea of a value consensus as he criticizes the functionalists over socialized, deterministic view of the individual. Wrong says that individuals have no free will or choice; they are mere puppets whose string are pulled by society. Due to this, the functionalists approach somewhat contradicts itself as functionalism sees humans as being shaped by society, but their approach actually takes
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