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Paper Topic:

What are the main concepts underlying functionalism? Compare and contrast the positions of Parsons versus Merton with respect to these concepts. Briefly present your critical opinion of either Parsons or Merton.


Functionalism is considered one of the oldest theoretical perspectives of sociology and other social sciences . The functionalist perspective is based on the application of the scientific method to the objective social world and use of an analogy between the individual organism and society ( HYPERLINK "http /www .grinnell .edu /cgi-bin /gfeed .dll ?mcclel grinnell .edu McClelland , par .1 . Both the social and physical aspects of the world can be studied with scientific method the use of analogy is used to determine the social needs which must be met as well as the

how they are met for the existence of a social system (par .2 . Functionalism focuses on the socialization of a group or an individual how an individual or cultural group functions in society

Socialization can be defined as the process of acquiring culture (O 'Neil , par .1 . During this process an individual learns the roles and languages of their culture as well as the social norms . Socialization begins at birth , at first common practices are learned , such as language , appropriate dress and types of food common in one 's culture (O 'Neil . Familial roles are learned , such as the mother and father 's role in one 's culture , and that of the extended family etc . Further into the socialization of an individual , world views are acquired which are complex and will effect how an individual will interact in society (2006 . The world view consists of motivations , perceptions and beliefs which an individual acquires during socialization . Two major contributors to the functionalist perspective are Talcott Parsons and Robert K . Milton

Parsons ' has been considered by many as the best-known American sociologist of the 1950s and 60s ( HYPERLINK "http /www .grinnell .edu /cgi-bin /gfeed .dll ?mcclel grinnell .edu McClelland , par .5 . Structural functionalism is attributed to Parsons as he viewed society as a collection of systems within systems (5 Structural functionalism focuses on the role of norms and values as seen in the process of socialization . An individual will pursue self-interests while the system 's interests as a whole will be served as well . The whole world , according to Parsons ' was system of societies Parsons and like minded functionalists tend to focus on the predictability of an individuals behavior rather than an individuals ability to control his or her own destiny (par .6 . Robert K . Merton highly disagreed with Parsons ' theory of structural functionalism , and therefore contributed many additional theories involved in functionalism . Unlike Parsons , Merton 's system dealt with the social system as a whole . Merton made a distinction between manifest and latent functions . Manifest functions are ones in which may represent motives of individuals in a social system and latent functions are the unrecognized , unpredictable actions of an individual ( HYPERLINK "http /www .grinnell .edu /cgi-bin /gfeed .dll ?mcclel grinnell .edu McClelland , par . Other important theories purposed by Merton included distinguishing functions which are positive and those that are dysfunctional in society as well as those that serve neither . Merton also made theories as to the different levels of...

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