Introduction to Sociology Contemporary Society
March 9, 2018
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) made many contributions to sociology; he was educated in both France and Germany. He was appointed one of the first professors of sociology in France. Above all, Durkheim (1912 2001) is known for developing a fundamental thesis to help explain all forms of society. Durkheim developed theories of social structure that included functionalism, the division of labor, and anomie. His theories were founded on the concept of social facts, defined as the norms, values, and structures of society.
The functionalist perspective, also known as functionalism, is how social order is possible and how society remains stable. It’s a theory that focuses on the macro-level of social structure, rather than the micro-level of everyday life. Functionalism sees social structure of society as more important than the individual. Society is a system of interrelated parts where no one part can function without the other. These parts make up the whole of society. If one part changes, it has an impact on society as a whole. Social consensus, order, and integration are key factors of functionalism. They allow society to progress because there are shared norms and values that mean all individuals have a common goal and interest in complying with rules and conflict is minimal. Talcott Parson was a supporter of Functionalism; he viewed society as a system. His model is AGIL, which represents the four basic functions that he felt all social systems must perform if they are to persevere. Adaptation: Acquiring sufficient resources, Goal Attainment: Settling and implementing goals, Integration: Maintaining solidarity or coordination among the subunits of the system, and Latency: Creating, preserving, and transmitting the system’s distinctive culture and values.
The term social inequality addresses a condition in which members of a society have different amount of wealth, prestige, or power. Some form of social inequality is found in every society. When a system of social inequality is based on a hierarchy of groups, sociologists refer it as stratification. Stratification is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. Functionalist claim that inequality and stratification is functional for society and a source of social order. Stratification is a system of status positions and jobs. The key point of the theory is that stratification is universal and necessary. Using the functionalist perspective has a positive view about inequality; this is because from a functionalist point of view, inequality plays a role in holding society together and encouraging efficiency. From a functionalist perspective, differences in power, wealth, and other rewards within the social structure are justified. Functionalists believe these rewards motivate the most adequate people to exercise their talents in the most important jobs. If people were all paid the same regardless of their work, they would take the easiest jobs and do as little training as possible. There would be no incentive to work hard and do difficult educational courses. Society ensures that the most pay and the best working conditions go to those who are prepared to put the time and effort into working hard for them. We are all living by the same codes, so well paid professionals are seen to deserve their rewards because members of society place a high value on their skills and achievement. Functionalists believe that stratification systems are just, right, and proper because they are an expression of the shared values of the society.