Usefulnessof functionalist theory

Topics: Sociology / Pages: 2 (367 words) / Published: Dec 2nd, 2013
Assess the usefulness of functionalist theory to an understanding of society as a functional unit ? (33 Marks)
As a structural theory, Functionalism sees social structure or the organisation of society as more important than the individual. Functionalism is a top down theory. Individuals are born into society and become the product of all the social influences around them as they are socialised by various institutions such as the family, education, media and religion.

Theory of Talcott Parsons
Everyone has to have shared goals. Goals that benefit society. We need value consensus.
Value consensus = agreed goals, values, roles that standardise and determine behavior. This = social order.
How do we get value consensus?
1. Socialisation – the system can ensure it’s needs are met by teaching individuals to want to do what it requires them to do. Individuals internalise the norms and values so that society becomes part of their personality
2. Social Control – positive sanctions reward conformity and negative sanctions punish deviance. E.g. individual achievement is valued therefore those who conform to educational success are rewarded with qualifications while those who deviate by dropping out may be labeled as ‘lazy’
This means behavior will be predictable and stable = social order.

Parson’s types of society
Traditional society Modern society
Immediate Gratification Deffered Gratification

Ascribed status Achieved Status

Gradual change also occurs through dynamic equilibrium – as a change happens in one part of the system it produces changes in other parts to maintain social stability. This the result of institutions working together effectively to meet societies needs

Revolutionary change
Society benefits the ruling class

Social control
Ideological – distracted from the realities of exploitation.

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