Structural Functionalism

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The intellectual roots of functionalism can be traced back during the era of Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Vilfredo Pareto and Emile Durkheim, Comte, Spencer, and Pareto emphasized the interdependence of parts of social system, while Durkheim stressed on integration or solidarity (Wolf, 2006). Structural-functionalism focus on the functional requisites or needs of a social system. According to this view social systems tend to perform certain tasks that are necessary for their survival and sociological analysis therefore involves a search for the social structures that perform these tasks or meet the needs of the social system.

Over the years, the approach’s two major theorists, Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton have often been referred to as structural-functionalists. In short, Functionalist perspectives are based on the assumption that society is stable. And it argues that “Society is composed of interrelated parts each of which serves a function that contribute to the overall stability of society. For such, social institutions persists a role in helping society to survive.

And if anything adverse happens to one of these institutions or parts, all other parts are affected and system will no longer functions properly (Wolf, 2006). Talcott Parsons, perhaps the most influential contemporary advocate of the functionalist perspective, he argued that “All societies must provide for meeting social needs in order to survive (Kendall, 2002). ”The contributions of Parsons to functionalism are his theory of action, his action schema, the pattern variables and the system problems or also known as AGIL.

His theory of action, in which he gives his overall pictures of how societies are structured and fit together, includes four system such as cultural system that refer as symbolic system which includes religious belief, languages and national values . Next was social system that referred to role interaction, this system consists a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect. The third system was personality system which involved individual actor, the human person. Read about an absolutely ordinary rainbow

His focus at this level is on individual needs, motives, and attitudes such as motivation toward gratification. In fourth system, the behavioral organism, the basic unit is the human being in its biological sense it includes the organic and physical environment in which human being lives. Parson’s action theory starts with a role player or actor. He sees the actor as motivated to spend energy in reaching a desirable goal or end as defined by the cultural system. The action takes place in a situation which includes means and conditions and all these elements are regulated by the normative standards of the social system.

In other words, actors cannot ignore the rule of the game; the rules define their ends and how they behave and normative expectations must be fulfilled by any actor who is motivated to pursue a goal. Because the norms have been internalized by the actor, he or she is motivated to act appropriately. Parsons was initially preoccupied with the formulation of his theory of action. In it he portrayed purposive actors who were oriented to goals but had to fulfill certain conditions that defined by normative expectations before they could be satisfied.

He felt that his next intellectual task was to develop clearer specifications of what different contingencies and expectations actors were likely to face. He wanted to show that their situation is not entirely unstructured and uncertain. Therefore he formulated the pattern variables, which categorize expectations and the structure of relationships. These pattern variables were based on Toennies’s gemeinschaft-gesellschaft typology. Parsons’s Pattern Variables separated into two types the Expressive ,under it were Ascription,Diffuseness,Affectivity,Paricularism,Collectivity.

The counterpart of it was Instrumental under it were Achievement, Specificty ,Neutrality ,Universalism, Self. For Parsons’ own definition of pattern variable it is a dichotomy, in which one side of it must be chosen by an actor before the meaning of a situation is determine for him, and thus before he can act with respect to the situation. In other words, each pattern variable represents a problem or dilemma that must be solved by the actor before action can take place.

If we assume, on the Parsonian framework, that individual actors are socialized and thus are motivated to meet the demands of societal expectations, then we can expect actors to make appropriate choices about the pattern variables and we can predict their behavior on the basis of information about values and normative expectations. Shortly after Parsons worked out the pattern variable scheme, it turn out that he wanted to reduce the lack of certainty in his theory of action about what goals actors would pursue and he wanted to specify further the pattern variables.

Because of these he developed the ideas of system problems and AGIL models, four-function paradigm. His work in this are addresses in intricate detail the determinants of and requirements for his basic interest in equilibrium. He argues that all action systems have for major needs that turn out to be four major problems such as adaptation, goal attainment, integration, and latent pattern maintenance. He usually pictures society or social system as large square that he divides into four equal parts that represented by the letters AGIL.

A” stands for adaptation in which he pointed out the need of secure sufficient resources from the environment and distributes them throughout the system. ”G” stands for goal attainment meaning system’s need to mobilize its resources and energies to attain system goals. ”I” stands for Integration means the need to coordinate, adjust, and regulate relationships among various actors or units within the system. ”L” stands for latent pattern maintenance-tension management means the need to make certain that the actors are sufficiently motivated to play their parts in the system and the need to provide mechanisms for internal tension management.

For Parsons these AGIL serves as prerequisites for social equilibrium (Wolf, 2006). In conclusion, Structural-Functionalism approach is micro sociological meaning to say its focus on the overall characteristics of social structure and general nature of social institution. And it goal were Reorganization within the system or society and the tendency to restore Equilibrium . And to reach that goals there should be the use shared values among individuals or generally accepted standards of desirability as central concept.

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