When explaining social stratification, functionalism
looks to the concept of meritocracy, a hierarchy system which is founded on
ability and achievements. From this, social stratification is necessary. People
are rewarded for their efforts, with those providing the highest social value
gaining the highest reward. This is accepted by the majority and produces a
coherent society which can function accordingly. This system allows people to
strive for a better life., by moving up the hierarchy (Punch et al, 2013).
To begin, functionalism studies how
behaviour is structured – including the roles individuals play within society
which are influenced by the norms, values and rules that govern behaviour. Functionalism
then looks at how this structure works. Here the relationship between different
sections within society are investigated. This reveals the functions of
institutions and the effect in which they have on the survival of the system. Next,
Functionalism looks at function prerequisites, including the idea that
societies have requirements if they are to survive. Aspects of the structure are
then analysed to see how they correspond with these prerequisites. After this,
Functionalism looks at how the various parts of society must have some form of compatibility
with one another if society is to survive. Functionalism suggests that this
integration is achieved through consensus; a shared belief on values. Finally,
Functionalism examines the origin and maintenance of social stability and
order. Social unity and solidarity is produced from value consensus.
argues that society can be broken down into sections, which together form a
complete system. The aspects must be studied in relation to society and how it
contributes to the social system, rather than as an isolated aspect (Haralambos
& Holborn, 2014).
Social stratification is the ranking of
individuals within society. This depends on various factors, like wealth. Each
stratum’s members share a similar identity and lifestyle. Social mobility
refers to whether people can move between social stratums.
Social order is the idea that in each
individual life there is a pattern. Routines allow us to carry out our role
within society, thus allowing society to function. Social order can be
implemented both through law, or through social norms.
Socialisation is when
individuals familiarise with the society they live in. This can be both formal
or informal and starts from birth (primary socialisation), and through life
outside the family (secondary socialisation). Individuals learn the norms,
values and roles which society follows.
Studying large social structures and long
term social processes is called macrosociology or structural theory. Macrosociology
focuses on social trends and forms as well as trying to understand how
individual’s lives are influenced and effected by social institutions. The model
looks at the bigger picture of society it uses facts and statistics – producing
quantitative data as it is numerical. Macrosociology argues that individuals
have very little power over their lives and their behaviour is a result of the
situation which they find themselves in. This is ‘Determinism’.
Studying individual human
behaviour and interaction, along with individual responses to situations is called
microsociology or action theory. Microsociology looks at how individuals within
society influence the social institutions which shape the society in which they
live in. The research conducted is usually carried out on a small group of
individuals such as families – producing qualitative data as it is rich and
insightful. Microsociology takes argues that individuals have power and control
over their lives. This is ‘Free Will’ or ‘human agency’.