1 Structural Functionalism

1 Structural Functionalism - Contemporary Sociological...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Contemporary Sociological Theory Structural Functionalism, Neofunctionalism, and Conflict Theory Structural Functionalism Although popular, even dominant, after World War II, structural functionalism is today generally of only historical interest. Emerging as an offshoot of organicism, structural functionalists were mainly societal functionalists who were interested in large-scale social structures and institutions within society, how they interrelate, and their constraining effects on actors. One of the earliest and better known applications of structural functionalism was the functional theory of stratification . This theory argued that stratification was universal and necessary for society, and that it was therefore functional. Stratification here refers to positions rather than individuals and to the way that individuals are placed in the appropriate position. Since some positions are more important, more pleasant, and require different skills, a system of stratification is necessary to make sure all roles are fulfilled. Much like other versions of structural functionalism, this theory is criticized as conservative and lacking in empirical support. Talcott Parsons The single greatest contributor, and practitioner, of structural functionalism was Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) . The heart of Parsons's theory is built on the four functional imperatives, also known as the AGIL system: 1. The adaptive function, whereby a system adapts to its environment. 2. The goal-attainment function, i.e., how a system defines and achieves its goals. 3. The integrative function, or the regulation of the components of the system. 4. Latency, or pattern maintenance function, i.e., how motivation and the dimensions of culture that create and sustain motivation are stimulated. Complementing this are four action systems , each of which serve a functional imperative: the behavioral organism performs the adaptive function; the personality system performs goal attainment; the social system performs the integrative function; and the cultural system performs pattern maintenance. Parsons saw these action systems acting at different levels of analysis, starting with the behavioral organism and building to the cultural system. He saw these levels hierarchically, with each of the lower levels providing the impetus for the higher levels, with the higher levels controlling the lower levels. Parsons was concerned primarily with the creation of social order, and he investigated it using his theory based on a number of assumptions, primarily that systems are interdependent; they tend towards equilibrium; they may be either static or involved in change; that allocation and integration are particularly important to systems in any particular point of equilibrium; and that systems are self-maintaining. These assumptions led him to focus primarily on order but to overlook, for the most part, the issue of change. The basic unit of Parsons's social system is the
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 05/20/2010 for the course SOCIOLOGY Contempora taught by Professor N/a during the Spring '10 term at Open Uni..

Page1 / 4

1 Structural Functionalism - Contemporary Sociological...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online