External Criticisms Of Functionalism

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Internal criticisms of functionalism Robert Merton (1910-2003), an influential functionalist, criticises Parsons’ views, suggesting that Parsons assumes that everything is indispensable when in practice there is a wide range of possible alternatives. Merton also disagrees with Parsons when he assumes that all parts of society are integrated as a whole, and each part has a knock-on effect. Merton argues that it is difficult to see the connection between some parts of society. He would also disagree that there is a ‘universal functionalism’ where everything performs positive roles, arguing that some things are dysfunctional for other parts. The assumption that society is always smooth running is untrue and he also adds that there are differences between the manifest and latent functions. For example, in some tribes such as the Hopi Indians, members will perform a rain dance during a drought. The manifest function is that this will magically produce rain but scientifically this is unlikely to happen. However, the latent function provides a sense of solidarity during difficult times. According to Merton, the manifest function has intentional outcomes whereas in the latent function there are unintentional ones. External criticisms of functionalism There are a number of other criticisms of functionalism. One is that functionalism is not in line with scientific thinking and only explains the existence of different societies in terms of their effectiveness. Marxists would add a
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