Principal Sociological Perspectives
P1 Unit 7
This is the relationship between the parts of society; how aspects of society are functional (adaptive). A strength of Functionalism would be that it states that there are purposes for social conditions or facts. For example, under a functionalist point of view the newspaper deliverer and retail worker all contribute to the function of the entire unit--without serving these purposes, the social structure would not function properly. Also functionalism is considered vital for the smooth running of society, as Durkheim stated. A criticism of the functionalist approach would be it does not address areas of conflict, which undoubtedly characterise modern societies and in principle could be found in all societies. Functionalism assumes that there is consensus: that everyone in the structure holds the same norms and values; that we all essentially believe in and work for the same thing.
Functionalism is a theory about the nature of mental states. According to functionalists, mental states are identified by what they do rather than by what they are made of. Functionalism is the most familiar or “received” view among philosophers of mind and cognitive science.
Functionalists look at how the family as an institution, helps in maintain order and stability in society, and the significance of the family for its individual members. A well know functionalist who have written about the family is George. P. Murdock. Murdock carried out a study that included 250 families. From this he argued that the family achieves four basic functions for its individual members and society. He says these are ‘sexual’, ‘reproductive’, ‘economic’ and ‘educational’ functions. The sexual function refers to the sexual activity. Murdock argued that the family provides to the sexual needs of its adults and also limits sexual access of other member of the society thereby maintaining stability. The ‘reproductive’ function is manner and raising children. The family provides the society with new members and assume responsibility for raising them. The family is an ‘economic’ unit, with a division of labour along gender. Murdock considers this division of labour as rewarding for the spouses and as strengthening the bond between them, as they are perceived as doing distinct but complementary work. The ‘educational’ function that Murdock refers to, can also be known as ‘socialisation’. The family has the responsibility of transmitting a society’s way of life, norms and values to the younger members. This function is important because without culture the society wouldn’t survive; too much deviation from the norm would disrupt the stability of the society.
The sociological perspective sees society as structures with interconnected parts, and focuses on the structural features of society, emphasising social differences and the conflicting interests and values of different groups in society. Proletariat – Class of poor people who work for wages.
Bourgeoise – Class of wealthy people who have their own means of wealth. Strengths would be that it recognises the power interests of different groups and is good at explaining conflict and change in society. It stresses the role of class struggle (conflict) within society between the proletariat (workers) and the bourgeoisie (owners). Weakness would be that it doesn’t recognise that people are socially active, with some power and the ability to make choices and influence the direction of their own lives. It focuses on the economy as the driving force of social behaviour and ignores other important influences such as gender, ethnicity and religion. Marxism is a political and sociological perspective based on the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) Marx provided an account of the new class based society that emerged after the industrial revolution. The Marxist perspective questions the functionalist idea that business owners and bosses are morally...
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