Functionalism

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An overview of functionalist theories.

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Functionalism

  1. 1. Functionalism
  2. 2. Functionalism <ul><li>The view that social institutions—both formal organizational sets (law, religion, politics) and informal but commonly recurring social actions (crime, volunteerism, suicide, love)—have consequential effects upon society (functions that they serve) </li></ul><ul><li>These effects may be explicit and deliberate (manifest), or they may be surprising and unintended (latent) </li></ul><ul><li>Durkheim is seen as the founder of this school of thought, and his theories were significantly developed by Robert Merton </li></ul>
  3. 3. Functionalism <ul><li>The focus of functionalism is often to demonstrate why seemingly negative or problematic institutions manage to persist </li></ul><ul><li>The functionalist explanation is that we do not or cannot do away with these institutions because of the important, but taken-for-granted, functions they serve </li></ul>
  4. 4. A Framework for Comparing Theoretical Approaches Relation-ship between the individual and society; how do social exp. Create identity How do different hierarchies work hand in hand to oppress some and privilege others Who is treated as ‘other’? How do the marginalized find power Relative positions of men and women, meanings of gender What does race mean? How is it organized What are the beliefs and values of a society Who rules? How is strat-ification reproduced What need is served by institutions What are the norms, goals, and means? Key Questions Agency Matrix of Domination Dispersed Patriarchy White supremacy; racial dictatorship Hegemony Ruling class, bourgeoisie and capitalists Power important for social cohesion Neutral Implication for Power Social Psychology Comb-ination of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Sexuality; social boundaries; mainstream Gender Racial hierarchy Systems of Meaning Economics Purpose of every social institution How society is organized; resources and schema Focus of Explanation Social Self Inter-sectional Queer Feminist Theory Racial Conflict Inter-pretive Class Conflict Function-alism Structur-alism
  5. 5. Functionalism cf to Structuralism What need is served by institutions What are the norms, goals, and means? Key Questions Power important for social cohesion Neutral Implication for Power Purpose of every social institution How society is organized; resources and schema Focus of Explanation Functionalism Structuralism
  6. 6. <ul><li>Example of functionalism, Durkheim’s theory that crime is necessary </li></ul><ul><li>Crime is normal—found in every society </li></ul><ul><li>Crime produces norms—expectations of acceptable behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Crime produces social boundaries—who’s in and who’s out </li></ul><ul><li>Crime produces rituals that generate social solidarity—trials </li></ul><ul><li>Crime produces innovation—music piracy </li></ul><ul><li>Crime paves the way for change—Rosa Parks </li></ul>Functionalism

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