Posts Tagged ‘functionalism’

17 | Religion: Part 2

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

No sociological analysis of religion would be complete without looking at the role it plays in society and, as luck would have it, this particular chapter examines the role of religion from a number of different perspectives – both inclusive and exclusive – whose main ideas are outlined and briefly evaluated:

• Functionalist
• Neo-Functionalist
• Marxist
• Neo-Marxist
• Weberian
• Neo-Weberian
• Postmodern

Once again this chapter was written (a word I use loosely) for the OCR AS Sociology Specification-but-one, but since just about every other A-level(ish) Sociology Specification worth the name covers this particular area it should be applicable to them in some way.

As ever I can take no responsibility for either the pictures or their captions, for the deceptively-simple reason that They Were Nothing To Do With Me.


14 | Youth: Part 3

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

One area of social life in which the relationship between youth and specific types of behaviour is particularly clear is that of offending behaviour. Young people – principally young, working class, men – are hugely over-represented in the crime statistics and since this series of chapters is linked by ideas about Youth Culture and Subculture it would be useful to explore the relationship between Youth and Deviance in more detail.

In order to do this the chapter is divided into three main sections:

Firstly, an outline of a range of key concepts – the distinction between crime and deviance, how we define youth, how we measure crime, moral panics, deviancy amplification and the like – that can be applied to this area of social life.

Secondly, a section that outlines the evidence, in terms of patterns and trends, about the nature and extent of youth deviance. This section is further subdivided according to social class, gender and ethnicity.

Finally, it looks at how different sociological approaches – in this instance Functionalist, Marxist and Interactionist – explain the patterns and trends in youth deviance outlined in part 2.

While the chapter is specifically aimed at the OCR Youth Culture Unit it’s one that should have general application for any Specification that looks at the nature of crime and deviance in terms of patterns and trends in offending behaviour and how these might be sociologically explained.

13 | Youth: Part 2

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The notion of “youth” as a fairly recent (i.e. modernist) phenomenon leads to the question of exactly why this type of life-stage geminates in the transition from pre-modernity to modernity and comes into full-flower in late-modern / postmodern societies? In other words, what Is the role played by youth culture / subcultures in society?

The answer, as you’re probably half-expecting, is one that largely depends on your sociological approach – and the first part of this chapter is given-over to an outline and evaluation of four broad sociological approaches to – and explanations of – youth.

1. Functionalist
2. Marxist
3. Feminist
4. Postmodernist

The final two parts look more-specifically at gender and ethnic relationships, partly as a means of redressing the traditional emphasis on the central role of white males in (spectacular) youth subcultures and partly as a way of examining post-subcultural, post-racial and post-feminist approaches to understanding youth behaviour:

1. Issues relating to gender expands and applies feminist and postmodernist views on youth.
2. Issues relating to ethnicity addresses the ethnocentrism inherent in some approaches to explaining youth behaviours.

7 | Families and Households: Part 4

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

The final part of the Family chapter looks at “Roles, responsibilities and relationships within the family” through the media of:

• Domestic division of labour
• Power relationships
• Children and parents
• Functionalist / Marxist / Feminist explanations of family roles
• Demographic trends and changes

As with previous chapters I can’t emphasise strongly enough that I had absolutely nothing to do with:

a. The selection of pictures
b. The captions someone decided to add under the pictures.

5 | Families and Households: Part 2

Friday, September 8th, 2017

This part of the family chapter examines the role of family in society through two different and opposing structural approaches: Functionalism / Neo-Functionalism and Marxism / Neo-Marxism.

The content covered, in no particular order of significance, includes:

• Family functions and orientations
• The link between individuals and society
• Family dysfunctions (the “Dark side of family life”)
• The ideological, economic and political roles of the family
• Cultural, social and symbolic capital

As with previous chapters, the same slight caveats apply and they should not spoil your enjoyment of what must, by any yardstick, be counted as one of the most dynamic, interesting and exciting parts of the Sociology Specification.

2 | The Process of Socialisation

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Click to download ChapterChapter 2 builds on the “culture material” in the first chapter by exploring how culture is created in one of two ways:

1. Through the influence of instincts, a largely non-sociological (‘nature’) approach to understanding culture.

2. Through the influence of our social environment, a conventional sociological approach that outlines different types and agencies of socialisation.

More-specifically the chapter covers the process of socialisation in terms of:

• Feral children
• Types of socialisation (primary, secondary, etc.)
• Formal and Informal social control
• Agencies of socialisation (primary and secondary)
• Structure and Action approaches
• Consensus perspectives (Functionalism)
• Conflict perspectives (Marxism, Feminism)
• Action perspectives
• Postmodern perspectives

For those of you who worry about such things the book was originally written for the OCR Specification but since it’s really just a general introduction to culture and socialisation it will cause no harm if students following other Specifications are exposed to the material it contains. Whether it will do you or them any good is, of course, not something on which I wish to speculate.

As with the previous chapter some printer’s marks are visible and a few illustrations that appear in the final version have not been included for the deceptively simple reason that I wasn’t involved in their selection and I can’t be bothered to look in the book to see what they were. That’s probably two reasons, I grant you, but you probably get the drift.

NotAFactsheet: Crime and Deviance

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

I thought it would make a change from research methods to put together a few NotAFactsheets on crime and deviance, so here are the first products of what no-one’s calling a “radical new departure in NotAFactsheet production”.

These three efforts focus on and around Functionalist-type approaches to crime:

D1. Functionalist Approaches | D1. Functionalist Approaches (includes short video) Functionalism and Crime includes Durkheim on the functions of crime, Strain theory and General Strain Theory.

 D2. Administrative Criminology | D2. Administrative Criminology (includes short video) Administrative Criminology focuses on New Right ideas about crime prevention and management and outlines some general social policies associated with this approach.

D3. Right Realism Right Realism outlines the Broken Windows thesis – and it’s critics – in addition to noting a range of social policies that have stemmed from a right realist approach to crime.



Updating Functionalism: Systems Theory

Friday, March 31st, 2017

It’s a fair bet that most teachers introduce “the Functionalist perspective” at the start of a course by using an organismic / organic analogy and as a way of introducing the perspective there’s nothing particularly wrong with this; on the contrary, it can be a useful way to help students understand the basic principles underpinning this general approach.

However, just because something’s useful at the start of a course doesn’t necessarily mean it retains its usefulness throughout the course, particularly when students are exposed to rather more sophisticated treatments of alternative perspectives – interactionism in particular. 

This set of Teaching Notes, therefore, attempts to redress the balance a little by introducing a contemporary Structural Functionalist approach, Luhmann’s System Theory.  

The Notes attempt to distil Luhmann’s complex arguments into a relatively simple form that should be comprehensible to A2 students through the use of simple, familiar, examples that can be used to help students grasp the fundamental ideas (such as using something like Facebook or Twitter as a practical example).  

The Notes also include an overview of Interactionist Network Theory, both by way of contrast and to reinforce an idea that frequently gets lost through an organismic analogy:  the structure of social action.

Seven Functions of Culture

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

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.


Five Functions of Identity

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

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:

  1. Structure: Identities provide a ‘framework of rules’, used to guide behaviour when playing certain roles, that helps us understand our relationship to others.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


A-level Revision Booklets

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

If you’re looking for revision ideas / inspiration check-out this set of AS Sociology Revision booklets produced by the Tudor Grange Academy:booklet


Booklet 1

Booklet 2

Booklet 3


And if you want something to add to your classroom walls, they’ve also produced some basic Sociology posters:






Social Action


Sociology Stuff: DEA

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Istufff you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll tell you a story.

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).


Modernity and Sociological Theory

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

modernity_coverThis is the first part of a two-part series looking at the relationship between modernity, postmodernity and the development of sociological theory.

This set of Notes focuses on:

  1. Identifying the basic economic, political and cultural characteristics of modernity
  2. Relating these characteristics to the development of Consensus and Conflict Structuralism.

Download pdf version of Modernity and Sociological Theory


Family PowerPoints

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

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.


Meritocracy: Putting it Bluntly?

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

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.

Cute Concepts for A-Level Sociology: Reification

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

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.