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Functionalism working system Essay Sample

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Functionalism working system Essay Sample

As Britain industrialised from the late 1800s forward the prototype of family changed. In pre-industrial times they were called extended families, normally being three generations living under the same roof, they needed to have large families to be able to work large amounts of land. Therefore, when industrialisation began, and everybody needed to move to the cities, extended families were no longer needed, but mobile families instead, one´s that could follow work opportunities wherever presented. The mechanical solidarity within the extended family social structure transformed into an organic organism. The reduction of members to a father, mother, and children fitted society’s needs and was the origin of the nuclear family in a capitalist society.

In 1949 George Murdock, an American anthropologist and sociologist, defined four functions a nuclear family performs, stable satisfaction of sex drive, meaning parents would have a monogamous relationship which prevented conflicts in society. Reproduction of the next generation so society continues, socialisation of the young being the parents who teach the children the shared norms and values of society, and finally, meeting the family’s economic needs where traditionally the father being the breadwinner supported the family while the mother took on the house duties. Later on, another functionalist, Parsons, argued that there are only two irreducible functions that families perform, the primary socialisation of children and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Parents teach their children basic skills and values of society and at the same time support each other’s needs so they return to their workplace refreshed.

Functionalism is a sociological theory, founded by Emile Durkheim, that focuses on the macro-level structure of society rather than the micro-level of everyday life. Functionalists agree that each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society\’s stability and functioning. They believe that society is held together by social consensus, in which members of the society agree upon, and work together to achieve what is best for society. If all goes well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity. If it doesn’t go well, the parts of society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity.

Functionalism uses a consensus approach and sees society as a working system, and the family and interdependent function. But as a Marxist would argue, fails to consider the dark side of the family, e.g. divorce.

Marxism is another sociological theory but as opposed to functionalism, is based on conflict. Karl Marx, the founder of this theory believes history moves through socio-economic stages or paradigms, we now find ourselves in capitalism and previous stages have been feudalism, slavery and a primitive communism. He divides a capitalist society into two classes: the social class, those who own the means of production, and the working class who don’t. The upper class, also called bourgeoisie, exploit the proletariat (the working class) for their labour.

The bourgeoisie own the means of production but cannot do all the work themselves, so they hire workers, the products that the workers make are sold by the the bourgeoisie to earn a profit. The bourgeoisie kept the difference between the cost of production and the cost of purchase for themselves and this was called surplus value. One of many things, including the role of the family in a capitalist society, Marx criticised.

Marxists argue that the family exists to serve the needs of capitalism, and that Murdock fails to consider exploitation and conflict (considering the family is part of the proletariat). Marx identified several functions of the nuclear family in a capitalist society.

He believed humans, prior to slavery, lived in a primitive communism, where everything was shared including their sexual relationships for the benefit of the clan, but as the forces of production developed so did private property, and the need for patriarchal monogamous family developed, because fathers wanted to make sure the inheritance went to his heirs, rather than sharing like a communist society.

The children born are socialised into hierarchy making them believe being subordinate to power is a norm. Parents are like a petty bourgeoisie and the children a petty proletariat. This causes a fake class consciousness.

From a Marxist point of view the nuclear family also serves as a haven for the workers. They go home to a warm bath and their suffering from work is soothed, having a nice home, wife and children keeps them content and the exploitation of capitalism is neglected (Eli Zaretsky). Finally, family is also described as a unit of consumption, they are the main target of advertisement, families spend the most money on cleaning products, clothes, food, furniture…etc. They aim to confront families via consumption, the more stuff you own the richer and better you are.

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