Strengths and Weaknesses of the Functionalist View on Society

1468 Words Feb 14th, 2013 6 Pages
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
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For example the family is an institution made up of mother, father and child. Instutions are then grouped into sub systems- such as shops, farms, factories, which all form part of the economy, whose function is to meet society’s material needs. Within society, Parsons identifies four basic needs which are met by a separate sub system. It is sometimes referred to as the AGIL scheme. These four needs are: adaptation, goal attainment, integration and latency. The social system meets its members’ material needs, goals are set and resources are allocated to achieve them; this function is performed by the political sub system, through institutions such as parliament. Different parts of the system need to be integrated together in order to pursue shared goals and the latency refers to processes that maintain society over time. If all these needs are met, then according to functionalists society will be a

The functionalist theory identifies two types of society- traditional and modern. Parsons says each type has its own typical pattern of norms (called pattern variables A and B) Within each type, there are variables which fit together. Within traditional society, an individual’s status is ascribed at birth, and they are expected to put the kinships group before their own. Opposite to this, in modern society,

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