Understanding the theory of functionalism by emile durkheim

Elwell Rogers State University I have often thought of Durkheim's reputation as being somewhat over inflated in sociology. I have had many arguments with colleagues on this score.

Understanding the theory of functionalism by emile durkheim

Sociology of Emile Durkheim A. Introduction Adams and Sydie begin their discussion of early sociology with a presentation of the sociological work of conservative writers pp. After the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, some writers were concerned with how social order could be maintained in the face of progress, revolution, disorder, and rule by the people.

Early sociology is often considered to have emerged out of this conservative reaction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution — writers such as Saint-Simon, Comte, and Spencer looked on the emergent capitalist society as generally good and progressive, but were concerned about how society holds together given the individualism that emerged and the changes in political order.

Founding the discipline

According to Adams and Sydie, there were three main approaches p. Positivism — society is orderly and rational and social scientists, through careful study of history and the society around them, could develop an understanding of the social world.

August Comte is often regarded as the early champion of this approach.

Understanding the theory of functionalism by emile durkheim

A French writer, he coined the term sociology and considered the scientific study of society to be social physics — an application of the scientific method, used in natural sciences such physics, to the social world p.

Writers adopting a positivist approach consider it possible to investigate the social world and, from regularities and patterns of human behaviour, discover social laws that explain the workings of the social world.

We will not discuss Comte and the positivist approach further at this point, but positivism has been one long-standing influence in sociological theory and practice. Evolutionism — society changes slowly and the process of change includes self-correction to problems and strains in the social world.

Most nineteenth century sociologists developed some form of evolutionary approach to society. That is, societies change, there are stages to social development tribal, primitive or traditional, modern, post-modernchange is relatively gradual although the radical approach of Section III developed a more cataclysmic view of changeand where there are conflicts or disagreements among groups in society, these tend to be corrected through evolutionary forces.

These writers generally viewed later stages as higher or more developed forms of society as compared with earlier stages of social development.

Spencer, Sumner, Comte, and Durkheim all developed variants of this approach. Writers who are not in the conservative tradition, such as Marx and Weber, also developed a view of society in stages, although they were not always so evolutionary in their approach — Marx adopted a view of revolutionary change.

Functionalism — society is similar to a biological organism or a body, with interrelated parts, needs and functions for each of these parts, and structures to ensure that the parts work together to produce a well-functioning and healthy body.

Social Science History Bibliography

Such an approach was adopted by some less conservative sociologists as well. Even today it is common for sociologists to discuss the function of the family in socializing individuals and in helping preserve social order, or the function of profits to help encourage economic growth and a well-functioning economy and society.

While functionalism has been an important theoretical approach, it is sometimes theoretically lazy to use this form of explanation as a substitute for understanding and determining how the social world works.

For example, using a functionalist approach we may not be able to understand why the family is functional for society, why it developed the way it has, and how changes in the family occur.

If the family form is functional, why is it always changing, and why do new family forms appear as functional as earlier ones? That is, Durkheim understood that it was necessary to explain the reasons why particular social structures emerged historically, and if such structures were functional, this required a separate explanation.

Rather than discuss each of the early conservative sociological approaches, we will move directly to Durkheim, one of the major influences in twentieth century sociology. Emile Durkheim 1. General approach Durkheim adopted an evolutionary approach in that he considered society to have developed from a traditional to modern society through the development and expansion of the division of labour.

He compared society to an organism, with different parts that functioned to ensure the smooth and orderly operation and evolution of society.

He is sometimes considered a structural functionalist in that he regarded society as composed of structures that functioned together — in constructing such an approach, he distinguished structure and function. While he considered society to be composed of individuals, society is not just the sum of individuals and their behaviours, actions, and thoughts.Sociology January , Sociology of Emile Durkheim A.

Understanding the theory of functionalism by emile durkheim

Introduction. Adams and Sydie begin their discussion of early sociology with a presentation of the sociological work of conservative writers (pp.

). While conflict theory successfully describes instances where conflict occurs between groups of people, for a variety of reasons, it is questionable whether this represents the ideal human society. Although some theorists, such as Karl Marx, have claimed that growth and development occur through the.

The functionalist perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. It has its origins in the works of Emile Durkheim, who was especially interested in how social order is possible or how society remains relatively stable.

Key Difference – Functionalism vs Conflict Theory Functionalism and the conflict theory are two perspectives used in Sociology between which some difference can be identified. Sociology is a discipline in the social sciences which studies human society and group behavior in society.

In sociology, many perspectives are used to understand human society. The major theory of the origin of patriarchy men dominating society points to social consequences of human reproduction.

In early human history, life was short therefore to balance the high death rate and maintain the population, women had to give birth to many children. Consequently, around the.

Émile Durkheim, (born April 15, , Épinal, France—died November 15, , Paris), French social scientist who developed a vigorous methodology combining empirical research with sociological theory. He is widely regarded as the founder of the French school of sociology.

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