Functionalist explanations of social inequality

Topics: Sociology, Marxism / Pages: 3 (676 words) / Published: Nov 5th, 2013
Outline and Asses Functionalist explanations of social inequality (40marks)

Functionalism is a concencus theory that focused on the unity and harmony of society. Functionalists believe that society is a system that works together in order for it to funtction. Inequality is the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions in a society and recurrent patterns of unequal distributions of goods, wealth, opportunities etc. There are many types of inequality such as social class inequality, gender inequality, age inequality and ethnicity inequality. Functionalists believe that these inequalities do exist and that they are beneficial to the society and are vital for society to function.

Parsons states that we need order, stability and cooperation based on a value consensus. He believes that the relationship between the different groups is one of reciprocity. This means that the different groups are good because they share a give and take relationship and are useful to each other. Parsons also talks about stratification systems (which is the existence of different layers in society)as inevitable and functional, we need this hierarchy in order to survive.

Davis and Moore also look at the stratifications system and argue that it occurs in every known society and that in order for the stratification system to work we must have effective role allocation. Role allocation ensures that the roles in society are filled by those who are best suited to them and will do the best job possible. This benefits society because it means we will have good lawyers to fight our cases in courts, good doctors to treat us when we are sick, good politicians to run the country and so on. All societies need a mechanism for this to happen and ours is social stratification.

However the social stratification system has been heavily criticized by many sociologists and has been argued to be a device rather than an integrating force by which some groups of

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