Assess the strength and weaknesses of the functionalist approach to society. (33 marks) Functionalism sees society as a whole rather that in parts as it has a macro-scale approach to society. This means that they see society as an organic analogy which means they see all institutions working together as organs do in a body. The organic analogy also shows that it is used to sustain the body and society as a whole. As functionalism is macro-scale, it could miss crucial groups and factors that are small such as tribes and gypsies. The un-acknowledgment of these groups could leave sociologists lacking important information about the functions of society which may be seen as a weakness.
He also commented on the system needs the two have such as nutrition and socialisation. His analogy helps sociologists understand how to maintain society in a healthy way, which is seen as a strength of the functionalists approach. Parsons also identified four needs of society. He claimed society needs adaptation to meet the material needs of society. He also claimed that society needs goal attainment and this is met through politics who work towards improving society. Integration is also identified as a need as it shows how the different institutions work together to try and remove conflict. Latency is the last of the identified needs as it shows how people deal with problems by turning to institutions such as religion.
Other criticisms of functionalism is that it explains effects before the cause by claiming children need to be socialised so the family exists, which means that functionalisms may not be used to explain society properly. Marxists also say functionalist fail to explain conflict and change within society as it is shown as harmonious. Feminists and Marxists say exploitation and inequality exist in many forms and that functionalism failed to acknowledge this meaning its views are outdated, which shows flaws in their approach and is therefore a weakness. In conclusion, the functionalist approach has many strengths and weaknesses about societyâs functions. Strengths include its basic explanation of needs and functions of society, while is weaknesses are that it doesnât acknowledge exploitation and inequality within society. So, overall, I see this as a balanced argument.