Forums Sociology State the major assumptions of functionalism

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    Ayush Nair
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    State the major assumptions of functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism, and identify the major contributors to each perspective.

    #16136
    Ayush Nair
    Member

    Answer:

    Functionalism is a dominant school of thought in sociology that prospered mainly in the American sociological discipline. The functionalist conceptualizes society as a stable system which constitutes different parts that are interrelated. Since all the parts are interrelated, there should be a stability or equilibrium in the way each part functions, any change in any parts leads to a disturbance in the entire functioning of the society. These parts constitute of the social institutions and patterns. This implies that society as a system can function properly only when all its members share and agree on basic values thought to be good for the society. The functionalist ignores the issue of conflict and structural change of a social system. It only admits a low scale change from within, which does not alter the entire structure. Thinkers like Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, and Emile Durkheim etc have made an important contribution to the functionalist school of thought.

    The conflict theory emerged as a counter to the consensual view of society proposed by the functional theorists. As opposed to the functionalist thought that focuses on stability and equilibrium, conflict theory focuses on the systematic exercise of power, the structural causation of conflict and inequality. The conflict theory gained more recognition in the 1970s, which was a period of growing unrest in the socio-political world, popularized mainly by classical thinkers like Marx, Weber, and Simmel. Referring to the materialist conception of history Marx showed how contradictions are inherent in the human social structure. Marx showed that history is the result creative human labor, and this history is made under certain constraints and situations given to them. He shows how human history has evolved starting from primitive communism to ancient society, then to a feudal society and finally to the capitalist one. Division of labor and appropriation of means of production has played a key role in course of history. According to him, class struggle is the motive force of any society. The centrality which Marx accords to class conflict provides a basic premise of all conflict theories. Weber’s main contribution to the conflict theory is the concept of power as an essential ingredient of social relationships. Simmel’s theory created an image of society which is three-tiered, where the higher levels emerge from lower levels.

    Interactionism or symbolic interactionism rests on the principle that society forms the context in which the self-develops. Social interaction is the clue for any human society to exist; this interaction takes place with the help of meanings and symbols that individually communicate to each other. A mutual interpretation allows interaction to take place. The integrationist school was laid by George Herbert Mead, but it was Hebert Blumer who coined the term ‘symbolic interactionism’. Mead’s theory is influenced by the work of Charles Cooley who premised the theory on the dynamics of self-society in the process of ‘Learning’. Individual act as society wants them to, so our consciousness is a result of the continuous process of social interaction. Cooley asserts that’ there is no sense of I…Without its correlative sense of you, he, or they’. Mead saw society as an emergent reality, which emerges from the dialectical relationship of self and other in a process of social interaction. these interactions are facilitated by the sharing of symbols.

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