functionalism

3347 Words14 Pages
Functionalism has given a useful understanding of society, despite its limitations. Functionalists describe society using an organic analogy; they say society is like a biological organism. Parsons found three similarities between society and an organism. System organisms such as the human body and society are both self-regulating and inter-related, independent parts fit together in fixed ways. In the body these are organs; in society they are institutions, such as family and education. Both organisms have system needs for example an organism needs nutrition without which it would die. Social systems have basic needs for example members of society need to be socialised. Both society and organisms function to contribute to meeting the…show more content…
Parsons describes adaption and goal attainment as instrumental needs, to the means to an end, such as producing food to sustain the population. He describes integration and latency as expressive needs as they involve channelling emotions. By carrying out their respective functions the four sub systems ensure that society’s needs are met and social stability maintained. Parsons identified two types of society, traditional and modern. Each type has its own typical pattern of norms. Within each type the variables fit together, for example in modern society students are expected to pursue their own self interests, achieved status through efforts in education, attained through deferred gratification. They are all judged by the universal standard of exams. Contrastingly in traditional society an individual’s status is ascribed at birth and they’re expected to put their kinships interest before their own, called collective orientation. Parsons argues change is a gradual, evolutionary process of increasing complexity and structural differentiation. The organic analogy is relevant here. Organisms have evolved from simple structures to complex organisms with different parts performing its own specialised function. Similarly societies move from simple to complex structures. For example in traditional society a single institution, the kinship system, performs many functions. It organises production and consumption, provides political leadership, socialises members and
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