Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of families and household

Topics: Sociology, Family, Marxism Pages: 2 (676 words) Published: November 5, 2013
Functionalists believe that society is based on a shared value consensus; this is a set of shared norms and values into which society socialises its members. This enables society to work harmoniously and able to meet its needs and goals. Functionalists believe that the family is regarded as a basic building block of society. George Murdoch (1949) argues that the family performs four essential functions to meet the needs of society and its members. These functions are; economic needs, reproduction, primary socialisation and sex. He believes that those needs can only be achieved within a nuclear family. However, some sociologists would argue that these needs can be met in other ways than within the family. For example, other family types such as an extended family or institutions such as the Kibbutz in Israel can be used for primary socialisation and economic security. Other needs such as reproduction and sex can also be met by sperm donors or prostitution. Marxist and Feminist sociologists have criticised Murdoch’s theory. They say that Functionalism ignores conflict and exploitation within society. Feminists see the family as being patriarchal and serving the needs of men and Marxists see the family as meeting the needs of capitalism and not the needs of the family members. According to Parsons there are two types of society; pre and post industrial. Parsons argues that when Britain began to industrialise from the 18th century onwards then the extended family became redundant and made way for the nuclear family. Parsons believes that this change happened because the needs of the society changed, he identified that post-industrial societies have two basic needs. First people had to be geographically mobile, as in a modern society, industries are constantly springing up in one area and declining in another. Therefore people had to be able to move to where the work was available. This mobility would be easier for the nuclear family than the extended family. Secondly...
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