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Structural Functionalism

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Structural Functionalism

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  • March 2013
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Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.[1] This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole, and believes that society has evolved like organisms.[2] This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions, andinstitutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole.[3] In the most basic terms, it simply emphasizes "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system". For Talcott Parsons, "structural-functionalism" came to describe a particular stage in the methodological development of social science, rather than a specific school of thought.[4][5] The structural functionalism approach is a macrosociological analysis, with a broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole.

Criticisms
Main articles: Conflict theory and Critical theory
In the 1960s, functionalism was criticized for being unable to account for social change, or for structural contradictions and conflict (and thus was often called "consensus theory").[46] Also, it ignores inequalities including race, gender, class, which causes tension and conflict. The refutation of the second criticism of functionalism, that it is static and has no concept of change, has already been articulated above, concluding that while Parsons’ theory allows for change, it is an orderly process of change [Parsons, 1961:38], a moving equilibrium. Therefore referring to Parsons’ theory of society as static is...

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