Functional analysis and the problem of rationality

Inquiry 9 (1-4):262 – 273 (1966)
Functional analysis rescued religion from the oblivion to which positiviste would have consigned it, by taking 'society' rather than the individual act as the unit of analysis. The history of functionalism has been a record of increasing concern with such holistic units as societies and social systems. One consequence of this shift away from social action (in the Weberian sense) is that the issue of rationality has become largely redundant. Yet the problem remains: How do we account for 'contributions' to the social system in terms that make sense of the perspectives of social actors? An examination of unit actions as they are understood by social actors suggests that functionalism in fact incorporated many of the tenets held by positivists, and that it makes untenable (and implicit) assumptions concerning the 'objectivity' of the scientific observer.
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