Sociology A2 functionalism

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A-Level sociology Mind Map on Sociology A2 functionalism, created by romena98 on 09/24/2015.

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Sociology A2 functionalism
  1. Functionalism is a macro, structural theory. It focuses on the needs of the social systems as a whole and how these needs shape all the main features of society - from the form that social institutions such as the family take, right down to the behaviour patterns of individuals and the roles they perform.
    1. Functionalism is a consensus theory. It sees society as based on basic consensus or agreement among its members about values, goals and rules. Functionalism is very much a modernist theory of society and shares the goals of the Enlightment project. Functionalists believe that we can obtain true knowledge of the functioning of society and that this knowledge can be used to improve society.
      1. In describing society, Functionalists often use an organic analogy. In other words they say that society is like a biological organism. Parsons (1970) identifies three similiarites between society and a biological organism:
        1. Systems organisms, such as the human body, and societies are both self - regulating systems of inter - related, interdependant parts that fit together in fixed ways. In society these parts are institutions (the education system, or the family) , individual roles (such as teachers, mother) and so on.
          1. System needs, organisms have needs such as nutrition. If these needs are not met, the organism will die. Functionalists see the social system as having certain basic needs that must be met if it is to survive. For example, its members must be socialised if society is to continued.
            1. Functions, for functionalists the function of any part of a system is the contribution it makes to meeting the system's needs and thus ensuring its survival. The economy maintains the social system by meeting the need for food and shelter.
            2. Value consensus and social order: Parsons argues that social order is achieved through the existence of a shared culture or, in his words, a central value system. A culture is a set of norms, values and beliefs and goals shared by members of a society. It provides a framework that allows individuals to cooperate by laying down rules about how they should behave and what others may expect of them, defining the goals they pursue, and so on. Social order is only possible as long as members agree on these norms and values, Parsons calls this arrangement value consensus, which is the glue that holds society together.
              1. Integration of individuals: The basic function of the value consensus is therefore to make social order possible. It does this by integrating individuals into the social system, thereby directing them towards meeting the system's needs. To achieve goals, there also needs to be specific rules of conduct and norms. E.g punctuality to obtain jobs.
                1. For Parsons, the system has two mechanisms for ensuring that individuals conform to the shared norms to meet the system's needs:
                  1. Socialisation: The social system can ensure that its needs are met by teaching individuals to want to do what it requires them to do. Through the socialisation process, individuals internalise the system's norms and values so that society becomes part of their personality structure. Different agencies of socialisation such as family, education system, media and religion, all contribute to this process.
                    1. Social control: Positive sanctions reward conformity, whilst negative ones punish deviance. E.g, if the value systems stresses indivuduals achievement through educational success, those who conform may be rewarded with college diplomas, while those who deviate by dropping out may be stigmatised as layabouts.
                2. Integration into the shared normative orders makes orderly social life possible. From these basic ideas, Parsons builds up a more detailed model of the social system.
                  1. Social change - For Parsons, change is gradual, evolutionary process of increasing complexity and structural differentiation. The organic analogy - societies move from the simple to complex structures. E.g . in traditional society, a single institution - the kinship system, performs many functions. It organises production as. nd consumption, often provides political leadership, socialises its members and performs religious functions. However, as societies develop, the kinship system loses its functions - to factories, political parties, schools, churches. Parsons calls this process structural differentiation - a gradual process in which separate, functionally specialised institutions develop, each meeting a different need.
                    1. The system's needs: For Parsons society is a system with its own needs. The shared value system coordinates the different parts of sociology to ensure that the system's needs are met. Parsons identifies four basic needs. Each need is met by a seperate sub - system of institutions:
                      1. Adaptation - The social system meets its members' material needs. These needs are met by the economic sub - system.
                        1. Goal attainment - society needs to set goals and allocate resources to achieve them. This is the function of the political sub - system, through institutions such as parliment.
                          1. Integration - The different parts of the systems must be integrated together in order to pursue shared goals. This is performed by the sub - system of religion, education and media.
                            1. Latency - refers to the processes that maintain society over time. The kinship sub - system provides pattern maintenance (socialising individuals to go on performing the roles society requires) and tension management (a place to "let off steam" and the stresses of work.)
                              1. Parsons describes adaptation and goal attainment as instrumental needs. He describes integration and latency as expressive needs, since the involve the expression or channelling of emotions by carrying out their respective functions, the four sub systems ensure that society's needs are met and social stability is maintained.
                              2. The parts of the social system: Building block approach - at the bottom we have individual actions. Each action we perform is governed by specific norms or rules. These norms come in "clusters" called status roles. Statuses are the positions that exist in given social systems; e.g. "teacher". Roles are sets of norms that tell us ow the occupant of the status must carry out their duties. E.g teachers must not show favouritisms, must be knowedgeable and so on. Status roles come in clusters called institutions. Sub systems such as family school and jobs make up a social system as a whole.
                                1. Types of society - Parsons identifies two types of societies, traditional and modern. Parsons identifies five basic sets or norms for each type of society. Within each type the variables "fit" together.
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