The formation and management of capital are among the central issues in economic growth, especially in 'under-developed' countries, and form the main theme in this volume. The societies examined vary widely, both geographically and also in terms of types of social and economic st Originally published in , this book represents a unique study of beliefs and ritual practices in a pagan religion, and of the processes by which a transformation to Christianity took place. Considered by many to be the grandfather of modern social anthropology, Raymond Firth's reputation and work is as well respected in the twenty-first century as it was when it was first published in the first half of the twentieth.
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Last 12 months. Older than 12 months. Last 7 days. As the influence of functionalism in the s began to wane, the linguistic and cultural turns led to a myriad of new movements in the social sciences: "According to Giddens, the orthodox consensus terminated in the late s and s as the middle ground shared by otherwise competing perspectives gave way and was replaced by a baffling variety of competing perspectives.
This third generation of social theory includes phenomenologically inspired approaches, critical theory , ethnomethodology , symbolic interactionism , structuralism , post-structuralism , and theories written in the tradition of hermeneutics and ordinary language philosophy. While absent from empirical sociology, functionalist themes remained detectable in sociological theory, most notably in the works of Luhmann and Giddens.
There are, however, signs of an incipient revival, as functionalist claims have recently been bolstered by developments in multilevel selection theory and in empirical research on how groups solve social dilemmas. Recent developments in evolutionary theory —especially by biologist David Sloan Wilson and anthropologists Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson —have provided strong support for structural functionalism in the form of multilevel selection theory. In this theory, culture and social structure are seen as a Darwinian biological or cultural adaptation at the group level. In the s, functionalism was criticized for being unable to account for social change, or for structural contradictions and conflict and thus was often called " consensus theory ".
The refutation of the second criticism of functionalism, that it is static and has no concept of change, has already been articulated above, concluding that while Parsons' theory allows for change, it is an orderly process of change [Parsons, ], a moving equilibrium.
Therefore, referring to Parsons' theory of society as static is inaccurate. It is true that it does place emphasis on equilibrium and the maintenance or quick return to social order, but this is a product of the time in which Parsons was writing post-World War II, and the start of the cold war.
Society was in upheaval and fear abounded. At the time social order was crucial, and this is reflected in Parsons' tendency to promote equilibrium and social order rather than social change. Furthermore, Durkheim favoured a radical form of guild socialism along with functionalist explanations. Also, Marxism , while acknowledging social contradictions, still uses functionalist explanations.
Parsons' evolutionary theory describes the differentiation and reintegration systems and subsystems and thus at least temporary conflict before reintegration ibid. Stronger criticisms include the epistemological argument that functionalism is tautologous , that is it attempts to account for the development of social institutions solely through recourse to the effects that are attributed to them and thereby explains the two circularly.
However, Parsons drew directly on many of Durkheim's concepts in creating his theory. Certainly Durkheim was one of the first theorists to explain a phenomenon with reference to the function it served for society. He said, "the determination of function is…necessary for the complete explanation of the phenomena. However Merton does explicitly state that functional analysis does not seek to explain why the action happened in the first instance, but why it continues or is reproduced. By this particular logic, it can be argued that functionalists do not necessarily explain the original cause of a phenomenon with reference to its effect.
Yet the logic stated in reverse, that social phenomena are re produced because they serve ends, is unoriginal to functionalist thought. Thus functionalism is either undefinable or it can be defined by the teleological arguments which functionalist theorists normatively produced before Merton.
Another criticism describes the ontological argument that society cannot have "needs" as a human being does, and even if society does have needs they need not be met. Anthony Giddens argues that functionalist explanations may all be rewritten as historical accounts of individual human actions and consequences see Structuration. A further criticism directed at functionalism is that it contains no sense of agency , that individuals are seen as puppets, acting as their role requires. Yet Holmwood states that the most sophisticated forms of functionalism are based on "a highly developed concept of action,"  and as was explained above, Parsons took as his starting point the individual and their actions.
His theory did not however articulate how these actors exercise their agency in opposition to the socialization and inculcation of accepted norms. As has been shown above, Merton addressed this limitation through his concept of deviance, and so it can be seen that functionalism allows for agency.
It cannot, however, explain why individuals choose to accept or reject the accepted norms, why and in what circumstances they choose to exercise their agency, and this does remain a considerable limitation of the theory. Further criticisms have been levelled at functionalism by proponents of other social theories, particularly conflict theorists , Marxists , feminists and postmodernists. Conflict theorists criticized functionalism's concept of systems as giving far too much weight to integration and consensus, and neglecting independence and conflict.
He did not account for those parts of the system that might have tendencies to mal-integration. However Parsons thought that the issues of conflict and cooperation were very much intertwined and sought to account for both in his model. Merton, through his critique of functional unity, introduced into functionalism an explicit analysis of tension and conflict. Yet Merton's functionalist explanations of social phenomena continued to rest on the idea that society is primarily co-operative rather than conflicted, which differentiates Merton from conflict theorists.
Marxism, which was revived soon after the emergence of conflict theory, criticized professional sociology functionalism and conflict theory alike for being partisan to advanced welfare capitalism. That he does not identify any alternatives to the current institutions does reflect a conservative bias, which as has been stated before is a product of the specific time that he was writing in.
As functionalism's prominence was ending, feminism was on the rise, and it attempted a radical criticism of functionalism. It believed that functionalism neglected the suppression of women within the family structure. Holmwood  shows, however, that Parsons did in fact describe the situations where tensions and conflict existed or were about to take place, even if he did not articulate those conflicts. Some feminists agree, suggesting that Parsons' provided accurate descriptions of these situations. Merton, too, although addressing situations where function and dysfunction occurred simultaneously, lacked a "feminist sensibility.
Postmodernism, as a theory, is critical of claims of objectivity. Therefore, the idea of grand theory and grand narrative that can explain society in all its forms is treated with skepticism. This critique focuses on exposing the danger that grand theory can pose when not seen as a limited perspective, as one way of understanding society. Jeffrey Alexander sees functionalism as a broad school rather than a specific method or system, such as Parsons, who is capable of taking equilibrium stability as a reference-point rather than assumption and treats structural differentiation as a major form of social change.
The name 'functionalism' implies a difference of method or interpretation that does not exist. Cohen argues that rather than needs a society has dispositional facts: features of the social environment that support the existence of particular social institutions but do not cause them. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A sociological theory arguing that the stability of society is determined by functional institutions and individuals having a specific role.
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