Structural Functionalism, a Framework for Building Theory

Topics: Sociology, Structural functionalism, Social sciences Pages: 26 (7133 words) Published: March 11, 2014
Structural functionalism
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Major category: Sociology
Structural functionalism is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.[1] This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole. [2] This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole.[3] In the most basic terms, it simply emphasizes "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system." For Talcott Parsons, "structural-functionalism" came to describe a particular stage in the methodological development of social science, rather than a specific school of thought.[4][5] The structural functionalism approach is a macro level type analysis, with a broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole.[6] Contents

1 Theory
2 Prominent theorists
2.1 Auguste Comte
2.2 Herbert Spencer
2.3 Talcott Parsons
2.4 Davis and Moore
2.5 Robert Merton
2.6 Almond and Powell
3 Structural functionalism and unilineal descent
4 Decline of functionalism
5 Criticisms
6 Influential theorists
7 See also
8 Bibliography
9 Notes
[edit] Theory
Classical functionalist theories are defined by a tendency towards biological analogy and notions of social evolutionism: Functionalist thought, from Comte onwards, has looked particularly towards biology as the science providing the closest and most compatible model for social science. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analyzing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation ... functionalism strongly emphasises the pre-eminence of the social world over its individual parts (i.e. its constituent actors, human subjects). —Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society 1984 [7]

Whilst one may regard functionalism as a logical extension of the organic analogies for society presented by political philosophers such as Rousseau, sociology draws firmer attention to those institutions unique to industrialised capitalist society (or modernity). Functionalism also has an anthropological basis in the work of theorists such as Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. It is in Radcliffe-Brown's specific usage that the prefix 'structural' emerged.[8]

Émile Durkheim
Radcliffe-Brown proposed that most stateless, "primitive" societies, lacking strong centralised institutions, are based on an association of corporate-descent groups.[9] Structural functionalism also took on Malinowski's argument that the basic building block of society is the nuclear family, and that the clan is an outgrowth, not vice versa. Durkheim was concerned with the question of how certain societies...

Bibliography: Barnard, A. 2000. History and Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge: CUP.
Barnard, A., and Good, A. 1984. Research Practices in the Study of Kinship. London: Academic Press.
Barnes, J. 1971. Three Styles in the Study of Kinship. London: Butler & Tanner.
Holy, L. 1996. Anthropological Perspectives on Kinship. London: Pluto Press.
Kuper, A. 1988. The Invention of Primitive Society: Transformations of an Illusion. London: Routledge.
Kuper, A. 1996. Anthropology and Anthropologists. London: Routledge.
Layton, R. 1997. An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge: CUP.
Leach, E. 1954. Political Systems of Highland Burma. London: Bell.
Leach, E. 1966. Rethinking Anthropology. Northampton: Dickens.
Levi-Strauss, C. 1969. The Elementary Structures of Kinship. London: Eyre and Spottis-woode.
Coser, L., (1977) Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context, 2nd Ed., Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., pp. 140–143.
Craib, I., (1992) Modern Social Theory: From Parsons to Habermas, Harvester Wheatsheaf, London
Cuff, E
Davis, K (1959). "The Myth of Functional Analysis as a Special Method in Sociology and Anthropology", American Sociological Review, 24(6), 757-772.
Holmwood, J., (2005) “Functionalism and its Critics” in Harrington, A., (ed) Modern Social Theory: an introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 87–109
Homans, George Casper (1962)
Hoult, Thomas Ford (1969). Dictionary of Modern Sociology.
Lenski, Gerhard (1966). "Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification." New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lenski, Gerhard (2005). "Evolutionary-Ecological Theory." Boulder, CO: Paradigm.
Maryanski, Alexandra (1998). "Evolutionary Sociology." Advances in Human Ecology. 7:1-56.
Maryanski, Alexandra and Jonathan Turner (1992). "The Social Cage: Human Nature and the Evolution of Society." Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Marshall, Gordon (1994). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. ISBN 019285237X
Merton, Robert (1957)
Nolan, Patrick and Gerhard Lenski (2004). Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology." Boulder, CO: Paradigm.
Parsons, Talcott (1951) The Social System, Routledge, London
Parsons, T., & Shils, A., (eds) (1976) Toward a General Theory of Action, Harvard University Press, Cambridge
Parsons, T., (1961) Theories of Society: foundations of modern sociological theory, Free Press, New York
Perey, Arnold (2005) "Malinowski, His Diary, and Men Today (with a note on the nature of Malinowskian functionalism)
Ritzer, G., (1983) Sociological Theory, Knopf Inc, New York
Sanderson, Stephen K
Turner, Jonathan (1985). "Herbert Spencer: A Renewed Appreciation." Beverly Hills: Sage.
Turner, Jonathan (1995). "Macrodynamics: Toward a Theory on the Organization of Human Populations." New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Turner, Jonathan and Jan Stets (2005). "The Sociology of Emotions." Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
1. ^ ^ Macionis, Gerber, Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. (Pearson Canada Inc., 2010)pg.14
3. ^ Urry, John (2000). "Metaphors". Sociology beyond societies: mobilities for the twenty-first century. Routledge. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-415-19089-3. 
11. ^ Macionis, John J. "Sociology". (Toronto: Pearson, 2011), 97
13. ^ Gerber, L., Macionis, J. (2011). Sociology: Seventh Canadian Edition. pp. 13-14.
14. ^ Gerber, L., Macionis, J. (2011). Sociology: Seventh Canadian Edition. pp. 10.
15. ^ Gertrud Lenzer, ed., Auguste Comte and Positivism: The Essential Writings (New York: Harper, 1975). pp. 71-86.]
17. ^ Macionis, John J. (2012). Sociology 14th Edition. Boston: Pearson. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-205-11671-3. 
19. ^ Macionis, Gerber, Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. (Pearson Canada Inc., 2010)pg.14
21. ^ Nolan and Lenski, 2004; Maryanski and Turner 1992
23. ^ a b Parsons & Shills, 1976:190
25. ^ Craib, 1992:40
27. ^ Cuff & Payne, 1984:44
33. ^ Gingrich, 1991
35. ^ Davis, Kingsley and Wilbert E. Moore. (1970 [1945]) "Some Principles of Stratification." American Sociological Review, 10 (2), 242-9.
36. ^ de Maio, F. (2010) Health & Social Theory. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 29-30.
37. ^ Tumin, M. M. (1953). "Some principles of stratification: a critical analysis." American Sociological Review, 18, 387-97.
38. ^ Macionis, John (2011). Sociology. Toronto: Pearson Canada. ISBN 978-0-13-700161-3. 
40. ^ Macionis, Gerber, Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. (Pearson Canada Inc., 2010)pg.14
43. ^ Macionis, J., and Gerber, L. (2010). Sociology, 7th edition
45. ^ cf. Kuper, 1988:196, 205-6
51. ^ Cassell, Philip The Giddens Reader (1993) The Macmillan Press Ltd, pp. 6
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