Optionals IAS Mains Sociology: Questions 1 of 503


Appeared in Year: 2013

Describe in Detail


Critically examine the functionalist tradition in Sociology. (Paper-1)


Functionalist Tradition in Sociology

  • Functionalist observe the phenomenon in terms where, in which that object serve the society, because their theory and postulates are universal in nature, having empirical observations.
  • Talcot Parsons was a functionalist and he consider that society has some consensus over norms and values, And these who follow the norms and values then society rewards them, so to get the rewar society should be normatic, conform with functions and system leads to stability of whole society.

    For example- When one prepare for I. A. S with full dedication and honesty in the process in which the rules are decided by society, then the chances of getting rewards are high.

  • All the times, this reward n punishment are not fair enough, they stratify the society in various status and group. ′ The functionalist perspective seeks to explain social stratification in terms of its contribution to the maintenance of social order and stability in society. They look to social stratification to see how far it meets the ′ ′ functional prerequisites. ′ ′ of society.
  • Talcott Parsons, argues that stratification systems derive from common values. Since value consensus is essential, for ‘order, stability and cooperation’ in society, therefore some form of stratification is essential and also ‘just, right and proper’ . The ‘shared value system’ keeps in check, the conflict between hierarchically arranged groups.
  • Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore in an article entitled ′ Some Principles of Stratification ′ , begin with the observation that stratification exists in every know human society. People differ in terms of their ′ innate ability and talent ′ and positions differ in terms of their ′ functional importance ′ for the survival of society. An important function of stratification is to match the most able people with the functionally important positions. It does this by attaching ′ high rewards ′ to those positions. Therefore, stratification system meets the essential ′ functional prerequisite of ′ ′ effective role allocation and performance ′ ′
  • The Functionalist perspective therefore regard stratification systems as a ‘functional necessity’ for all societies necessary for placing and motivating individuals in the social structure. Their theories imply that social inequality is inevitable in all human societies.
  • The ‘functionality of stratification systems’ have however been challenged. The Marxist perspective differs from the functionalist perspective in focusing on divisive rather than integrative aspect of social stratification. Marxists regard social stratification as a means through which the group in the upper rungs exploits those in the lower rungs.
  • Melvin Tumin criticizes Davis and Moore՚s functional theory of stratification on many grounds. Tumin argues that at the outset it is not proper to treat certain positions as functionally more important than others. He argues that some labour force of unskilled workmen is as ‘’ important and as indispensable ‘’ to the factory as some labour force of engineers. There is no objective way of measuring the functional importance of positions. He argued that differences in pay and prestige between occupational groups may be due to differences in their power rather than their functional importance.
  • The second proposition regarding range of talent and the presence of limited number of individuals with talents has also been contested by Tumin. He argues that an effective method of measuring talent and ability has yet to be devised. The pool of talent in society may be considerably larger than assumed.
  • Tumin further argues that social stratification systems rather than motivating individuals can actually act as a barrier to motivation and recruitment of talent … Also according to Tumin, those who occupy highly rewarded positions erect barriers to recruitment. Occupational groups often use their power to restrict access to their services, thereby increasing the rewards they receive.
  • Tumin concluded that stratification, by its very nature, can never adequately perform the functions which Davis and Moore assigned to it. It is only when there is a genuinely equal access to training and recruitment for all potentially talented persons that differential rewards can conceivably be justified as functional. Those born in the lower strata can never have the same opportunities for realising their talents as those born into the higher strata.
  • Michael Young in ‘The Rise of Meritocracy’ has highlighted the dysfunctions of a meritocratic role allocation system. Firstly, members of the lower strata may become “totally demoralized” since those at the bottom are clearly “inferior” . The upper stratum free from self-doubt and whose privileges are based on merit, may rule the society with arrogance. They may despise the lower strata whose members may find such behaviour offensive. This may result in conflict between the ruling minority and the rest of society. Therefore, stratification systems based on “effective role allocation” may on balance be dysfunctional.
  • Research also indicates that, in western industrial societies, many members of the upper strata owe their position to the fact that they have been born into that strata and that they have capitalized on the advantages provided by their social background.
  • Therefore, the ‘functionality of stratification systems’ have however been challenged. However, the functionalists claim that stratification systems are inevitable is substantiated by empirical evidence.