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Functionalism and the Roots of Sociology. The historical background to Sociology. What were the circumstances surrounding the rise of Sociology in the 19 th century? What was their starting point? In other words, what did they perceive as the main problems facing the new industrial societies?

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functionalism and the roots of sociology

Functionalism and the Roots of Sociology

The historical background to Sociology. What were the circumstances surrounding the rise of Sociology in the 19th century?

What was their starting point? In other words, what did they perceive as the main problems facing the new industrial societies?

What is the term Functionalists use to describe society’s basic needs?

What institutions or ‘agencies,’ did the early Sociologists identify as shouldering the biggest responsibility in meeting those needs?

What analogy do Functionalists use for human society?

functional requirements
‘Functional Requirements’
  • Functionalists prioritise the following, and look for ‘socialising agencies’ (all of which ought to work in tandem, hence the term ‘interdependence of institutions’) to assert these values;
  • Social order/stability
  • Value consensus
  • Socialisation
  • Conformity/consensus
functionalist theorists
Functionalist Theorists
  • Functionalism has beenout of fashion within Sociological circles since the 1960s. Can you recall why this perspective may of appeared inappropriate at this particular time?
  • Nevertheless, this theory provides many of the ‘building blocks’ of the discipline, and its concerns (deviance, conformity, social group behaviours, class, gender etc) remain sociology’s main areas of enquiry.

What might the American Sociologist Talcott Parsons say about the education system? What might Emile Durkheim a contemporary hot potato like ‘integration?’

murdock and the nuclear family
Murdock and the Nuclear Family
  • ‘A people whose marriages and families are weak can have no solid institutions.’

Michael Novak

For Functionalists such as Murdock, the Nuclear Family is a universal feature of human societies the world over. After carrying our case studies into 250 human societies for his anthropological work ‘Social Structure,’ he proposed that this family type is

biologically ‘natural.’

education
Education
  • Parsons argued that the Family acts as a ‘bridge’ between the individual and wider society.
  • Within the family we gain ‘ascribed’ status- we are judged in terms of our status as brother, sister, daughter etc…
  • Education provides Secondary socialisation – now we are judged on ‘achieved’ status. Our conduct is measured against universal values.
  • Schools must operate on meritocratic principles. For Parsons, Ability + Effort = Merit.
education and role allocation
Education and ‘Role Allocation’
  • Schools must instil the value of achievement by rewarding those who succeed, and the value of equality of opportunity, so that all who make the necessary commitments will succeed.
  • Hence, the best people will go on to fill the most important positions This represents achieved status in action.
  • Can you think of any reservations

you might have with Parsons?

emile durkheim and integration
Emile Durkheim and Integration
  • For Durkheim, people are creatures whose desires are unlimited. “The more one has, the more one wants.” This natural insatiability must be kept in check by external, social controls.
  • A well-regulated society should impose controls (social controls) on human desires.
  • What state ensues when regulations on human behaviour begin to break down?
functionalism as a macro or structural sociology
Functionalism as a Macro, or Structural-Sociology
  • So, the individual is born into an ongoing social system – it existed before you were born. It exists independently of you, and determines our behaviour. The individual acts according to a ‘script’ laid down by society. The values, institutions and of society shape our actions and roles.
  • What do you think this says about individual choice (‘agency’)?
  • Are we puppets? “For a moment we see ourselves as puppets indeed. But then we grasp a decisive difference between the puppet theatre and our own drama. Unlike the puppets, we have the possibility of stopping in our movements, looking up and perceiving the machinery by which we have been moved. In this act lies the first step towards freedom.”
  • Peter Berger (1963)