Talk:Functionalism (sociology)

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I have added Parson's and Merton's work on functionalism, because although some of the information may be touched on in their individual articles, it is important to understanding funcitonalism as a sociological perspective. (The citations are pretty bad at the moment cos I just wanted to get them in there, but I will come back and try and fix them up soon.) JenLouise 06:47, 11 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Structural functionalism vs. functionalism[edit]

Thus far, my changes have been mostly to the organization and writing, not to the actual content. But I did notice that the definition for structural functionalism is nearly identical to that of functionalism, yet the former is being presented as if it were in conflict. Some clarification is necessary, I think.

I agree, I have only heard what is discussed in this article referred to as "Structural Functionalism," not "functionalism." Furthermore the wiki on structural functionalism seems fairly similar to this, but not nearly as well composed. I think that article should be deleted and should re-direct to this page. Kevingilmartin 19:30, 16 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I merged it the other way, mainly because the other article had a more developed structure. The article could be moved back here, but I think it is clear the articles were both on the same topic. Hopefully this works out (I'm not sure what to do with the talk page). Sestibel (talk) 08:36, 7 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Does this look right to you?[edit]

Since functional analysis studies the contributions made by sociocultural phenomena to the sociocultural systems of which they are a part. --Cyberman 23:30, 20 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think since should be taken off. functional capitalized..

Major theoretical branches?[edit]

This page now claims there are three "major theoretical brances" of sociology. It is not clear from this article what the other two are. Curiously, looking at the Sociology article suggests there are actually four other branches (Look under "major branches".) I assume there's an explanation? --Ryguasu 17:25, 21 Sep 2003 (UTC)

We don't have to specify the number of major branches in this article, do we? So I just removed three. -- Taku 06:00, Feb 10, 2004 (UTC)

Three is correct. I have restored it, and removed the errors from the sociology page. Tannin

In the third paragraphI noticed what may be a typo. Is Robert Merken supoosed to be Robert Merton instead? I am new to sociology so there may in fact BE a Robert Merken! Jaberwocky6669 22:51, Nov 20, 2004 (UTC)

You're correct, and I've fixed it. Good eye! Sarge Baldy 02:42, Nov 21, 2004 (UTC)

WOW if i could just add i am totally amazed by the content of this page. You see i am only a fresher in my first year studying human health and health sciences and social sciences is one of the modules. I have a presentation on the Functionalist perspective of the family and have to devise a concept map! My head feels boggled but United Kingdom student.

Functional analysis[edit]

I've been attempting to add absent points of view to the article, for instance the view that "functionalism" is not an ideology but one form of analysis, thus functional analysis. One thing that I feel needs clarification is that "function" seems is said not to refer to "usefulness", but to being a part of a larger structure. However, being a part of a larger structure, especially in an organic analogy, implies that the part is in some way useful to the whole. Hyacinth 04:45, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Who or what is this (ibid) I keep seeing and should he, she, or it be capitalized?? Before I forget, in the paragraph that begins with "In the 1960s" I noticed a sentence that seems a tad out of place. The sentence is something about how Funtionalism used to be called consensus theory. I am not a sociology expert in any way whatsoever so I do not understand the meaning of the sentence, which is good reason to work out the paragraph to make more sense. Jaberwocky6669 01:32, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)larned

See Ibid. Hyacinth 02:52, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Another Question[edit]

In the paragraph that begins with, "In the 1960's..." I came across another sentence that really seems out of place. That sentence is, "However, Durkheim used a radical form of guild socialism along with functionalist explanations, Marxism acknowledges social contradictions and uses functionalist explanations, and Parsons evolutionary theory describes the differentiation and reintegration systems and subsystems and thus at least temporary conflict before reintegration (ibid)." The part I have trouble with is the section about Marxism and then Parson's evolutionary theory. I am in an intro to Sociology class so I don't really understand how all of that stuff ties together. Please don't tell me to just look it up!Jaberwocky6669 05:46, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC)

The sentence is a response to the critique of functionalism which claims that functionalism tends towards or is dependent on explinations which include the stability of society and its component institutions. To put it another way, since functionalism explains how institutions work together, creating the whole that is society, it is incapable of explaining or noticing when institutions (and functions?) conflict (or fail). Thus it is called consensus theory, in that it is seen to require or describe a consensus between all parts and even members of society. The sentence counters that functionalism is often influenced by Marxism, which of course, presupposes class conflict, and Talcott Parsons (who's "evolutionary theory" apparently refers to biological evolution) appears to study exactly what the criticism of functionalism says he doesn't or can't: change and conflict. Does this help clarify? Hyacinth 21:11, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Cool, now if you could just put that into the article that would be cool. Keep in mind that not everyone that comes here is as scholarly as you, or else we wouldn't need to be here! Jaberwocky6669 23:32, Dec 9, 2004 (UTC)


How can any article on functionalism be considered complete if it only contains percursory information on Durkheim, the father of functionalsim? I'm working on getting more info put in on him, but until more info is added, I think this article should be considered a stub. Kackisback 02:36, 16 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

evolutionary theory[edit]

I don't think there should be so much information on evolutionary theory. It may be based on funcitonalism but it is not functionalism and therefore should not be addressed in such length in this article. I think it would be more appropriate to create a page on evolutionary thoery (or see if such page exists under a different name) and put this info there, and then create a section in this article such as legacy or whatever and put a brief paragraph about how evolutionary theory came from functionalism (if that is indeed the case). JenLouise 01:40, 3 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Next week I'm going to remove most of the information about evolutionary theory and try and find a more appropriate place for it unless someone objects... JenLouise 02:41, 22 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well just for now, I am going to put all the information below and then spend a little bit of time working out where it can go. I'll move it from this talk page once I can do something with it. Any suggestions please let me know! JenLouise 10:53, 12 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Evolutionary Theory: A Response to Functionalist Challenges[edit]

Evolutionary Theory has been as much a part of sociology since the early theorists as any other element like the Division of Labor. Unfortunately, the models that Comte, Spencer, Marx, and Durkheim posited were berefit with problems. Marx, for example, had an uninformed and ideologically-driven view of human change which led to a deterministic theory of evolution (for a critique of the empirical grounding of Marx's determinism, see Sanderson 1999). The sociological turn away from Marxism in the early twentieth century, coupled with the shift of the center of the sociological universe from Europe to America, changed sociology's focus from the society as a system or macrosociology to that of the individual, their self, and the interactions that they engaged in (Mead 1936). In many ways, some of the most important methodological tools that sociologists had at their disposal -- i.e., historical-comparative analysis -- was relatively "lost".

More recently, evolutionary theory has re-emerged and has attempted to answer the criticisms of functionalism without returning to the Spencerian or Parsonsian theoretical models. Lenski (1966; 2005) provided a materialist stage model that became the basis of evolutionary theory. For one, it was not deterministic; it did not denigrate any particular stage as being "primitive" or "savage." Rather it was grounded in the level of technology employed in subsistence. Thus, hunter/gatherer, horticultural, maritime, agrarian, and industrial became names of stages that did not imply progress or a linear path (for a general review, see, Maryanski 1998).

To avoid the teleological and often tautological pitfalls of requisite needs, evolutionists began framing structures and change as adaptations to selection pressures. In other words, all societies face similar internal and external exigencies that require solutions, or carry with them potentially disintegrative consequeunces (Turner 1995). These exigencies are quite varied: internal strife due to heterogeneity and/or oppression or resource distribution; war; inter-societal contact; population growth; resource scarcity; or the death of a charismatic leader. This may sound very similar to functionalism, but evolutionists provide a series of caveats that prevent them from making many of the mistakes that their predecessors made. First, cultural differences across societies is a reflection of human innovation and the ability to address similar problems with different answers. Second, there is no guarantee that a society will feel or react to a selection pressure (see Easter Island as an example), even if it does indeed exist. For instance, power may be so centralized that a society's ability to react is retarded; or, a society may not have the technology or organizational solutions available because of geographic constraints or other ecological factors. Third, a solution does not imply success; maladaptations are just as common, if not more so, than successful solutions. Finally, all social systems will collapse at some point, no matter how inventive its population may be.

One last contribution is worth mentioning: evolutionary theorists are attempting to integrate the recent biological, neuropsychological, and genetic scientific discoveries to strengthen sociological theory and methods, while making it more relevant in a changing scientific environment. It becomes vital that a discipline adapt to changing circumstances in its own environment, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing any audience that it may have. Thus, a theory of action or structure must understand the potential genetic, cognitive, or biological limitations that exist in order to begin to explain social elements of behavior and attitudes. For example, understanding the neuroanatomy of the brain and emotion centers therein, as well as why they evolved the way they did, inform us a great deal about early societies and the context in which people interact today (Turner and Stets 2005).

Intro too long and repetitive[edit]

The leading section is very long and does not flow. The order seemed a bit wrong, so I have had a little play. I haven't deleted anything, just restrucutred a little. I don't think the bit about being like the body needs to be in the intro. It is quite detailed for a first glimpse of the article. I think it would be better integrated into the article. What do people think? JenLouise 10:50, 12 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

See Also[edit]

Removed the following from the See Also section, because there are currently no publications in functionalism lised there.

JenLouise 03:11, 2 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nonsense information[edit]

Under the section of "Herbert Spencer" there is the following as the introduction sentence:

"Herbert Spencer, a British rapper and social beat boxer champion who was in many ways the first true sociological star wars fan (Turner, 1985)."

Considering his death in 1903, before rap music, beat boxing and Starwars, this is obviously problematic. I have not simply removed as I am unaware if this is an innacurate report from an the listed source, or simply a poor edit, and I do not have access to the original source. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:21, 23 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Currenty, this redirects here. I think we should at least stub it, as it is a separate (if smaller, still notable) concept. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 18:23, 25 December 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Still dominant?[edit]

I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that, in claiming that functionalism is still dominant, this article is more reflective of the 1970s than of the current situation. The battles between functionalist and conflict theorists, for example, seem pretty much passé, and not because either side won. JQ (talk) 23:56, 7 May 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]