A Functionalist View of Stratification.

Essay by suzanna_pUniversity, Bachelor's October 2003

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A functionalist view of stratification views stratification as necessary for a society to function efficiently which enables it to reach its full potential economically and socially. Functionalists view society as a set of interconnected parts which work together to form a whole. (Haralambos et al 1996) Institutions are part of the social system they are a prime contributor to the maintenance of a society. The functionalist view has been criticised, this essay seeks to explore some of these criticisms and give sufficient evidence to support their views on social stratification.

A major functionalist theorist, Talcott parsons (1954), saw social stratification as inevitable as it derives from shared values, which are a necessary part of all social systems, and it is functional for society as it serves to integrate various groups in society. In order for a society to operate well there must be those who are at the top of the societal hierarchy, leaders, who are necessary in order to run anything efficiently, and if there are leaders, there will inevitably be those below them.

The way in which a society is stratified differs from one to the next, but in most Western countries this is similar. The reason being, Western countries emphasise economic supremacy. Institutions shape, through socialisation, what people value and regard as the 'norm,' and in the West it's that which contributes most to the efficient functioning of a society such as the role doctors, lawyers and politicians carry out. Those who perform successfully in terms of society's values will be ranked highly and are likely to be rewarded highly. "If the rights and prerequisites of different positions in a society must be unequal, then the society must be stratified, because that is precisely what stratification means." (Davis and Moore 1998) In Parson's words (1954 cited in...