Functionalism is a sociological perspective that focuses on the ways in which a complex pattern of social structures and arrangements contributes to social order. It was designed to carry out the essential functions of human life. A flaw in functionalist perspective is that we have rarely seen anything approaching equilibrium in human society. Ultimately, change is seen as a dysfunction within this school of thought.
Two prominent theorists within the functionalist school of thought were Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Emile Durkheim was the founder of sociology in France. His best known books are “The Division of Labor in Society”, “Rules of the Sociological Method”, and “Suicide”. Durkheim was the first University professor with a chair in the Social Sciences department and also established the first scientific journal in sociology called “L’année Sociologique”.
Durkheim developed a model of society evolving from the simple to the complex solidarity. According to Durkheim, simple societies do not have division of labor. Also, there is no variation in individuality hence these societies are more unstable and prove to be influence by change. Complex societies, by contrast lead to specialization of labor, individuality and interdependence.
In a feature article from Durkheim entitled “The Dualism of Human Nature and it Social Conditions” Durkheim describes two kinds of tendencies within each individual. These tendencies are sensation and sensory tendencies and conceptual thought and moral activity. Durkheim explains sensation and sensory tendencies and conceptual thought and moral activity as two poles that most often oppose each other. Sensation and sensory tendencies are described as” they are concerned with our individuality and with it alone. When we satisfy our hunger, thirst, etc., without any other tendency in play, it is ourselves and ourselves alone that we satisfy”. Conceptual thought and moral activity, on the other hand, is described as “recognizable by the sign that the rules of conduct to which it conforms are open to universalization; it pursues, then, by definition, impersonal ends”, meaning that conceptual thought and moral activity goes beyond the individual needs and desires.
Talcott Parsons was born on December 13, 1902 in Colorado Springs. He graduated from Amherst College in 1924 where he majored in biology. From 1924 to 1925, Parsons also attended the London School of Economics. Parsons furthered his education by obtaining his doctorate at Heidelberg University in Germany in 1927.
When Parsons read theories proposed by Durkheim, Pareto, and Weber, and was later influenced by them, he fused these theories and wrote “The Structure of Social Action” in 1937. Parsons adopted the social action theory and stressed the structural functional approach as the only way for sociology to achieve efficient theory. He stated that personality formation develops out of action organized around individuals, while action...