Structural Functionalism, Neo-Functionalism Conflict Theory & System

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Structural Functionalism, Neo-Functionalism Conflict Theory & System Theory The origin of sociology developed and took place in Europe during the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The factors that led to the development of sociology are industrial economy, the growth of cities, and political change. Europe was changing from agriculture to factory production. Masses of people moved to the cities in search of work. In cities people met anonymity, crowding, filth, and poverty. The Industrial Revolution challenged the traditional order and opened the door for democratic changes. Social changes undermined the traditional explanations of human existence. Several perspectives like structural functionalism attempted to explain the shift from feudalism to industrial society. While structural functionalism emerged, other theories like neo-functionalism, conflict theory and system theory challenged the foundation of structural functionalism perspective. The structural functionalism theory was the most prevalent approach of thinking in sociology in the 1930’s and 1960s. However, it is no longer now regarded as the dominant theory. The earlier giants of structural functionalisms were Auguste Comte and Emile Durkheim and their predecessors were Kinsley Davis, Talcott Parson, and Robert Merton. Most of the ideas of structural functionalism came from Emile Durkheim. He was a French sociologist that wrote the basis for structural functionalism theory. Social functionalism perspective refers to the structures or institutions that shape a society (Kivisto 2013:197). This theory suggests that each structure has a specific function or role to play in determining the behavior of the society. A good illustration of this can be seen in the military and law enforcement structures. In order to maintain security for the members of the society, we have a military system in place to defend the members from external threat, and police system to maintain law and order of the society. Military and police system are structures of the society and their functions are to provide security and stability for the society. Structural functionalsim seeks to explain why society function the way it does by focusing on the relationship between various social institution that makeup society. Structural functionalism perspective examines the following questions: what system in society provides stability?, and how effectively do specialized institutions meet the needs of its members (not how it is changing). The structural functionalism theory proposed that in order to understand society, we must study how the society works to meet the needs of its members. The structural functionalism perspective is a consensus theory and focus on a macro level orientation (looks at the larger scale of institutions) (Kivisto 2013:198). Within this theory, social structures are stressed, placed at the center of the analysis and social functions are deduced from these structures. It asserts that society is constructed by interdependent system of parts and proper order to promote solidary, equilibrium, and stability. It also proposed that our lives are guided by social structures (relatively stable pattern of social behavior). The structural functionalism theory suggests that no part can be understood individually; therefore, the system as a whole cannot be understood if one part is missing. For example: A clock is made-up of certain parts such as hands, gears, springs and a power source. You have to put the parts together but in a specfic relationship to the other parts. Then and only then, do you have a clock. This is the essence of structural functional analysis. Society has parts that must work in a specific relationship to the other parts in order for society to function smoothly. The social order is between groups and organizations of society. Groups and organizations have to share norms and values in order for society function properly. Structural functionalism...
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