Posts Tagged ‘functionalism’
As you may have noticed I’m quite attached to the idea of lists, so this second “list post” (did you see what I did there?) should come as no surprise. Nor should it be surprising that the list focuses on functions. Again. I can’t really explain why there’s so many Functionalist lists – perhaps they just really like them?
Anyway, if you’re looking at the concept of culture – what Fisher (1997) calls “shared behaviour…that systematises the way people do things, thus avoiding confusion and allowing cooperation so that groups of people can accomplish what no single individual could do alone” – Mazrui (1996) has identified seven functions culture performs for both societies and individuals.
A great deal of discussion about identity at a-level can be fairly abstract and concerned with the mechanics of construction – how and why, for example, certain identities are created and assumed. In the midst of all this some relatively simple questions sometimes get obscured – an idea addressed by Adams and Marshall (1996) when they suggest five functions of identity; here the focus on what identity does for the individual and, by extension, society, ‘rather than how identity is constructed’ – and we can use a relatively simple education example to illustrate these functions:
- Structure: Identities provide a ‘framework of rules’, used to guide behaviour when playing certain roles, that helps us understand our relationship to others.
- Goals: We develop a sense of purpose by setting goals for our behaviour. A ‘student identity’, for example, involves the desire to achieve goals like educational qualifications.
- Personal control: Identities provide a measure of ‘active self-regulation’ in terms of deciding what we want to achieve and how we plan to achieve it. An A-level student, for example, understands the need to take notes to help them remember the things they might be tested on in an exam.
- Harmony: When adopting a particular identity (such as teacher or student) we have to ensure the commitments we make (the things others expect from us) are consistent with our personal values and beliefs. A teacher or student who sees education as a waste of time is unlikely to be able to successfully perform this particular role.
- Futures: Identities allow us to ‘see where we are going’ in terms of likely or hoped-for outcomes (what we want to achieve). A student identity, for example, has a future orientation: the role may be performed to achieve the goal of going to university, which requires the passing of A-level exams.
And if you want something to add to your classroom walls, they’ve also produced some basic Sociology posters:
A long, long, time ago, when the Internet was still young, there existed a web site, created by Mark Peace, called Sociology Stuff. This web site specialised in producing high quality sociology stuff (hence the name. Probably. I’m guessing) for a few years before Mark got bored or went off to do a PhD or something and the site just disappeared, along with all the stuff it contained. Which was a shame.
Luckily, someone who shall be nameless (but we’ll call “Chris” because that’s actually his name) saved a lot of this stuff onto one of his many hard drives and forgot about it. Either because he was Very, Very, Busy (the official version). Or because he was just a little bit jealous and wanted to keep all the Stuff for himself (the version I’m leaning toward).
This set of Notes focuses on:
- Identifying the basic economic, political and cultural characteristics of modernity
- Relating these characteristics to the development of Consensus and Conflict Structuralism.
As the frequent reader of this blog (“Hi”) well-knows, I collect a lot of stuff on my travels around the web and I store it safely away for times such as this – when I’ve got a blog post to write and nothing to write it about (or at least nothing that takes the minimum amount of effort for the maximum amount of gain).
So, here I find myself desperately searching one of my seven hard drives (you read that correctly. I collect hard drives. Everyone should have a hobby and mine just happens to be hardware), for something and my eager gaze fell upon these lovelies – a set of six PowerPoints created by Danielle Ord (and apparently modified by Carole Addy), neither of whom I know but if I did I’d give them the credit they deserve.
The recent public spat between Chris Bryant MP and singer-songwriter James Blunt about the “over-representation” of rich, white, males in the Arts provides a neat and interesting backdrop to the concept of meritocracy.
Is it just a question of “cream rising to the top” – or does it involve more-complex ideas about inequality and privilege?
If you want to take things a little further, the article can also be used to consider Functionalist (Davis-Moore thesis) and Neo-functionalist (Saunders) arguments and refutations.
Reification is similar to the idea of anthropomorphism (giving human qualities to animals. Even if you’ve never heard of the word you’ll be familiar with what it involves from the thousands of YouTube videos, featuring cute cats and dotty dogs, that clog-up your Facebook feed. Also, every Disney cartoon that features talking mice, ducks and assorted farmyard animals).
The error of reification, however, involves attributing human characteristics to anything that is not human – and this makes it especially useful in some areas of Sociology, particularly those that talk about social structures in human terms.
It’s a particularly useful concept to apply when you want to criticise Functionalist perspectives that talk about social institutions having “needs” and “purposes” – such as the “purpose” of the education system being to satisfy the “needs” of the workplace for differentiated individuals.
The beauty of this concept for both AS and A2 students is that you can introduce it as a quick, easy and very effective way of introducing high-value evaluation into exam answers.