One of the most influential theories of society is functionalism.
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was the founder of the Functionalist perspective, he saw society as being a harmonious, and well integrated system, which had a good balance between interrelated and interdependent parts. Functionalism emphasises the importance of moral consensus and this would help in the maintaining of a society as a positive and stable system.
Functionalists often describe a similarity between society and the human body, with each organ having a function which contributes to the working of the greater whole (the heart pumps blood around the veins and arteries, the skin protects the body of external influence and so on). So too with society, where the organs might be the family, religion, education, work as a whole to make society successful.
Now we must ask ourselves the question: ‘What does it do to help the wider society function?’ The term homeostasis applies to the way in which an organism regulates itself to cope with changes in internal and external conditions. We can use the example, of a body overheating and you sweat and this helps the body temperature to stay stable, this analogy helps us understand how equilibrium is maintained in society. This involves two main ways: socialisation by passing society’s values from one generation to the next, and social control by discourage deviance and maintain order in the system.
Another way how functionalism views society is compare it to a mechanism in the way it works is people can achieve collectively held aims when they pull together in society. Durkheim sees the solution in ‘collective conscience’ consisting of common beliefs and sentiments.
Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) shared Durkheim’s views of the way society functions and believed that any society has four basic functional prerequisites that is essential to be met for it to survive: Adaptation – in order to survive, social systems must have control over their...