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The Chosen People
The functionalist perspective of sociology holds that each aspect in society depends on other aspects and plays a role in society’s stability together with its functioning. Any society takes the course that fits it well given the conditions that exist that particular society, and provided that that action helps to preserve the society (Farley and Flota 53). The situations in which different societies exist are very different, for example, the different climatic conditions (Farley and Flota 53).
Emile Durkheim defined a society as a system of interrelated parts (Ferrante 28). According to Ferrante (28), functionalists use the human body, comparing it with society. Similarly, in group action, people join efforts to achieve a certain goal. Just like the human body, the society is made up of many parts, such as schools, laws and norms, sports and religion. Each of these systems plays a role that contributes to the society’s stability. The interdependence of the systems brings the aspect of the principle of interdependency according to Farley and Flota (53). The view was also shared by Comte and Spencer while developing their social theories, which is still more relevant to date since society has become more complex and interdependent. For example, in a school setting, a faculty member is required to teach, and students are needed to learn. However, effective learning depends on several other people and organizations (Farley and Flota 53). All the involved parties must undertake their respective roles and functions effectively in order to achieve the goal of effective learning. The principle of function comes in at this point.
According to Brym and Lie (9), each structure’s function plays a role in the stability of the society at large. Durkheim put it that social stability leads to social order, which, if it lacks, there exists high suicide rates and many strikes from workers (Brym and Lie 9). In line with this, consensus and cooperation principles of this theory are essential. Every society has some values that almost everyone in the society agrees with. For example, most of the Americans agree that they need freedom and democracy, which they all fight for (Farley and Flota 54). People come into consensus in order to achieve cooperation, like in group action, which is necessary for interdependency to be achieved. People cooperate when they feel that they share some things in common, which leads to solidarity. Durkheim viewed social solidarity as the moral cement that binds people together (Brym and Lie 9).
Functionalist theorists also came with the principle of equilibrium, which has it that once a society reaches a form best suited to its situation; it reaches a state of balance. The society remains in that condition, until some other conditions sets in and makes it to change (Farley and Flota 56). Some of the things factors that can distort the equilibrium state include climate change, advancement in the level of technology or the interactions with other societies. The society undergoes some changes that enable it to adapt to the new situations and eventually reach an equilibrium state. Functionalists argued that reestablishing equilibrium could help in solving social problems (Brym and Lie 9).
Merton said that parts of a social system could have dysfunctions, which could either be latent or manifest. Manifest dysfunctions are the anticipated interruptions that occur to order and stability in the society, for example, shortage of clean public toilets and piled garbage (Ferrante 29). Latent dysfunctions are unintended disruptions to order and stability. For example, celebrating excessively which leads to missing classes or work. Any system that is functional today can become dysfunctional in the future, so it is important to consider all aspects when studying any element of the social structure (Farley and Flota 56).
Brym, Robert and Lie, John. Sociology: Your compass for a new world, brief edition: Enhanced edition. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.
Farley, John and Flota, Michael. Sociology, sixth edition. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2011. Print.
Ferrante, Joan. Sociology: A global perspective, enhanced. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.