Abstract
Starting from R. K. Merton's now classic criticism of 'holistic' functionalism, i.e. of a functionalism which postulates social unity, universality and functional in-dispensability, the author stresses certain implications of this criticism more than they have been stressed hitherto. Classical and holistic functionalism) from H. Spencer, B. Malinowski, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, etc to T. Parsons, postulates certain total unities (a global culture, an integrated system, etc.) in which each item (existence, actions, structures, etc.) is considered and defined on the grounds of its consequences for the maintenance of the system as a whole; therefore holistic functionalism as a method is, in effect, the study of the consequences of the system on the items that compose it, since each of these items is defined within the sphere of the system and of its integrative functions. Merton's 'neo-functionalism', on the other hand, is remarkable not only in that it takes into account the 'dysfunctional' and 'nonfunctional' consequences of certain items on the system, but more especially because, within the context of functional analysis, it stresses the possible existence of structural substitutes and alternatives of functions, and therefore of latent structures which are foreign to objective functional consequences, as well as being able to deal with unanticipated and unexpected items and their consequences on the system. 'Neo-functionalism', which is susceptible of further development, is not limited to the study of the consequences of the system on its items: it can also reverse this scheme and study the consequences of certain items on the system. Merton's criticism of holistic functionalism therefore implies a broadening of the scientific resources of this method and a renewal of its interpretative scheme, thanks to which functional analysis ceases to appear as 'the* method of explaining sociology as a science, and becomes an interpretative method which complements the analysis of social structures and relations. Seen in this light the concept of structure becomes emancipated and independent of the concept of system and function; whereas, within the framework of universal functionalism, it was ancillary to the concept of function. Finally, latent structures and unconscious structures, conditions of possibility and subjective dispositions are favourable to social structures and social relations, not excluding those that are neither visible nor observable. This analysis, the author notes, is extremely meaningful and has great possibilities of development, especially in view of the structuralism recently to be noted in the human and social sciences: anthropology, history, linguistics, etc.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00201746808601520
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 54,676
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Social Theory and Social Structure.Lawrence Haworth - 1961 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 11 (44):345-346.
Logic Without Metaphysics.Ernest Nagel - 1956 - Glencoe, Ill., Free Press.
R. K. Merton's Concepts of Function and Functionalism.Hugh Lehman - 1966 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 9 (1-4):274 – 283.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Functional Analysis and the Problem of Rationality.Roy Turner - 1966 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 9 (1-4):262 – 273.
Network Analysis: Some Basic Principles.Barry Wellman - 1983 - Sociological Theory 1:155-200.
Are Causal Analysis and System Analysis Compatible Approaches?Federica Russo - 2010 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 24 (1):67 – 90.
Philosophical Premises of Functional Anthropology.Krzysztof J. Brozi - 1992 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 22 (3):357-369.
Social Norms in Artefact Use.Marcel Scheele - 2006 - Techne 10 (1):53-65.
Functionalism.Thomas W. Polger - 2008 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
R. K. Merton's Concepts of Function and Functionalism.Hugh Lehman - 1966 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 9 (1-4):274 – 283.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2009-03-05

Total views
3,852 ( #480 of 2,386,589 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #367,415 of 2,386,589 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes