Development Studies

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This essay is aimed at comparing and contrasting structural functionalism with the Marxist and the noe-marxist theories to social change, how they best describe social change in less developed countries; in this case Zambia. The paper is to also outline the relevance of the two approaches and come up with one that offers the best approach as in the case of Zambia. Social change refers to the structural transformation of political, social, cultural, and economic systems and institutions to create a more stable society. It can also be defined as change in social structure, the nature of the institutions, social behavior or the social relations of the society or community of people. When behavior pattern changes in large numbers and is visible and sustained, it results in social change. Once there is deviance from culturally inherited values, rebellion against the established system may result causing change in social order, any event or action that affects a group of individuals who have shared values of characteristics (Herman, Nancy J and Reynolds, Larry T: 1994). Structural functionalism is defined as a sociological theory that originally attempted to explain social institutions as collective means to meet individual biological needs ( Giddens, 2006). Structural functionalism to sociological analysis is basically an equilibrium theory. The system is said to be in equilibrium when its component parts are so compatible with each other, denying an outside disturbance, none of them will change its position or relation to others in any significant way. An equilibrium system is said to be stable when a slight change in external conditions creates internal variations whose own effects is equal and opposite to the initial disturbance, thereby moving the system back to its former position of rest. It is said to be unstable when the initial disturbance creates movement that feeds on its relationships, thereby displacing the system further from its original position of rest (Davies, K:1959). Structural functionalism can also be defined as a sociological paradigm which addresses social functions and various elements of the social system perform in regard to the entire system. Social structures are stressed and placed at the centre of analysis and social functions are deduced from these structures(ibid). Functionalist believe that one can compare society to a living organism, in that both society and a living organism are made up of interdependent working parts and systems that must function. Functionalists say that the different parts of society e.g family, education, religion, law and order, media etc. have to be seen in terms of contribution that they make to the functioning of the whole society. This organism analogy sees the different parts of society working together to form a social system in the same way that the different parts of an organism form a cohesive functioning entity. In relation to the case of Zambia, structural functionalism is relevant in understanding social change. It is relevant in that it provides general guidelines for behavior in terms of norms. These institutions of society such as family, religion, the economy, law and order, the educational and political systems are major aspects of social structure. A practical example of an institution that is relevant in Zambia is a family. According to Glencoe (1995;114), the family is the first social world a child encounters, and members are the mirror in which children begin to see themselves. It is the first group whose norms and values children adopt as their own and refer to in evaluating behavior. Historical analysis also demonstrates that across time, the family has provided many important functions for society. Functionalists believe that mass formal education is an essential part of an industrial society, and that expansion of industrial society, and that expansion of the industrial economies brings a corresponding expansion in the education system, they...
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