Functionalism is one of the oldest sociological theories. It looks at society on a macro level as a complex system whose parts work together to perform “order, stability and productivity” (Crossman Ashley). It is also called structural functionalism as it looks at social structure and social functions and how they work in society. These structures, such as the government and family are known as institutions. Each institution is dependent on one another and work in ways that benefit society. For example, the government provides education for children of a family. In return, the family pays taxes on which the government depends, to keep working. The family depends on the school which helps children to learn and grow. In return, the children will raise and support their own families. When one part of the system does not function properly, all the other parts are affected. Change occurs only if the structures are able to adapt and maintain balance in the society.
One of the weaknesses of the functionalism theory is that since it is macro-scale, it can forget to include small groups such as tribes and gypsies. By looking at society as a whole, sociologists do not recognize these small groups. Therefore, they may lack important information about how society functions and how small groups live within a large society. In addition to this, since functionalism is a consensus theory, everyone views the society as fair with everyone having the same norms and values (The Functionalist Perspective). For example, a woman is known to nurture her children in a family. When a woman does not care for her children, this is considered abnormal. However, functionalists fail to acknowledge that there are inequalities in societies such as age, gender, race and class. They go beyond explaining how a society is organized to the point where they prescribe how individuals within a society should behave. The functionalism theory has just as much strengths as weaknesses....
References: "FunctionalistÂ Theory." About.com Sociology. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2013.
"The Functionalist Perspective." - The Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.
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