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Structural Functionalism

Structural Functionalism

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Structural Functionalism

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  1. Structural Functionalism

  2. Basics • Macro-level analysis (big picture) • Predominantly European • Classic theory (1800-1950) • Leading Sociologists • Comte, Durkheim, Spencer, Parsons, Merton, Almond & Powell • Optimistic theoretical framework

  3. Definition • A sociological view of society as a complex unit made up of interrelated parts that work together to promote solidarity and stability. • Sociologists who apply this theory study social structures and social functions.

  4. Assumptions • Stability • Social patterns contribute to society and that is how society is maintained, how it survives • Harmony • Parts of society work together for the good of the whole • Evolution • Social structure adapts to new needs and demands, if it is dysfunctional for society it will be eliminated

  5. Analogy • Consider society as a living organism—all of the parts work together for the good of the whole • Human body: liver, heart, lungs, brain all work together to maintain optimal health • When illness occurs, the body attempts to repair itself to regain balance

  6. Deeper Understanding • Human nature is the problem • Social structures and culture keep people from destroying themselves, it is these “parts” that keep society functional • Conflict is caused by human nature • Social organization is the solution Example: children are born selfish and would remain so, eventually destroying themselves if families, schools, churches etc., were not there to teach them restraint, moderation and cooperation

  7. Functionalist Questions • What social structures are involved? • What cultural meanings are involved? • What are the consequences of this social structure? • What are the consequences of this cultural meaning? • Does this social structure and cultural meaning contribute to social stability?

  8. Social Structures or Institutions • Social structures are relatively stable patterns of behaviour • Friendship Networks • Education • Family • Religion • Governance • Healthcare • Sports & Recreation • Media

  9. Example: Drug Use • Social structures • Family and/or friends who use drugs • Family and/or friends who do not use drugs • Police • Cultural Meanings • Laws (how are they interpreted?) • Government (how is it perceived) • Police (how do they enforce laws?) • Social Stability • Do these structures and meanings maintain or destroy social equilibrium?

  10. Social Functions • Functionalist theory assumes that society is comprised of many social structures that perform social functions to maintain stability • Manifest Functions (positive) • Intended consequences of social structure • Latent Functions (positive) • Unintended or unrecognized consequences of a social structure • Dysfunction (negative) • Undesirable consequences of a social structure

  11. Example of Social Functions: Education • Manifest Function • educate children • Latent Function • daycare for children which enables parents to go to work • Dysfunction • high school drop-outs

  12. Social Institutions • Institutions = social structure + culture • Designed to meet human needs • Provide routine patterns for dealing with problems • Institutional Interdependence • Norms and values are reinforced because each institution has compatible expectations • Example: being on time is valued by the workplace, school system, friends, family, church

  13. University of Wisconsin interactive

  14. Functionalism and Change • Social structures exist because they in some way contribute to maintenance of society • Society maintains an equilibrium or harmony and if forced out of that state will adjust in ways that tend to reinstate equilibrium (though not necessarily the original equilibrium) • Change is generated mainly from outside the system or is brought on by dysfunction

  15. Critique of Functionalism Advantages • Useful for macro-level research on social issues • Valuable foundation for further studies in sociology • Optimistic view Disadvantages • Values stability over all else • Assumes consensus • Cannot explain rapid social change or societal breakdown • Not based on empirical findings

  16. Crime - The Functionalist View • Crime and deviance are inevitable and necessary • Crime shows other member of the society what is right and wrong • Social consensus decides how right and wrong is determined • Crime can lead to social change because the existence of crime proves to the people in the society that the government does not overly control the citizens • Crime can also help the economy of a society by creating jobs for law enforcement officers, psychiatrists, probation officers etc. • Too much crime can be bad for the group, causing it to lose harmony and eventually causing the society to collapse.

  17. Divorce- The Functionalist View • In small groups, use the functionalist framework to explain the rise in the divorce rate since 1900. • Consider social structures (family, economy, the workplace, education…) • Is marriage now a dysfunction?

  18. Hint from the 1800s On the farm where most people lived, each family member had jobs or “chores” to do. The wife was in charge not only of household tasks but also of raising small animals, such as chickens. Milking cows, collecting eggs, and churning butter were also her responsibility—as were cooking, baking, canning, sewing, darning, washing, and cleaning. The daughters helped her. The husband was responsible for caring for large animals, such as horses and cattle, for planting and harvesting, and for maintaining buildings and tools. The sons helped him. Together, they formed an economic unit in which each depended on the others for survival.