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Lecture 2


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Sociology 2271A/B
Lina Sunseri

January 9, SOCIAL THEORY: LECTURE 2 2013 FUNCTIONALISM (Davis & Moore, Parsons, Merton) FUNCTIONALISM BACKGROUND - In 1950s and 1960s Functionalism resigned as the dominant theoretical perspective in sociology, especially in North America o After 2ndworld war o Beginning of consumerism o Nuclear families were dominant  House  “Brady bunch” lifestyle o Structural Functionalism came out of this time  If everyone does their part everything functions well - This is a period of social stability, conformity, and social consensus, where for a least the average nuclear middle-class family, the “American Dream” seemed to have been fulfilled. Functionalist Theory seemed the perfect theory to reflect that society - Some critics have pointed out that this social consensus was only one part reality; that in fact North America contained equal portions of divisions and coercion, and Functionalist theory was more of a social myth than a reflection of American social reality. Can you think of why would they argue so? o Lots of gender inequality during this time  Women were restricted in the public sphere o Racial segregation  Restricted from education, work and public places o America became powerful during this period  Lots of money was poured into the military o Marxism was seen as a threat to the system (conflict theory communism) - Functionalism explains the existence and actions of individuals and institutions in terms of the functions they perform for the whole social organism (society) [p.67] o Reason why something exists is because it serves a function in society - Functionalism is often referred to as structural functionalism because of its dual focus on the structural forces that shape human behaviour and how these meet the needs of the whole social system - It sees society as a system of interrelated parts that has a normal state of equilibrium o Every part has a function and they work together to reach equilibrium - 2 leading structural functionalists were Talcott Parsons (grand theory/macro sociology) and Robert Merton (middle range theory) - The most significant intellectual influences were Thomas Hobbes, Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, and a little less Max Weber INTELLECTUAL INFLEUNCES Thomas Hobbes - Political philosopher - We have a drive to think of ourselves and we will do what we need even if it hurts others o How can we have society if we have this nature 1 January 9, SOCIAL THEORY: LECTURE 2 2013 o So we must come up with compromise  AKA social contract - His argument that society needs a social contract in order to move away from the „state of nature‟ and establish peace - This contract is „first law of nature‟ and by forming this contract individuals give up freedom to a sovereign body who creates laws and rules of behaviour - Structural functionalism saw social institutions as systems of that body of regulations Max Weber - His
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