Functionalism, Society is a System

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Updated: Nov 29, 2019
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According to functionalism, society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. For example, each of the social institutions contributes important functions for society: Family provides a context for reproducing, nurturing, and socializing children; education offers a way to transmit a society’s skills, knowledge, and culture to its youth; politics provides a means of governing members of society; economics provides for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; and religion provides moral guidance and an outlet for worship of a higher power.The conflict perspective explains various aspects of our social world by looking at which groups have power and benefit from a particular social arrangement.

For example, feminist theory argues that we live in a patriarchal society—a hierarchical system of organization controlled by men.Both the functionalist and the conflict perspectives are concerned with how broad aspects of society, such as institutions and large social groups, influence the social world. This level of sociological analysis is called macro sociology: It looks at the big picture of society and suggests how social problems are affected at the institutional level. Micro sociology, another level of sociological analysis, is concerned with the social psychological dynamics of individuals interacting in small groups. Symbolic interactionism reflects the micro-sociological perspective, and was largely influenced by the work of early sociologists and philosophers, such as George Simmel, Charles Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and Erving Goffman. Symbolic interactionism emphasizes that human behavior is influenced by definitions and meanings that are created and maintained through symbolic interaction with others.Sociological imagination: The application of imaginative thought to the asking and answering of sociological questions. Someone using the sociological imagination “thinks himself away” from the familiar routines of daily life. Another way of describing sociological imagination is the understanding that social outcomes are based on what we do.

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To expand on that definition, it is understanding that some things in society may lead to a certain outcome. The factors mentioned in the definition are things like norms and motives, the social context may be the country and time period, and social action is the things we do that affect other people. The things we do are shaped by: the situation we are in, the values we have, and the way people around us act. These things are examined for how they all relate to some sort of outcome. Sociological imagination can be considered as a quality of mind that understands the interplay of the individual and society.There are six key steps that tend to characterize the scientific method. The first step is the question. This is the part where a scientist proposes the problem that he or she wants to solve. A well-conceived question usually leads to a hypothesis, a potential answer to the question at hand. Sometimes, hypotheses look more like predictions. The scientist predicts what the outcome will be when he or she tests the hypothesis. The scientist’s test is also called the experiment. Experiments are ordered investigations that are intended to prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Important data comes from performing an experiment.The scientist has to make observations of the results that he or she gets from the experiment. An observation is a statement of knowledge gained through the senses or through the use of scientific equipment. Observations are crucial for collecting data. Once the results are in, the scientist must begin the analysis. Data analysis involves comparing the results of the experiment to the prediction posed by the hypothesis. Based on the observations he or she made, the scientist has to determine whether the hypothesis was correct. He or she then sums up his or her findings with a conclusion. The conclusion of a scientific process is a statement of whether the original hypothesis was supported or refuted by the observations gathered.

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Functionalism, Society is a System. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from