Functionalism

Functionalism

Functionalism is the sociological theory
which holds that each part of society is necessary for the functioning
of the social organism. There are several elements in the functionalist
paradigm which explain how society functions to maintain the social
organism and keep it alive. These elements, or tenets of functionalism
are cohesion, integration, solidarity, and equilibrium. These elements
explain how society is divided into it’s different functional parts, with
each part dependent on the other, and the amassed parts adding up to the
structural whole of society.

According to Emile Durkheim there are two
kinds of societies with one being simple and mechanic and the other being
complex and organic. Of course there isn’t a fine line between
the two categories, there is a progression from one to the other.

As society becomes increasingly organic there is more differentiation between
members of that society since not everyone can have the same role.

In mechanic societies there is a high solidarity among all members of that
society: they have the same beliefs, religion, and means of survival.

In organic societies there is a differentiation between different groups
which function as subsets of the societal organism. These subsets
are the different organs and tissues of the societal organism.

According to Durkheim these subsets still
hold some consciousness common to the whole societal organism otherwise
these parts wouldn’t be held together and certain factions would separate
from others. Cohesion is the tenet that maintains that a collective
consciousness holds all of these subsets or organs together and in turn
maintains these organs within the social organism.

In Durkheim’s book "On The Division of

Labor" Durkheim explained that punishing heinous crimes such as murder
invokes a certain cohesion among the members of the society. Also
events such as war function to demonstrate the cohesiveness and solidarity
of society. For example in World War II each person had common nationalistic
sentiments which helped to cement soldiers as well as civilians.

This collective consciouse was so powerful that it caused people to see

Japanese Americans as potential spies since one of the enemies of WW2 were
the japanese. The U.S. government deterred these citizens in camps,
separated many familes, took away property, and basically took the rights
away from citizens of the United States who just happened to be of Japanese
heritage. Since the collective consciousness against Japanese was
so great at this time no one questioned what the government was doing.

Talcott Parsons explained integration
as the mutual adjustments of subsystems from the point of view of their
contributions to the effective functioning of the social organism.

Each part of society must feel that society in large benefits them and
that they are a vital part of society. This also applied to the individual
level. Each member of a subsystem must feel that they benfit from
the subsystem and that they also are a benefit to that subsystem.

Integration would not exist if everyone felt isolated from others and the
society at large. Indivduals become integrated into society through
the process of socialization which helps to shape and mold an individual
to share rules and practices of a subset and the social organism at large.

When a group is at full integration there is a strong cohesion and solidarity
among it’s members. Cohesion is the glue that cements the bonds while
solidarity are the sentiments common to all within the cohesive group.

Solidarity is like a common gene sequence which is repeated from one member
to another.

All of these componets common to the structural-functionalist
paradigm explain how society functions as a social organism. Cohesion
is the idea that each major structure of society whether it be education,
government, religion, or the economic system work together as separate
but interdependent organs in order to keep the social organism alive.

Each vital organ of society is pertinent to the functioning of the other
vital organs. Solidarity is important in holding each individual
organ together otherwise the whole of the social organism might die.

For example if the heart failed all of the other major organs would die
along with the organism. Each part can not function without the other
parts. Integration is important so that each individual would chose
to become part of one of the vital organs of society. The individuals
are the cells that make up the vital organs, without the individuals the
organs would eventually die, and the whole social organism would collapse.

Equilibrium needs to be maintained in order for the social organism to
be healthy, if one part becomes too strong or too weak the other parts
must compensate in order to return to equlibrium.

Society evolves just like any organism
would. Over time certain vital organs of