北京师范大学
教育研究方法讲座系列
Lecture 4
Approach to Comparative-Historical Method (1):
Functionalism in Comparative Perspective
Explaining Big Structure and LargeProcess
by Comparative-Historical Method
z Georg H. von Wright’s distinction between two traditions
of scientific inquiry
“It is… misleading to say that understanding versus explanation
marks the difference between two types of scientific intelligibility.
But one could say that the intentional or nonintentional character
of their objects marks the difference between two types of
understanding and of explanation.” (von Wright, 1971, p.135)
y Two types of explanatory objects
x Structures and motions are particles in natural science
x Institutional structures, historical processes, and social interactions and
actions in the social sciences
Explaining Big Structure and LargeProcess
by Comparative-Historical Method
z …two traditions of scientific inquiry…
y Distinction between causal (nonintentional) and teleological
(intentional) explanations
x Causal explanation: It refers to the mode of explanation, which attempt
to seek the sufficient and/or necessary conditions (i.e. explanans)
which antecede the phenomenon to be explained (i.e. explanandum).
Causal explanations normally point to the past. ‘This happened,
because that had occurred’ is the typical form in language.” (von
Wright, 1971, p. 83) It seeks to verify the antecedental conditions for an
observed natural phenomenon. This mode of explanation can further
be differentiated into
• Deductive-nomological explanation
• Inductive-probabilistic explanation
Explaining Big Structure and LargeProcess
by Comparative-Historical Method
z …two traditions of scientific inquiry…
y Distinction between causal & teleological explanations…
x Teleological explanation: It refers to the mode of explanation, which
attempt to reveal the goals and/or intentions, which generate or motivate
the explanadum (usually an action to be explained) to take place.
“Teleological explanations point to the future. ‘This happened in order
that that should occur.’” (von Wright, 1971, p. 83) This mode of
explanation can be differentiated into
• Intentional explanation
• Functional explanation (Quasi-teleological explanation)
Explaining Big Structure and LargeProcess
by Comparative-Historical Method
z
Two perspectives of marcohistorical explanation in
comparative-historical research
y Functional-equivalent explanation
y New-institutional explanation
Functional explanation: A Debate
z The features of functional explanation:
y This type of explanation is most commonly used in biology. It
"takes the form of indicating one or more functions (or even
dysfunctions) that a unit performs in maintaining or realizing
certain traits of the system to which the unit belongs." (Nagel,
1979, p. 23) For example, in explaining why human being
has lung, the typical explanation in biology is that lung
performs the function of breathing, i.e. provide oxygen to the
of the proper maintenance of the system of a human body.
y The structure of functional explanation: Accordingly
functional explanation consist of the followings
x X perform the function of Y to the system of Z
x Y therefore explains the existence of X or Z's possession of Y.
Functional explanation: A Debate
z A logical critique: There is a basic logical setback in
this functional-explanatory structure. That is, since X
performs Y, therefore X must be an antecedent of Y.
However in the cause-effect explanatory structure, the
existence of an effect (Y) could not have anteceded that
of its cause (X). Therefore, Y could not have been the
cause of X.
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Darwinist functionalism in biology: In biology and with
Darwin’s evolutionism the logical setback of functional
explanation can be resolved with the mechanism of
natural selection in the theory of evolution. That is, the
seemingly temporal ordering mismatch between X and
Y can be accounted for within the much longer timeline
in the survival-of-the-fittest process of species within
the ecological system of the planet earth. G.A. Cohen
has called this requirement in functional explanation
"consequence law" or “consequence generalization
(Cohen, 1978, Pp.249-278; see also Elster, 1983, Pp.4968)
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y Jon Elster’s critique on functional explanation in social
science: Jon Elster emphasizes that “there is no place for
functional explanation in the social sciences.” (Elster, 1984,
viii) The focal point of Elster’s criticism is that there is no
commonly accepted "consequence generalization and law"
available in social system, which can universally and
exhaustively explain the existing status quo of a given social
phenomenon. Unless we accept the thesis of social
Darwinism that there is natural selection principle at work in
social world, otherwise we may have to accept Jon Ester
suggestion that functional explanation is not applicable in
social science.
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y Assumption of institutional resilience and persistence in
social system: One resolution or qualification offered by
Philip Pettit (2002) and Harold Kincaid (2007) is that instead
of tracing all the way back to the origins of species and
assuming that there is the evolutionism at work as biologists
do, social scientists could restrain themselves relate
functional explanation to the origins of social institutions and
instead simply applying functional explanation to account for
the resilient patterns or persistent regularities in social world.
…
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y Assumption of institutional resilience and persistence in
social system: …
Such a qualification or reservation can release social scientists
of the burden of proof of tracing the history of actual
selection and evolution of the resilience of a social institution.
Instead social scientists can simply base on a "virtual
selection" assumption and focus on the accounting for the
persistence of a given phenomenon.
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y Another resolution to the debate is offered by G.A. Cohen,
an Analytical Marxist. In G.A. Cohen's two functional
explanations in historical materialism, he offers more or less
"a selection theory through class struggle" as the
consequence law.)
1941-2009
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y In G.A. Cohen's …
x
In the functional explanation of the relationship between force of
production and relation of production (class relation) Cohen suggests
"Classes are permanently poised against one another, and that class
tends to prevail whose rule would best meet the demands of
production. But how does the fact that production would prosper
under a certain class ensure its dominance? Part of the answer is that
there is a general stake in stable and striving production, so that the
class best placed to deliver it attracts allies from other strata in society.
Prospective ruling classes are often able to raise support among the
classes subjected to the ruling class they would displace. Contrariwise,
classes unsuited to the task of governing society tend to lack the
confidence political hegemony requires, and if they do seize power,
they tend not to hold it for long." (Cohen, 1978, 292)
Functional explanation: A Debate
z Debate on functional explanation in the social sciences
y In G.A. Cohen's …
x In the functional explanation of the relationship between
infrastructure and superstructure, Cohen once again suggests…
x "All classes are receptive to whatever ideas are likely to benefit them,
and ruling classes are well placed to propagate ideologies particular
congenial to themselves. But before an ideology is received or
broadcast it has to be formed. And on that point there are traces in
Marx of a Darwinian mechanism, a notion that thought-systems are
produced in comparative independence from social constraint, but
persist and gain social life for ideological service. …There is a kind
of 'ideological pool' which yields elements in different configurations
as social requirements change." (Cohen, 1978, p.291)
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional prerequisite of social system:
According to traditional functionalists, such as B. K.
Malinowski, A,R. Radcliff-Brown and Talcott Parsons,
function are conceived as "necessary conditions of the
existence” of social systems (Kincaid, 2007, p.217).
Parsons further specifies there are four basic functions
that a social system has to perform in order to sustain
in equilibrium state. (Kincaid, 2007, p.217) They are…
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional prerequisite of social system:
…They are…
y adaptation ― obtaining resource from the environment
y integration ― maintain coherent relationship among their
component elements
y goal attainment ― setting goals and allocating resources to
achieve them
y latency ― reproducing organizational structure and
managing tension between units.
Parsons has labeled them as four functional prerequisites,
which imply and subsequently constitute a strong version of
social functionalism in the social sciences.
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional equivalence:
y Critique on functional prerequisites: Parson’s strong version
of prerequisite functional explanation has been criticized as
structural-functionalism and structural determinism.
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional equivalence:
y To relax Parsonian structural-functionalism’s assumption on
the functional prerequisite and totality of functional
interconnection, we may simply redefine functions as
contributions or benefits a given constituent offering to the
maintaining of the essential core of the social system.
Accordingly, the conception of functional prerequisite can be
replaced by functional equivalence. As a result, what we are
looking for are contributing and beneficial conditions instead
of necessary conditions (or even sufficient condition) for the
maintaining of the essential core of the social system.
Furthermore, the strong version of specification of functional
prerequisites into AGIL can also be relaxed.
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional equivalence:
y Dogan and Pelassy’s functional-equivalence comparison:
x
x
Dogan and Pelassy underline first of all that “For comparativist,
undoubtedly, functionalism is the most useful of all theoretical
frameworks. By liberating analysis from its formal shackles, it
permits progress that remains above criticism.” (1990, P. 35)
The notion of functional equivalence descends directly form the
concept of ‘function’. …They have indeed emphasized with
particular clarity, first, that the same structure may perform the
same function, and second, that the same structure may perform
several function.” (P. 37)
From Functional Pre-requisite to
Functional Equivalence
z The concept of functional equivalence:
y Dogan and Pelassy’s functional-equivalence comparison:
x In light of Dagan and Pelassy’s formulation, educational researchers
using comparative-historical method could set of to account for big
structures and large processes in education system by inquiring into
what and how respective functional equivalences are served by these
structures and processes serves; and how these big structures and
large processes differ or match with each others.
Jurgen Schriewer’s functional-cumconfigurational model of comparative explanation.
z Jürgen Schreiwer, one of the prominent researchers in
the field of comparative education, applies the
functional-equivalence perspective in comparative
education studies by formulating a model, which he
characterizes as “functional-cum-configurational
model” of comparative explanation
Jurgen Schriewer’s functional-cumconfigurational model of comparative explanation.
z The model may general be decomposed into two parts
y Functional-equivalence comparative studies: By locating the
social institution under study, for example the
institutionalization of universal schooling system, against
different national contexts and/or various epoch contexts,
researchers can set out to analyze how the functionalequivalent issues such as economic growth, state formation,
or nation building are addressed by means of introduction of
the universalized schooling system among comparable
nation-states.
Jurgen Schriewer’s functional-cumconfigurational model of comparative explanation.
z The model may general be decomposed into two parts…
y Configurational-historical studies: Based on similarities
and/or differences found in functional-equivalence
comparison across nation-state, researchers can analyze
how and why the institutional configurations of particular
nation-states are structurated. Such process of structuration
can further be put against the historical timeline of nationstates and analyze how the institutions under study evolve
through time.
Jurgen Schriewer’s functional-cumconfigurational model of comparative explanation.
z The model may general be decomposed into two parts…
y These comparative-cum-historical studies as well as the
functional-cum-configurational studies can successively and
complementarily be carried out so as to enrich and to
thicken our understanding of big structures and large
processes of our lifeworld.
Theory
Comparative Studies
of Multiple Cases
Evidence
Historical Studies
of Particular Case
Functional
Equivalence
Structural
Configuration
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functionalism:
y According to the Parsonsian functionalism, it assumes that
societies are social systems, which are able to maintain most
of the time in (A) states of adaptive to environments, (G)
efficient in attaining societal goal in orderly and legitimate
manner, (I) socially integrated, and (L) able to maintain its
cultural and institutional patterns, in short in equilibrium
state.
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functionalism:
y As explicated above, functional explanations require
generalized "consequence law" as basis to fulfill it
temporal-order validity, such as the natural selection theory
within evolutionism, which serves as the "consequence law"
of functional explanation in biology. Accordingly, in
Parsonsian functionalism, the "consequence law"
underlying functional explanation is the equilibrium theory
of social system.
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functionalism:
y In Parsons' global concept of social system, (A) the function
of economic institution is to fulfill the functional
prerequisite of adaptation to environment, (G) the function
of political institution is to attain the functional prerequisite
of goal-attainment in orderly and legitimate ways, (I) social
institutions is to perform the functional prerequisite of
integration, and (L) cultural institutions is to contribute to
the function prerequisite of pattern maintenance. Taken
together, they will achieve the overall equilibrium of the
society.
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functionalism:
z As for education institution, Parsons underlines that school class
performs two essential functions to the equilibrium of the social
system of modern society.
y Socialization function: "School class functions to internalize in its pupils
both the commitments and capacities for successful performance of their
future adult roles." (Parson, 2004, p. 32)
y Selection function: School class on the other hand "functions to allocate
these human resources within role-structure of the adult society." (p. 32)
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functional explanation in Marxian perspective:
Marxian’s’ functional explanation of education
institution in capitalist society can generally be
summarized into two counts
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functional explanation in Marxian perspective:
Marxian’s’ functional explanation of education
institution in capitalist society can generally be
summarized into two counts…
x
Reproduction function: As Louis Althusser indicates education is
part of the ideological apparatus of the state, which performs the
function of reproduction of the prevailing class relation of a given
society. (Althusser, 1971; Carnoy, 1982; see also Bowles and Gintis,
1976; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977; Apple, 1979)
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functional explanation in Marxian perspective:
y Legitimatizing function: Bowles and Gintis indicate that the
highly selective and competitive structure of education does
not only corresponds but in fact legitimatizing the inequality
found in the class structure of capitalist society. (Bowles &
Gintis, 1976)
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functional explanation of education in Weberian
perspective
y Max Weber has rendered a function explanation of the
relationship between education contents and forms of
domination in societies. (Weber, 2004)
y Margret Archer has also expounded that domination and
assertion among status groups as the primary factor
contributing to education expansion in recent decades.
Weber’s Typology of Education System
CLASSIFYING
CHARACTERISTICS
Education Content
Legitimate Base
TYPE OF EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
A
B
C
Heroic / Magical
Cultivation
Specialized Expert
Training
Charismatic Authority Traditional Authority
Legal-Rational
Authority
Weber’s Rationalization of Education & Training
Industrialization & bureaucratization

Increase in complex work process &
elaborate division of labour

Fragmentation of skills and knowledge

Distinction among areas of knowledge & disciplines

Training of specialized experts as educational ideal

Regular curricula
Specialized & standardized examinations

Emphasis on educational certificates and credentials

Monopolization of expertise

Legitimatizaton of hierarchical occupational structure

Legitimization of system of unequal allocation of
wealth, power & social prestige

The advent of the domination of
technocrats and bureaucrats
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z Functional explanation of education in Weberian
perspective
y Max Weber has rendered a function explanation of the
relationship between education contents and forms of
domination in societies. (Weber, 2004)
y Margret Archer has also expounded that domination and
assertion among status groups as the primary factor
contributing to education expansion in recent decades.
Archer’s Model of Education Expansion &
Social Origins of Educational System
z The Research Design: Comparison among four
education systems
y England and Denmark representing Substitutive Model
y France and Russia representing Restrictive Model
Archer’s structural conditioning of educational interaction
Supportive interaction
Category1
Institutions
Neutural
Structural
influences
from
elsewhere
in society
No
effort
Supportive
group
Educationmal Conflict
Dominant
educational
group
Definition of
Instruction
Educational
Output
Category2
Institutions
Adventitious
beneficiaries
Loci of
support
for
dominant
group
Assertive
group
Category3
Institutions
Obstructed
Oppositional interaction
Structural influence
Independent influence
Loci of
opposition
for
dominant
group
Independent
influences
from
elsewhere
in society
Perspectives of Functional Equivalence in
Comparative Methods in Education Research
z In light of these perspectives, the functional
equivalence comparison framework can be elaborated
as follow.
Configuration
Functional Equivalence
Functionalism
Socialization Function
Similarity
Similarity
Difference
Selection Function
Similarity
Difference
Marxism
Reproduction
Function
Similarity
Legitimation Function
Similarity
Difference
Difference
Weberian
Perspective
Domination Function
Similarity
Difference
Difference
Lecture 4
Approach to Comparative-Historical Method (1):
Functionalism in Comparative Perspective
END
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Lecture 4: Functionalism