Discuss the Strengths and Weaknesses of Functionalist Explanations as Applied to the Study of Contemporary Society. Support Your Response with Details and Examples from Studies Conducted in the Caribbean on Stratification.

1328 Words Apr 26th, 2012 6 Pages
Question 1: Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of functionalist explanations as applied to the study of contemporary society. Support your response with details and examples from studies conducted in the Caribbean on stratification.

Functionalism is a consensus perspective that sees society as based on shared values into which members are socialized. It sees society as like an organism, each part performing functions to maintain the system as a whole. For example, religion, the education system and the family perform socialization functions. The functionalist theory though developed from the ideas of theorists such as Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim, can trace its origins as far back as the founding father of sociology, Auguste
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Based on social stratification in Trinidad and Tobago, Lloyd Braithwaite observed that although ethnic affiliation and purification were the values upon which the social structure was erected, the distinct groups were kept together by an assimilation of white values, which was held up as being the ‘ideal’. This assimilation of the Anglo-Saxon value system allowed for the functional prerequisites of the society to be achieved. For example, English was accepted as the official language, and the title of Doctor and Lawyer became symbols of prestige and status in society. He went on further to argue that it was not only force that held order in societies but also an acceptance of the basic values or consensus emanating from the metropolitan nexus.
However, a criticism of this perspective is the argument that it is somewhat "naive" in that it assumes that there is consensus: that everyone in the structure holds the same norms and values; that we all essentially believe in and work for the same thing. Many theorists take issue with this component and argue that Western society is more accurately characterized as groups of people in a society competing for resources, wealth, and power. More importantly, these groups do not all believe the same thing (in fact, many are counter-culture) and are thus in conflict with each other. Many Conflict theorists would take the pessimistic view expressed earlier that poverty

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