Topics: Sociology, Émile Durkheim, Structural functionalism Pages: 3 (1011 words) Published: March 15, 2013
Asses the contribution of ‘functionalism’ to an understanding of society.

Functionalist often use an organic analogy; they say society is like a biological organism. Parsons (1970) identifies three similarities between society and a biological organism. He argues that the organisms such as the human body and society are both self-regulating systems of inter-related, interdependent parts that fit together in order to work successfully (for example, the education system and the state.) They also have a series of needs or the organisms will die, for example, it members must be socialised if society is to continue. However it could be argued that the education system has changed and in some cases, the private system is not linked to the state, this suggests that Parsons Theory is outdated when understanding society as a whole, Merton’s argument is that it is an untested assumption that everything in society depend on each other as there is diverse family types, e.g. one parent families are not necessarily dependant on society. For Parsons Society is a system with its own needs. The shared value system coordinates the different parts of society to ensure that the systems needs are met, or change will disrupt society. Parsons identifies the four that society needs in which to work, Adaption; the social system needs to meet individuals material needs. Society needs to set goals and allocate resources to achieve them, through institutions such as parliament; goal attainment. The different parts of society need to be integrated together in order to pursue shared goals, this is performed by the sub-system of religion, education and the media. Finally, Latency; refers to processes that maintain society over time. The kinship sub-system provides pattern maintenance (socialising individuals to go on performing the roles society requires.) the four sub-systems ensure that society’s needs are met and social stability is maintained. However, Merton argues that complex modern...
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