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Functionalism Essay, Research Paper
Functionalism is a system used by cultures which concentrates
on and emphasises the functional interactions of cultures and
societies, i.e. why and how certain rituals, daily chores etc.
are performed within societies. It makes "law-like"
generalisations which are employed to explain and predict social
phenomena. The first main idea is that each culture or society can be
viewed as a system that consists of many similar elements that
function either separately or together. It is also believed that
if one of these elements was altered or removed, then this would
affect the other elements and the system as a whole. The other main idea, the Malinowskian view,? is that all of
the aspects, such as rituals, ceremonies etc. of a society or
culture are performed because they are required to fulfil the
biological and/or psychological needs of the individuals of that
society. For example, hunting and gathering is performed in some
cultures to fulfil the biological need of eating for the
individuals of that society. The theory of cultural relativism can be used to explain why
the functionalist theory is applied to certain societies- the
activities that they perform are done so because they are
regarded as important and necessary according to the different
values of each society. If we combine these two ideas, we are
able to see that both the Functionalist and cultural relativist
theories centred around the fact that the people of societies
perform their activities and behave in the ways that they do
because these actions and thoughts correspond and are considered
to be right and acceptable in terms of the values of the
society. Functionalism says that: – All elements within a society interconnect and work
- If one dynamic is changed, it will alter the whole of
- Society will change to accommodate this change.
- Everything has a specific function in society
- Society will always function in harmony, as it will accommodate
change, by changing itself. Problems with Functionalism – Not all elements within a society interconnect.
- Because it argues that society itself changes to accommodate
new dynamics, it fails to provide an explanation for wars and
conflicts that may arise in particular societies.
- It disregards the immediate causes and motivations which are
necessary in order to give rise to a phenomenon (i.e. some
behaviours and phenomenon can not be accounted for, even by those
individuals themselves who perform that behaviour, like mental
illness or criminal behaviour, what function do they
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