Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society
Functionalism is seen as a macro-scale approach to society it sees society as a system of interrelated parts or social institutions such as religion, the family and the economy. Therefore functionalism sees society as the human body or organic analogy meaning society is like an organism with basic needs that it must meet in order to survive. This is particularly useful when observing society in order to understand the way in which it functions as well as the way in which all the institutions work together (organic analogy: organs within the body) to sustain society as a whole.
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Other approaches, such as Marxism and Feminism acknowledge that there are inequalities within society which raises the question as to whether functionalism is the most appropriate approach to use when studying society. This is therefore seen as another weakness of functionalism as society has many inequalities which functionalism fails to acknowledge.
Talcott Parsons, a functionalist sociologist, elaborated on Durkheim's work about
society and its functions, he claimed that society is like an organism just like the human body. He argued that all institutions, such as the family and the education system, within society must function together in order to maintain society just as the organs within a human body work together to maintain human life. Parsons also identified three similarities between the human body and society, he claimed that they were both systems within themselves and that all the parts of a body and the institutions within society fit together in specific ways.
Parsons also identified that these `systems' have needs in the...