Write a 5 pages paper on functionalist and conflict perspectives. The main question which is put forward by functionalist sociologists is that how is a society kept close together at all times and how is its order maintained?
To begin with, functionalists concentrate upon two ideas that are closely related to their idea of how societies are held together. Firstly, how is order maintained in our society, and secondly, what are the major reasons behind the stability which exists in our society.
Functionalists do not focus on the differences found in different parts of the society. They, in fact, focus on how the shared norms, values and mores help create social solidarity and cohesion. (Browne, 2006)
The ideas of functionalists are based on the concept of organic analogy. These ideas were initially discussed by patron sociologists like Auguste Comte and Emile Durkheim. They explained that the society was like a human body. If there was a pain in one part of the body it will affect the functioning of the whole society. Therefore, it was necessary for society to be in equilibrium.
Durkheim (“The Rules of Sociological Method”, 1895) emphasizes on two concepts. The first concept is social solidarity. Solidarity is based upon such things as common culture, socialization, basic values, and norms. It is these common ideas that bring about social cohesion in the society thereby, giving it the form of a human body. The second concept is that of collective conscience – the “external expression” of the collective will of people living in a society. This represents the social forces that help bind people together (to integrate them into the collective behavior that is society). It can be likened to the “will” of society.
The most popular functionalist of America, Talcott Parsons (1951), focused on the behavior of the people while under the influence of social institutions. For Parsons, the key to the survival of the society was the shared norms and values held by its individual members. Deviation from those norms leads to disorganization, and this, in turn, threatens the survival of the system.