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Chapter 2

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SOC 3310
Norman Dubeski

Chapter TwoFunctionalismContemporary Sociological Theory SOC 3310 N DubeskiIntroductionKingsley Davis argued that sociology involves 1 examining the rolefunction that an institution or type of behaviour plays in society and the way it is related to other social features and 2 explaining it in essentially social termsLabeled structuralfunctionalism because of its focus on the functional requisites or needs of a social system that must be met if the system is to survive and on the corresponding structures that meet these needsTalcott Parsons and Robert K Merton are two structural functionalistsFunctionalism DefinedConcerned with the overall characteristics of social structure and the general nature of social institutionsMacrosociological focusInterrelation of the parts of a social systemFunctionalists emphasize three elements 1 The general interrelatedness or interdependence of the systems parts 2 The existence of a normal state of affairs or state of equilibrium comparable to the normal or healthy state of an organism 3 The way that all the parts of the system reorganize to bring things back to normal One of functionalisms most important propositions is that there will always be some reorganization and tendency to restore equilibriumThe second most important feature of functionalism is the emphasis on values referred to as shared valuesWhereas functionalism emphasizes the unity of society and what its members share conflict theorists stress the divisions within a society and the struggles that arise out of peoples pursuits of their different material interestsIntellectual Roots Emile Durkheim and His ForerunnersAuguste Comte Herbert Spencer Vilfredo Pareto and Emile Durkheium are considered intellectual ancestors of modern functionalismDurkheim emphasized integration or solidarityComte compared social and biological organisms and was the first to consider societal equilibriumSpencer developed the concept of differentiation an important aspect of a social systems interrelatedness and integrationSpencers evolutionary theory generally resembled Durkheims later theory presented in The Division of Labor in Society with two major differences 1 Durkheim didnt insist on the the inherent necessity of social differentiation and 2 Durkheim insisted that social facts were the proper subject matter for sociology whereas Spencer felt the cause of social progress was psychologicalParsons used Spencers notion of social differentiation in his theory of social changePareto was the first sociologist to precisely describe a social system in terms of interrelations and mutual dependencies among partsParsons later borrowed Paretos ide of a dynamic or moving equilibrium Emile Durkheim18581917Most important sociological forerunner of modern functionalismDurkheim also influenced symbolic interactionists Erving Goffman and Peter Berger and their perspectives as well as ideas on ritual by social conflict theorist Randall CollinsTaught at the University of Paris until his death of stroke at age 59Established the first French sociology journal Annee sociologiqueConcept of integration or social solidarity the incorporation of individuals into the social order important to the maintenance of social equilibriumExamined the function of the division of labour worked on religion and education Viewed social evolution as a movement from the mechanical solidarity of tribal societies to the organic solidarity characteristic of industrial societiesArgued primitive societies were characterized by a strong collective conscienceSet out to create a proper subject matter for sociology the realm of social factsSocial fact a general over the whole of a given society whilst having an existence of its own independent of its individual manifestationsDurkheims examples of social facts are laws morals beliefs customs and fashionsUsed the term institution beliefs and modes of behaviour instituted by the collectivity Defined sociology as the science of institutions their genesis and their functioning this made it clear he viewed macrostructural phenomena as sociologys proper subject matterSaw functions as general needs of the social organism Punishment as a dependent variableProblem of circularity and explaining things by the functions they perform recurs throughout functional analysisMost famous concept is anomie Central to his study SuicideTranslated from French anomie means normlessness a situation where rules or norms are absent Acute anomie is the result of abrupt change whereas chronic anomie is a state of constant change characteristic of modern industrial societySaw suicide as a social problem and was concerned about increasing rates of suicide in industrialized countriesBases his theory on social cohesion or solidarity and on two specific societal needs integration and regulation Societies with too much or too little intention or regulation will have high suicide ratesAttempted to make his theory of suicide empirically verifiable by further defining and operationalizing his conceptsAnomie leads to higher suicide ratesWidows and widowers had higher suicide rates and rates were higher during a depression than they were during times of economic stabilityDurkheim is to anomie what Marx is to alienationThe Elementary Forms of the Religious Life most important contribution to functionalismValues as widely shared conceptions of the goodPersistent search for integrative forces is an aspect of the general stress on interdependenceInterested in religion largely because he considered religion to be especially effective in developing common values
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