A Functionalist View Of Stratification

1264 words - 6 pages

A functionalist view of stratification views stratification as necessary for a society to function efficiently which enables it to reach its full potential economically and socially. Functionalists view society as a set of interconnected parts which work together to form a whole. (Haralambos et al 1996) Institutions are part of the social system they are a prime contributor to the maintenance of a society. The functionalist view has been criticised, this essay seeks to explore some of these criticisms and give sufficient evidence to support their views on social stratification.A major functionalist theorist, Talcott parsons (1954), saw social stratification as inevitable as it derives f ...view middle of the document...

" Stratification is also justified by functionalists, as being the prime force of placing and motivating individuals in the social structure.Social inequality, as seen by functionalists, is inevitable, it's an 'unconsciously evolved patten of life, by which societies ensure that the most important positions are filled by the most appropriate people, the most highly qualified. (Davis and Moore 1998) Of course this 'blase' view of inequality is highly criticised. Melvin Tumin (Davis and Moore 1998) opposes the functionalist view of stratification by pointing out that the term 'functionally important' refers to the survival value of a social structure. This concept involves the issue of minimum versus maximum survival, that all structures must be judged as positive contributors to the functioning of any society, and to what scale are such structures valued as greater or less important to functionality. For a society to be run efficiently, there will inevitably be some positions in a society that are regarded as higher or lower in status than others are. Tumin points out that inequality is 'antique' and worldwide. But if we go all the way back to traditional times; in a tribe such as the Ndebele of Africa, we see that women were pampered and treated very well by men, simply because their jobs of gathering food goods, berries and fruit, aswell as raising the children and maintaining the home were regarded as the most fundamentally important in that society. If we look to more modern times, people in high positions such as lawyers and doctors are regarded as important people and rewarded in pay, status and 'perks.' They perform fundamental functional roles by maintaining good health in their society; lawyers uphold and enforce the law, prosecuting criminals. These are both obvious examples of important 'survival' roles. Political leaders or country leaders are representatives of the people in their society, nominated to power by the people of society to apply strategies to improve the functioning of society.Tumin (Haralambos 1996) criticises the functionalist view of stratification by pointing out that the opportunity to discover talent in a generation varies with the different resources of the parent generation. In other words, the social class one is born into affects their life chances. This can definitely be questioned in a Western society such as Australia. Wealth may be differentially distributed in a stratified society, but that is not an excuse for inequality. Despite being born into a low class family, one can still attain education due to the welfare systems set up by governments to create equal opportunity. Government schools prov...


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