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Robert Merton on structural functionalism

by: Freddie816

Robert Merton on structural functionalism SOC 102

Marketplace > University of California - Los Angeles > Sociology > SOC 102 > Robert Merton on structural functionalism
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Mertons ideas on structural functionalism, opposed to Parsons
Contemporary Sociological Theory
Class Notes
SOC 102, jepson, contemporary sociological theory
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Freddie816 on Thursday April 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 102 at University of California - Los Angeles taught by Jepson in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 15 views. For similar materials see Contemporary Sociological Theory in Sociology at University of California - Los Angeles.


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Date Created: 04/14/16
    4/12/16  ● Robert merton   ○ Although he was a student of Parsons, Merton distinguished himself by going  against Persons belief of structural functionalism. Merton argued that society was  not as holistic as Parson thought(systems are very loosely integrated and so you  can't make theoretical frameworks of social patterns as serving social functions)  and he rejected the notion that the parts of society work together in solidarity to  benefit the whole (i.e­organ system)   ○ Merton argued that not every social pattern (cultural values, beliefs and customs)  functions to benefit society such as marriage­marriage was viewed by Parsons to  serve the functional of controlling human impulses i.e­sex drive but as we see  today, it is becoming more socially acceptable to remai  nmarried   ell into old  age. Thus society does not need marriage in order to survive.  ■ About 22% of children today do not have married parents  ■ A majority of women remain unmarried  ■ More and more children are married out of wedlock   ● Society also can do well without lawyers, drug laws, physical  strength etc  ■ Other dysfunctional social patterns  ● Industrialization   ● Slavery  ○ Merton further adds that social patterns are not always functional bc they only  benefit the few/function differently for everyone   ■ Slavery only functioned to benefit the south, while simultaneously not  allowing the US to develop (civil war was a manifestation of this  dysfunction)   ○ Furthermore, Merton argued that social patterns are not always functional bc the  needs of the social system and the needs of the individual are not the same  ■ For instance, society needs individuals to procreate in order to survive, but  individuals do not simply engage in sex for the purpose of benefitting  society. Rather, people have different motivation  ■ Religion is a social pattern with the important function of creating and  maintaining solidarity bw individuals, but individuals do not engage in  religious ceremonies in order to benefit society, they do so for a possible  belief in god   ○ Consequences of larger functions   ■ Merton argued that each function had its consequences  ● Latent functions result in unintended consequences  ● Manifest consequences result in intentional consequences  ○ Ie­companies that go off­shore (globalize) do so for their  own benefit i.e to save money (manifest function), but this  results in unintentional consequences (eliminating jobs in  the US)        4/12/16  ■ If companies help others as a result of globalization,  this also becomes a latent consequence   ○ Ie­people go to school to get an education, latent function is  that the self worth of a BA decreases  ○ Anomie   ■ According to Merton, anomie results when there is a disjuncture between  cultural values and structural opportunities (society's definition of a good  life is too high for individuals to achieve)  ● The bigger the gap (bw social values and one's ability to achieve  those values), the greater the anomie   ■ Ex­ US society  ● Our culture places a lot of emphasis on the achievement of money  and material goods  ● We are taught that in order to be happy, we must accumulate  enormous amounts of wealth   ● This poses a problem, especially to the poor, when they cannot  achieve this standard of living (obtain a large amount of wealth)  ● Merton theorizes that this will lead to anomie and will most likely  result in suicide   ■ Reference groups  ● Depending on who individuals identify with (who they want to be  more like), will vary levels of anomie/anomie will vary depending on  who individuals identify with (role model)  ● Merton believed that reference groups are important to  understanding anomie bc people's goals and values are determined  by who they refer to  ○ Ppl set standards of living based on who their role model is   ○ Responses to anomie (5 specific modes of adaptation)   ■ Ritualism  ● Ritualism occurs usually within the poor when people become  accustomed to their way of life (not having a lot) and permanently  lower their standards “Poverty is ritualized”  ● Motto: happiness is found within simple pleasures   ■ Conformity  ● Conformity is usually associated with the middle class when they  temporarily lower their standards, with the expectation that “it will  get better”  ○ Common belief: “if we make small sacrifices now, we will  receive larger rewards in the future” ie­if we work hard  enough now and do not indulge in unnecessary things such  as material goods, we will receive greater benefits in the  future” (resulting from our hard work)   ■ Innovation      4/12/16  ● People may choose to respond violently when they see that they  cannot achieve social standards (the american dream), and revert  to illegal activity such as crime (the poor may choose to steal,  CEO’s steal billions of dollars)  ■ Retreatism   ● Individuals withdraw from society (reject the expectations and the  means of the social order)  ○ drop out or give up trying to achieve the standards of  society   ○ Ex­ the homeless   ■ Rebellion  ● People form groups and engage in civil right activism and demand  equality, against societal values    


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