Functionalism Functionalism Reigned as the dominant theoretical perspective. Often referred to as structural functionalism Two leading functionalist Talcott Parsons Robert Merton Intellectual Roots of Functionalism The most significant forerunners of functionalism were: Auguste Comte Herbert Spencer Emile Durkheim Max Weber Auguste Comte (1789-1857) Science relies upon empirical knowledge. Through his notions of social statistics and social dynamics he established a direction for social research. Through social static’s Comte maintained that units of investigation were the individual, family, society and the species. Auguste Comte (1789-1857) Social dynamics, which today is known as social change. Organic Analogy Described the social structure as Elements (families) Tissues (classes) Organs (cities) Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Influenced by Von Baer. Acknowledged the role of environmental variables in social organization Super Organism (society) The Organism (body) Concept of differentiation is very important. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) Process of growth is a process of integration. In 1898 argued that societies change from incoherent homogeneity to definite heterogeneity. Premodern Societies vs. Modern Societies Social institutions arise from structural requirements. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) His study on suicide rates was recognized for one of the most important programs of research in the last generation. Theory supported by empirical data provides legitimacy. Validity of a structural functioning system is needed. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) His sociology maintained a focus on structural analysis rather than individual action. Shared Comte’s functionalist, evolutionary and positive premises. Functionalism was the idea that society is a system. Interested in how societies change over time. Crime and deviance serve a functional role in society. Max Weber (1864-1920) He caught Parson’s interest by his spiritual orientation. Stated that Protestant ethic was responsible for rise of the spirit of capitalism. His analysis marked the 1st major development in systematic discrimination. Linguistics and the Anthropoligical Tradition Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) Saussure was a Swiss linguist who was very significant in the development of functionalism. Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) Distinction between Langue and Parole Langue Formal, grammatical system of language Meaning of words can be altered Ex: the word gay once meant “happy”; now it also means “homosexual”. Parole Actual speech such as facial expressions and body language. Anthropologists who influenced functionalism: Clause Levi-Strauss A.R. Radcliffe-Brown Bronislaw Malinowski Claude Levi-Strauss Applied structuralism more broadly to all forms of communication. Major innovation was to reconceptualized social phenomena. A.R. Radcliffe-Brown Organismic analogizing presents teleological implications. Attempted to eliminate problems. Bronislaw Malinowski Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown both committed to scientific methodology. Focused attention of existing societies. Defining Functionalism A macro sociological theory that examines social patterns and structures. Views society as having interrelated parts. Explains social change by variables such as population growth and increased technology. Two basic assumptions: 1) Idea of interdependent parts 2) Consensus of values. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) One of the most prominent theorists of his time. Attempted to generate a grand theory of society. Robert Merton (1910-2003) Raised in South Philadelphia slum. Merton was not the family name, he changed his name from Meyer R. Schkolnick. Received B.A. from Temple University and doctorate from Harvard. Robert Merton (1910-2003) Always stressed importance of empirical research. Goal was to keep functional assumptions to a minimum. His functionalist theories are “middlerange” variety. Despite differences, Parsons and Merton are known as the leaders of the structural functionalism school of thought. Theories of the Middle Range Merton felt grand theories were too abstract. Middle range is principally used to guide empirical inquiry. They are functionalist theories that consist of limited sets of assumptions. Durkheim’s Suicide and Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism are examples. Theories of the Middle Range Role sets are an important element. For Merton, the term function does not mean the same thing as purpose. Merton promoted a process referred to as codification. Anomie Theory Initially developed by Durkheim. The success goal in American culture leads many feelings of anomie. It is the conflict between cultural goals and availability of institutional means. Theory on the study of social deviance. Two most important elements of structures: (1) culturally defined goals (2) Institutionalized Means Merton described five types of individual adaptations 1) Conformity 2) Innovation 3) Ritualistics 4) Retreatism 5) Rebellion Manifest and Latent Functions Merton came to distinguish between two usages for the word function: 1) Manifest Functions -consequences that are expected 2) Latent Functions -consequences that are not intended Dysfunctions A performance with disrupting consequences. Dysfunctional events lessen the effective equilibrium of society. Merton’s concept of dysfunctions is central to his argument that functionalism is not conservative. Empirical Research Different research methods are necessary for different empirical problems. Consistently drew links between theory and research. For Merton theorizing was always important. Neofunctionalism and Post Functionalism Well known neofunctionalists: Niklas Luhmann Anthony Giddens Jeffrey C. Alexander Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) In 1949 received a law degree at the University of Freiburg. Spent a year studying under Parsons. Witnessed firsthand his country’s defeat and concluded that modern society was not a better place to live. Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) Argued that modern world is too complex. Very difficult to read his work. Stressed the importance of grand theory. Described general systems theory as having two important elements: 1) Distinction of the whole 2) The concept of self-referential systems Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) His focus remains on the system not the individual. Social systems consist primarily of communication networks. Created a communication theory that stressed human communication as reflexive. Anthony Giddens (1938-present) Few theorists have been as productive. Produced 31 books and more than 200 articles. Takes a postmodernist point of view. Believes classical ideas must be repaired Anthony Giddens (1938-present) Referred to his approach as the theory of structuration. Views social systems as continuous flows of conduct in time and space. For years has been working in area of globalization. Three key areas of power: 1) Government 2) Economy 3) Communities of Civil Society Jeffrey C. Alexander and Neil Smelser Alexander is credited with coining term neofunctionalism. Views neofunctionalism as part of the evolutionary growth. Smelser is considered a top level theorist in neofunctionalism. Believes people seek to avoid experience of ambivalence. Ambivalence refers to such phenomena as death and seperation. Relevancy Every sociologist is a functionalist because sociology IS functionalism. Functionalism fails to explain social change. Functionalism fails to explain most important terms: 1) Structure 2) Function 3) Social system Safe to say functionalists approach will remain around for many years to come.