Functionalist Perspective

Shemmiah Lewis
Flashcards by Shemmiah Lewis, updated more than 1 year ago
Shemmiah Lewis
Created by Shemmiah Lewis almost 4 years ago


Flashcards on the creators and theories constrained within the functionalist perspective as it pertains to Sociology.

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Question Answer
Functionalism 1) The idea of functionalism is that it attempts to explain how social institutions work together to fulfill the needs of a particular society. 2) The society is made up of many different social institutions; family, religion, education – among themselves. 3) Functionalism views society as a complex whole, with interdependent and interrelated parts that work in harmony. Functionalism focuses upon a cohesive state where all different parts work together to benefit the whole unit. 4) Functionalism focuses on the sharing of norms and values, attitudes and beliefs. 5) For Functionalism, the major thing that holds society together is a common value system or value “consensus”. Values refer to a defined standard of what is good and bad, acceptable or unacceptable. 6) Functionality is all about the belief that social institutions are really the building blocks of society.
Social Order as it relates to Functionalism Functionalism is of the idea that for social order to maintained, value consensus must be achieved. For the functionalist, the social institution works together in order to shape the individual’s behavior. Once value consensus exists, social order is maintained and social institutions ensure that norms and values are passed on for generations, since the individual would carry on the norms and values.
Social Change Functionalists frown upon social change and it is really something that they see as undesirable. If social change has to take place, then it should be incremental and not radical. Functionalists’ social change should be evolutionary and not revolutionary. For Durkheim, if society does not change, society remains static/stagnant, and it does not progress.
Talcott Parsons (1902 - 1979) Parsons was an American sociologist who viewed society as a system of interrelated parts that work together for the whole. Parsons in 1964 saw society as having interrelated parts - but for the parts to work together, there must be value consensus. 1) Parsons further viewed society as a human body where different organs make up a system. 2) Parsons published his work entitled “The Structure of Social Action” (1937) and he noted that in society, people’s actions can change and this can progress society. 3) For Parsons, in order to understand the function of one part, this part must be understood as it relates to the other parts. (“Suis Generis”) 4) Parsons believed that the base of society is really value consensus and that value consensus is needed to maintain social order.
Talcott Parsons and Social Order 1) Parsons employed the organismic analogy in order to understand functionalism. 2) He draws reference to the human body. There are interrelated parts and these parts are similar to the organs of the body. 3) In society, people cooperate and this leads to social integration 4) Parsons acknowledged that in order for social order to exist, there are certain requirements or what he commonly calls “The Functional Prerequisites”.
Parsons' functional prerequisites Parsons acknowledged that there are four functional prerequisites: Adaptation Integration Pattern Maintenance/Latency Goal Attainment
Adaptation 1) A society must adapt in order to survive, since the environment is always changing. 2) Adaptation involves finding the means to achieve the goals of society. 3) If society does not adapt, then it will remain static or cease to change.
Integration 1) This refers to how the parts are regulated to ensure that the social system continues. 2) Various parts must fulfill specific functions and each part must work together for the whole. 3) Among the parts, there must be some level of harmony, integration and solidarity. 4) People must be made to feel as if they belong in a society and this brings harmony.
Goal Attainment 1) Society must define what its goals are and the ways to achieve the goal. 2) All members of society must strive for similar goals. 3) Value consensus must exist so that everyone will work towards a common goal. 4) If there is one established goal, and everyone works towards this goal, then there is harmony.
Pattern Maintenance/Latency Every society must have mechanisms to manage the tension that can exist, because if tension is not managed, it can promote conflict. For Parsons, pattern maintenance deals with maintaining society’s rules in order to maintain order. Pattern maintenance looks at how people must follow the daily activities for society to remain stable, i.e. everyone must observe the rules or maintain a pattern of behavior, in order to maintain consensus. To maintain patterns of behavior, sanctions must be put into place.
Talcott Parsons and Social Change For Parsons, social change is inevitable, hence, change has to happen – but change must be gradual, incremental, and evolutionary. Parsons believed that traditional societies displayed a particular type of behavior as opposed to modern societies. The behavior of traditional people is called Pattern Variable A, while the behavior of people in modern society is called Pattern Variable B.
Ascription vs Achievement Ascription – In traditional societies, social positions are based on family positions and traditions such as bloodline, family status, race and even sex. vs Achievement – People in modern societies will gain their position based on skills, qualifications and meritocracy.
Collective Orientation vs Self Orientation Collective Orientation – In traditional societies, people will put the interest of the social group to which they belong to before their own needs. Under collective orientation, the needs of the society comes before the needs of the individual. vs Self-Orientation – People pursue their own interests rather than putting the needs of the group first. Individuals will consider their personal goals over the group’s goals. Self-orientation breathes egoism.
Diffusion vs Specificity Diffusion – People enter into relationships to satisfy a large range of needs, i.e., people will interact with a number of needs to be satisfied. E.g. A husband and wife may have social, economic and sexual needs. vs Specificity – People marry for one narrow need
Particularism vs Universalism Particularism – Under particularism, all actors (individuals) are judged/assessed by different standards. For example, every family would have a different criteria used to determine the position of members in a family. E.g. Gender could determine standards. vs Universalism – All actors in society will be assessed by the same standards. Under universalism, there are universal principles that everyone would be guided by – for example, laws. Everyone is equal before the law.
Affectivity vs Affective Neutrality Affectivity – Under affectivity, there is a lot of emotions as people are affected or moved by something in society. vs Affective Neutrality – Neutrality is concerned with little or no emotions. Under affective neutrality, people will be more concerned about themselves.
The Voluntaristic Theory of Action His theory to explain why people’s actions are influenced by situational factors is called “The Voluntaristic Theory of Action” which states that norms, values, beliefs and certain situations would determine what means someone will follow in order to attain a goal.
Robert K. Merton Merton is considered to be one of those functionalists who tend to argue that at times, something that promotes functionality can also be dysfunctional, i.e., it can promote both harmony as well as disharmony at the same time. Robert K. Merton was an American sociologist who tried to study the norms and values of a society but unlike other functionalists, he believed that society did not always run smoothly. Robert K. Merton was a functionalist who at times criticized the perspective itself, especially with the idea of dysfunctionalism. Merton criticized a number of other functionalists such as: Bronislaw Malinowski: Malinowski followed the functionalist idea by reintroducing Spencer’s approach by stating: Society is like a biological organism that has structures in place, as well as institutions. Malinowski noted that there are universal elements of a society such as norms, values, personnel among others.
Manifest Functions vs. Latent Functions Merton acknowledged that every part has a function, but some functions can be: Manifest, i.e., open or intended/intentional functions. For example, the manifest function of a school may be to pass on knowledge via a curriculum. Latent functions, however, are the unintended/unintentional or the hidden functions. For example, latently, the school will pass on certain values through the “hidden curriculum”. The hidden curriculum is not the stated/official curriculum, but through this curriculum, the teacher passes on norms and values to the students.
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