Functionalism The Basics Functionalism is mainly associated with the work of two sociologists Emile Durkheim 1858-1917 … and Talcott Parsons 1902-1979 Sociological theories always have to be understood in terms of the time in which they were developed For Durkheim key features of the C19 were: Industrialisation - the specialised division of labour ..and the movement of people from country to city –urban life …and it’s still going on in other parts of the world For Parsons two particular things struck him about life in 1950s USA The considerable affluence enjoyed by many ..and the vast scale of urban society Downtown Los Angeles – early 1900s and 2010 Times of progress and improvement ? Functionalists thought so. Both sociologists developed a view which focuses on the idea that societies EVOLVE , grow or develop - a bit like living organisms Societies are simply organised to start with, but over time they grow and become more complex Like an organism, societies have certain needs Needs are called ‘functional prerequisites’ All societies have these needs – but they can achieve them in different ways Systems are developed to meet the needs An education system A political system….. .. And so on The systems and the society are held together because everyone shares the same values There is a shared culture The shared culture is transmitted through socialisation into common norms and values Social order is created through the use of sanctions Society changes as systems or structures become more complex In large scale industrial society new ways have to be found to meet functional prerequisites The need for specialised workers and professionals means the old system of aristocratic elites will not work industrial society therefore becomes meritocratic Functional Necessity ..anyone can make it – if they have talent But things don’t always work so smoothly Robert Merton said industrial societies could be Dysfunctional …if essential needs are not being met or if some groups cannot achieve the goals of the whole society So don’t think that all functionalists are the same – it’s a complex body of theory Not a bad theory But how could you criticise it? it assumes value consensus Clockwise Taiwan, Turkey, UK, Ukraine Political discussions around the world It generally has an inadequate view of power – everyone seems fairly equal Do we all start from the same position with equal power and resources? it seems deterministic – as with Marxism, people still seem very much at the mercy of social structures Over to you Like all theories it has strengths and weaknesses But one point worth remembering is that even sociologists who don’t likefunctionalism much, usually recognise the importance of Durkheim – he believed in the idea of social structures.