Examine the usefulness of functionalism for an understanding society

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Sociology Essay

Examine the usefulness of functionalism for an understanding society.

This question asks me to look at how functionalism affects everyday society in Britain. This also requires me to look into depth at several other ways of society: Marxism, Feminism and interactionism.

Functionalism is a structural theory which highlights the inter-relation of inter-dependant parts that concentrate on the family, education, economy and government. A structural theory is often described as a machine controlling everyone, looks at society in a macro view and the rules in the concepts of structural theory are followed to keep culture stable between generations of people. Functionalism blindly sees society perfectly and examines a society of people rather than individuals. Sociologists often describe this theory as the human body that links the brain to religion, the family to the heart, the lungs represents the economy, the liver is the legal system, the intestines represents the education and the bladder represents the health system. The idea behind this concept is: if any of the institutions break down then the whole of society breaks down. Functionalism occurs through out everyone’s life, at the beginning when norms and values are passed on to children using primary socialisation and even during secondary socialisation at school.

Functionalism can mean positive. The functionalist theory was the very first major attempt to produce a macro view by Parson. Functionalism allows sociologists to look into culture and how people have weddings which are not really necessary for humans. This theory has consensus value and functionalism revolves around society agreeing on norms and values that they see are the key for survival of society, social cohesion. Functionalism shows how each institution such as education, media, and family is all linked together because if family did not teach children norms and values then the education institution would have a difficult time teaching them.
There is a negative side to functionalism because it looks at society in macro and not micro. Functionalism does not see the power differentials between the subject and ruling class, patriarchy and ethnic groups. This theory tells us that society changes through evolutionary processes rather than changing by people learning new norms and values. Functionalism gives us unbelievable explanations of how society changes. Another reason is functionalism completely ignores what values make the beginning of the value consensus so it ignores problems within social groups.

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Marxism is a conflict theory and the theory behind this is that groups in society exert themselves for scarce resources. Marxism deals with the conflict between the Ruling class (bourgeoise) and the subject class. It also looks at economic resources such as money and the way the ruling class owns everything. The Marxist theory was first introduced by someone named in a Karl Marx. The ruling class is the minority and they own the forces of production and the majority (subject class) are workers, this causes conflict in Britain because we all live in a capitalist society. The infrastructure of ...

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The key Functionalist sociologist’s name is “Parsons” not “Parson”. The use of casual spelling mistakes, “subordinated masculinities have les power and less status” shows the importance of proof reading, as these minor errors could be so easily corrected. Sociologists also need to be capitalised, “A man called hobbs”, and normal words need to be made so as not to include unnecessary capital letters, “Ruling class” to make the essay look more mature and less childish.

Functionalist key terms are used “value consensus”, “evolution” as well as more generic sociological terms, “micro and macro approaches” showing the candidate has a good understanding of sociology in terms of specific theories and as a whole. I feel though that the essay needs to include more names of particular sociologists, especially within the many realms of feminism. For example I would include names such as Kate Millet (“Kate Millet would agree with…”), which would just add more weight to my points. Also, to improve the mark to a higher band, I would differentiate between the many strands of feminism, for example liberal and radical feminists would have very different views on Functionalist theory. Liberal feminism and Functionalist both believe that society is largely based on consensus, however radicals completely disagree. At GCSE one or two sentences to state this will go a long way in giving the right impression.

This candidate shows that they have a good all round knowledge of sociology, but I think in order to answer the specific question, Functionalism should be referred to in all paragraphs. This would improve the bad “listing” fashion of structure that examiners hate, and in doing so would also gain the writer more evaluative points. For example, at the end of the Interactionism paragraph, I would write: “However Functionalists would give no credence to this micro approach, as they believe institutions influence the individual and not vice versa”. In addition I feel that the conclusion could use another sentence or two, to further show what definitive answer the essay has naturally produced.