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Asses the contribution of functionalists views to understand society.

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Megan Morgan Sociology Mr. Snell Asses the contribution of functionalists views to understand society. From as far as functionalism has gone back, from about the 1830's onwards, it has been largely based on society being a system like the human body requiring a combination of social institutions in order to function. Its theorists seek to explain the existence of social institutions in accordance to the role they perform for society. It focuseses on society rather than the individual in it and hence is a structural theory. It uses positivist methodology that is in decline as a modern research technique as there is more call for an empathetic understanding to society and a focus on the individual. Within society the functionalists outline what they call functional prerequisites, these are what society requires in order to exist. Some functionalists believe that these prerequisites are institutions such as family or social stratification. They are easily identified in every type of society even though they can vary, like the caste system in India varies a great deal from our own stratification system but affects the whole society and makes it functional which fits their definition of a prerequisite. ...read more.


Durkheim pointed out that in society a combination of social facts like morals and values, which restrict and keep some control over society, and needs like food and reproduction, which are essential. In present society this is also clearly present with values and norms taught throughout the socialization process and societies control that is mostly accepted and holds functions of society together and keep them functional. The functionalists are aware that these functions may not always run smoothly but believe there will always be enough compliance from all other `organs' of society to keep it functioning. Parsons shares one of Durkheim's views that was social control in society is more than just fear, that individuals have moral constraint and compared it to a business deal. Whereby a certain amount of agreement is made on what is wanted from society and then rules are based around this. All societies have this morality in order to stay functional and realise it is constructive. With these same values amongst most members of society a common identity is formed and common goals can be achieved, modern society in a lot of ways conforms to this in that we have divisions which are accepted and rules that are accepted, a society which we are meant to perceive as fair. ...read more.


The main problem with all functionalist perspectives is that they share the view that society dictates how every individual acts and will act throughout their life and everything is predetermined for them, this is very much disagreed with by anti-positivists theories of research which looks into the individuals rather than the society and tries to reason that they have control over what institutions society creates and how they control them. I would like to conclude that functionalism has lost some of its relevance in relation to modern day society; it still holds the base ideas about institutions and functions which other theories have been based and created from. No theory can provide all the answers at the time it was created so it is not expected that it is entirely relevant more than 150 years later. Also I think for a comprehensive understanding in sociology of society both society as the key and the individual as the key need to be assessed. Different aspects of society may be explained by these very different views but overall functionalism is able to give us an understanding of society and is still relevant in some aspects to explaining modern day societies. ...read more.

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