Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Functionalist Approach to Society

Topics: Sociology, Social sciences, Talcott Parsons Pages: 4 (1163 words) Published: April 5, 2012
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society (33 marks)

Functionalism is seen as a macro-scale approach to society; it sees society as a whole rather than looking at parts of it. Due to this, functionalism sees society as a body (organic analogy), all the institutions work together to make society. This is particularly useful when observing society in order to understand the way in which it functions and the way in which all the institutions (organic analogy: organs within the body) work together to sustain society as a whole. Functionalism being a macro-scale approach is therefore seen as a strength as it allows functionalist sociologists to observe society, and its institutions, as a whole. Functionalism is also seen as a consensus theory, it sees society as fair and just, and it acknowledges that many societies, including the majority of western ones, have democracy and all individuals within a particular society share the same or similar norms and values. This could therefore be seen as a strength as it acknowledges that democracy does exist in many societies.

However, as functionalism is a macro-scale approach and sees society as a whole, it could miss crucial factors/ groups which contribute to the functioning of society; these include small groups and tribes, such as gipsies. Not acknowledging these minority groups within society could lead to functionalist sociologists lacking crucial information about how society functions and how minority groups live within a large society. This could therefore be seen as a weakness of functionalism as it fails to acknowledge that there are minority groups within society. Also, as functionalism is a consensus theory where all individuals within a particular society share the same or similar norms and values and sees society as being fair and just; however, it fails to acknowledge that there are inequalities within society, these inequalities could be present amounts social class,...
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