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 Comte. Stratification refers to the system where society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy of classes (upper, middle and lower class) based on a criterion or a combination such as religion, color, race, age, sex, wealth, occupation, and education. It represents the structured inequality characterized by groups of people with differential access to the rewards of society because of their relative position in the social hierarchy. The functionalist theory has much strength as well as weaknesses. One of the strengths of Functionalism is that it asserts that there are purposes for social conditions or facts. For example, under a functionalist point of view the janitor and the sewer worker all contribute to the function of the entire unit. Without serving these purposes, the social structure would not function properly. Functionalists are of the assumption that the needs of society are greater than the needs of individuals: in order words, the good of society is greater than the good of the individual thus contributing to the maintenance of society. Davis and Moore argue that all societies need some mechanism for insuring effective role allocation and performance. This mechanism is social stratification which they see as a...
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