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Lecture 15

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David Young

Fox 1 Lecture 15 SOCIOL 2S06 Thursday November 07, 2013  Theoretical Ideas of Robert K Merton Merton’s Former Professor: Talcott Parsons A) Theoretical Approach: 1) Middle Range Theory:  Always going to be connected to empirical observation  Interpersonal influence 2) Theory & Research: deduction and induction (observations [researchgeneralizations—>theory) (theories, hypotheses…) B) Merton’s Criticisms of Earlier Structural Functionalism: 1) Functional Unity:  Earlier structural functionalism suggested that all social beliefs and practices are functional for society as a whole as well as individuals in society: Merton saw this as problematic (might have functional unity in small societies, but is unlikely in a large and complex society) 2) Universal Functionalism:  Earlier structural functionalism suggested that all social structures and beliefs have positive functions for society and individuals: Merton saw this as problematic (some social structures and beliefs might actually not have positive functions. Ex= Nationalism unifies the people of a country=positive function for society. It could also have a negative function=generate hatred from people who are from elsewhere) 3) Indispensable Functions:  Earlier structural functionalism suggested that all aspects of society represent necessary parts of the whole (all structures and functions are essential, and no alternative structures and functions could work as well, Merton: at least consider that there are other ways in organizing our society, and structures now might not be so essential after all) Fox 2 Lecture 15 C) Merton’s Own Contributions to Structural Functionalism: 1) Dysfunctions (Negative functions):  Some media organizations (mainstream media) are certainly functional for the maintenance and stability of society because they convey message that reflect dominant norms and values and thereby encourage social order  Other media organizations (alternative media) are dysfunctional for the maintenance and stability of society because they convey the message of social movements that are pushing for social change 2) Nonfunctions:  Consequences that are irrelevant to the society being examined  Social structures or customs may have had positive or negative functions or dysfunctions in the past  These social structures and customs may continue to exist but no longer have any consequences in contemporary society  Ex= Bylaws in towns and cities that go back many decades (created to have a function in their time but lost those functions as time passed) 3) Net Balance:  Tries to identify if positive functions outweigh dysfunctions  Need to co
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