Assess the Contribution of Functionalism to Our Understanding of Soicety

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Assess the contribution of functionalism to our understanding of society. (33)

Functionalism is a consensus theory. It sees society as based on agreement among people about values, goals and rules in society. The job of the family is primary socialization. The family introduces norms and values to children, who carry these on to later years, where they are reinforced by religion and education. These norms and values allow people to move up the social hierarchy. For example, children are taught to conform by the family and education, which allows them to conform to the rules of wider society and become aware of what, is socially acceptable. Education also trains by teaching the skills needed for later life, for example punctuality, and interview skills. Unlike conflict structuralism, functionalists believe that society is based on merit, and those who work the hardest will be the ones to make it to the top, ensuring jobs are filled by those most capable, with the required skills. Those who don't work, will stay at the bottom of the hierarchy, and carry out the more menial, but equally essential jobs. In sociological research, functional prerequisites are the basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, and money) that an individual requires to live above the poverty line. Functional prerequisites may also refer to the factors that allow a society to maintain social order.
A key functionalist is Talcott Parsons; he saw society as working like a human body, arguing that institutions in society were like organs in the body – each performing specific functions that were necessary to the maintenance of the whole. Parsons argued that parts of society should be understood in terms of what they contribute to the maintenance of the whole. This is known as ‘organic analogy’. One of the most important functions of social institutions is the creation of value consensus – which is…...

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