Sociological theories - Functionalism (Comte, Durkheim & Parsons)

50 %
50 %
Information about Sociological theories - Functionalism (Comte, Durkheim & Parsons)

Published on June 20, 2013

Author: anngellrampersad


Outcomes Identify theories Evaluate the different theoreticalperspectives. Determine theories‟ application to society.

Macro theorySociety as a system– a set of interconnected parts which together forma whole. The basic unit of analysis is society, and itsvarious parts are understood primarily in terms oftheir r/ship to the whole. Human analogy- functionalists argue that anunderstanding of any organ in the body, such asthe heart or lungs, involves an understanding ofits r/ship to other organs and in particular, itscontribution towards the maintenance if theorganism.Overview ofFunctionalism

Interdependence- Each part of society are interrelated andinterdependent and therefore contributing to themaintenance of the whole.- Change in any one part would result in changein the other parts in society.- Every individual in society has a part to playwhich leads to interdependence of individualsand determines the smooth running of society.

- Each individual has a status in society andwith this status comes a role that he/sheperforms.- A role is the behaviour which is expected ofthe individual who occupies a given socialposition/status in society.- People have many roles in society despite hisstatus/position.- For example, a woman may be a doctor, herstatus, and she may have to play the role ofmother, daughter, aunt, sister, etc

 Equilibrium- Remember functionalists see each part of thesystem as being interrelated andinterdependent.- Functionalists maintain that each part must befunctioning properly, fulfilling its functions, andmust therefore, be in equilibrium if it is tocontribute to the maintenance of the equilibriumof the whole.

- Change in these system must be orderly and- Any change in one institution results in anorderly movement of the forces within thatinstitution toward equilibrium, thus resultingin the movement of the whole to a newequilibrium, which maintains social order.

 Consensus- Functionalists see individual behaviour asbeing governed by norms and values that aregenerally acceptable in society.- Norms are defined as “specific rules ofbehaviour, agreed upon and shared, thatprescribe limits if acceptable behaviour.”(Tischler 2002)- Norms are patterns of behaviour that arespecific to a society and may differ from onesociety to another.- Values refer to “notions of what is good andbad, what is desirable and undesirable.”(Tischler 2002)

- The norms and values that are universally adheredto in the society are embodied in the formal laws ofthe country and govern social behaviour.- This trend contributes to consensus in society.- If someone adheres to the norms, rewards wouldbe achieved, whereas if the behaviour deviatedfrom the norm, punishment would result.- Norms are not written or documented in formalways but are passed on from generation togeneration through the process of socialization.

FUNCTIONALISM• Positivism• 3 Stages of Society• Social Facts• Collective Conscience• Social Stability• Social Order• Value Consensus• Social Equilibrium

Auguste Comte1798-1857

 Saw the science of society (which he termedSociology) as essentially similar to natural science(Biology, Physics, etc). His positivist approach was based on the principle ofdirect observation, which could be explained bytheoretical statements based on established causal,law-like generalizations. Comte said the task of Sociology is to gain reliableknowledge of the social world in order to makepredictions about it, and, on the basis of thosepredictions, to intervene and shape social life inprogressive ways. Natural sciences are held in high regard. Why?

 Could such reliable, predictive knowledge ever beachieved in relation to human beings? Most sociologists today think not. Main reason why so many sociologists reject Comteanpositivism because they see the idea of shaping andcontrolling people and societies as impossible,potentially dangerous or both. We cannot study humans in a laboratory, or the sameway we would study a frog as people act in ways thatare unpredictable. WHY?

 Comte‟s ideas were extremely influential and histheory of development of the sciences was aninspiration to other thinkers working with theoriesof evolutionary social development. Comte believed that society has passed through threestages:1. Theological- Thoughts were guided by religious ideasand society is an expression of God’s will.2. Metaphysical- Accounted through the RenaissancePeriod as society is seen as natural and not supernatural.3. Positive- Encouragement of the application of scientificknowledge to analyze society.

Emile Durkheim 1858-1917

 Influenced by Comte. People are exclusively the products of their socialenvironment. Society shapes people in every possible way. Durkheim saw the study of social phenomenon wasneeded whenever research into people‟s actions wentbeyond their individual interactions.

 Social institutions and social forms – social movementsand the family – outlive the particular individual whoinhibit them and they therefore must have a reality oftheir own. This reality cannot be adequately understood by anindividualistic psychology or abstract philosophicalspeculation. In Durkheim‟s view, what we call „the social‟ is a level ofreality in its own right that cannot be reduced to mereaction, nor the simple combined individualconsciences.

 Thus Durkheim focuses on group phenomena andsocial facts such as comparative suicide rates., socialsolidarity and religion. Another example is his work on The Division of Labourin Society (1893) where he outlined the differencebetween mechanic and organic forms of socialsolidarity.

 Mechanical Solidarity (automatic) - everyone acts inthe same way; laws are repressive and designed topunish Organic Solidarity (modern societies) - people staytogether because they need each other‟s services, lawsare restrictive and designed to restore contractual natureof human relations. Durkheim argued that society has a reality of its ownover and above the individual who comprise it.

 Members of society are constrained by “socialfacts” by “ways of acting, thinking and feeling,external to the individual, and endowed with apower of coercion, by reason of which theycontrol him.” Beliefs and moral codes are passed fromgeneration to generation and shared bymembers who make up society. From this point of view, it is not theconsciousness of the individual that directsbehaviour, but common beliefs and sentimentsthat transcend the individual and shape his/herconsciousness – Collective Conscience. Durkheim sees society as a system separatelyfrom social actors.

 Causes and functions of social facts There are 2 ways of explaining social facts, andboth explanations lie in society.- 1). Determining the cause of a social fact,seeking to explain its origin. In Durkheim’sview, “the determining cause of a social factshould be sought among social facts precedingit and not among the states of individualconsciousness.” – Behaviour can be explained bylooking at the social facts that influence individuals toact.E.g. the causes of variations in suicide ratesare to be found in societal facts in society ratherthan in the individual.

- 2) Explanations of a social fact also involves ananalysis of its function in society, of itscontribution to“ the general needs of the social organism, of itsfunction in the establishment of social order.” The continuing existence of a social fact lies inits function, its usefulness for society.

Collective conscience and social stability This consists of common beliefs andsentiments. Without this consensus oragreement on fundamental moral issues, socialsolidarity would be impossible and individualscould not be bound together to form anintegrated social unit. Mechanic Vs. Organic solidarity

 Social order A certain degree of social order and stability isessential for the survival of social systems. The collective conscience provides thefoundation for cooperation since common valuesand beliefs produce common goals. Members would tend to cooperate in the pursuitof the common goals they share.

Talcott Parsons 1901 - 1979

Concerned with social order Like Durkheim, Parsons questioned whether or not socialorder was possible. He observed that social life is characterized by „mutualadvantage and peaceful cooperation rather than mutualhostility and destruction”(1951). Value Consensus is necessary for social order. If member of society are committed to the same values, theytend to share a common identity, which provided a basis forunity and cooperation, thus integration.

 From shared values derive common goals. Values provide a general conception of what is desirableand worthwhile. Goals provide direction in specific situations, an incentivefor cooperation if you will. E.g of cooperation?

 Roles provide the means whereby values and goalsare translated into action. A social situation consists of a combination of roles. E.g school…home The content of roles are structured by norms, whichdefine the rights and obligations applicable to eachparticular role.

 Norms can be seen as specific expressions of values. Thus norms structure the roles of teacher, mother,father, child, sibling, etc. Norms tend to ensure that role behaviour isstandardized, predictable, and therefore orderly.

Social OrderCommonValuesGeneral levelCentral valuesystemSpecific levelnormativeconduct

Social Equilibrium Parsons placed importance on value consensus so thatSociology can analyze the “institutionalization ofpatterns of value orientation in the social system”. When values are institutionalized and behaviour isstructured in terms of them, the result is a stablesystem. A state of “Social equilibrium” is attained, the variousparts of the system being in a state of balance.

Parsons postulated 2 ways of maintainingequilibrium1. Socialization – this is where society‟s values aretransmitted from one generation to the next andinternalized to form an integral part of individualpersonalities.2. Social Control – various mechanism of social controldiscourage deviance and so maintain social order.This may be done formally (via the laws of a society)or informally (via the values/morals of a society) –agents of social control.- Japan uses shame as a primary agent of social control

Add a comment

Related presentations

Related pages

Structural functionalism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Auguste Comte suggests that sociology is the ... creating his theory. Certainly Durkheim was one of ... Functionalism and Parsons” in Sociology 250 ...
Read more

Functionalism - History Learning Site

Home » Sociology » Theories in Sociology » Functionalism. ... of Functionalism is Emile Durkheim who ... of Functionalism is Talcott Parsons.
Read more


... 7S Framework iii STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM: GRAND THEORY OR ... sociological theories could be ... Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and ...
Read more

Notes on Structural Functionalism and Parsons

Wallace and Wolf trace the development of structural functionalism to Comte, ... Durkheim to Parsons' theory ... Parsons, Talcott, Sociological Theory ...
Read more

Functionalist Theory - About Sociology: Research, Theories ...

It has its origins in the works of Emile Durkheim, ... functionalist perspective, ... Theory; Functionalist Perspective; 14 Sociology Theories ...
Read more

Durkheim as a Functionalist* - JSTOR

Durkheim's sociological theory may ... of modern sociology (Parsons, ... no sustained treatment of Durkheim as a functionalist.3 Durkheim's functionalism ...
Read more

FUNCTIONALISM - Grinnell College - A private liberal arts ...

FUNCTIONALISM . Functionalism is the ... perspective in sociology and many other ... writings form the basis for functionalist theory (see Durkheim 1915 ...
Read more

Talcott Parsons - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

After Parsons: A Theory of Social Action for the ... Functionalism in Modern Sociology: ... Organismus und System bei Comte, Spencer und Parsons ...
Read more

Talcott Parsons – Wikipedia

... und Emile Durkheim ... Essays in Sociological Theory. ... Soziologische Theorien von Auguste Comte bis Talcott Parsons ISBN 978-3-486-58218-5;
Read more

Emile Durkheim's Theories: Functionalism, Anomie and ...

... an exploration of Emile Durkheim's theories of functionalism ... Theories: Functionalism, ... Theories and Contributions to Sociology ...
Read more