Essay by suesue36University, Master's April 2003

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. Functionalism

Functionalists see shared norms and values as being fundamental to society. They focus on social order based on understood agreements and view social change as occurring in a slow and orderly fashion. Their primary concern is with large-scale social structures and institutions of society, their interrelationships and their constraining effects on actors.

Functionalism assumes that society is a system whose various sections work together to encourage balance. It assumes that all aspects of society have a certain function. Under functionalism, it would be hard for society to operate if any one of the parts failed to function properly. A functionalist views society as being like a machine and sees society as a group of institutions. A social institution is any place where there is a set of rules for behavior. Well-known examples include churches, colleges, and marriage. To the functionalist, each institution has it's own place in sustaining society.

Talcott Parsons clearly illustrates this functionalist way of looking at society with his AGIL system. In this system, functions are complex activities that are aimed at meeting a need or the needs of a system. Parsons uses this definition to say that there are four functional imperatives that can be attributed to all systems: A is for adaptation; G is for goal attainment; I is for integration; and L is for latency pattern maintenance.

Parsons AGIL model represents the four basic functions that all social systems must perform if they are to persist:

1.Adaptation: the problem of acquiring sufficient resources.

2.Goal attainment: the problem of setting and implementing goals.

3.Integration: the problem of maintaining solidarity or coordination among the subunits of a system.

4.Latency: the problem of creating, preserving, and transmitting the system's distinctive culture and values.

In terms of the larger society, the organizational...