Functionalism in Merton’s View

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Functionalism in Merton’s View


Functionalism can be said to be the most important aspect in Merton’s ideology, which Merton tried to free sociological analysis from the influence of anthropology by giving a new form. Before Merton, many scholars had tried to explain society on the basis of functional analysis, but mentioning its shortcomings, Merton wrote that functionalist analysis as a modern method of sociological analysis has a promising basis. But it is the least organized. The way the functional was used in the anthropological context, as a result of this method expanded, but it could not fulfill the goal of real explanation of society. In this questionable analysis, Merton actually pointed out from a triangular angle that ” Functionalist analysis really depends on the relationship between husband and data. The weakest of these. Out of the three scholars who have so far, the side of the method has been the weakest. Most of whom did scholars on its theoretical side only in the context of data, there are very few functionalist scholars who presented functionalist analysis analysis.

There are very few such scholars who have explained functionalism up to the relation of functionalism i.e. theory, method and data. Most of them did this. More emphasis is given while some scholars have discussed the method of data. Through this statement, Merton aimed to clarify that sociological thought has not yet matured in the field of functional analysis. Merton not only tried to remove this defect of functionalism, but he also tried to make it more useful and practical by incorporating many new concepts in functionalism. Functionalism presented by Mutton can be understood with the help of three main aspects, meaning of function, D form of functional analysis and assumptions of functionalism.


Meaning of Function 


Merton says that since the early time of functionalist approach in sociology, a confusion had arisen regarding the appropriate term in it. This condition can be understood from the different meanings in which different scholars have used the word function.

(1) A function of function is seen in the form of ceremony and celebration (Function as a Festive Occasion). In ordinary conversation, when a person says that ‘he has to attend a particular function’, then here the English word ‘function’ means the function. (2) Merton says that the word function or function is also used for business. For example, Max Weber and Blunt have used the term function for business. Generally, when economists do a functional analysis of a group, they consider business as the basis. (3) Function or function in political science refers to the activity of a person who occupies a particular position. As a result of this concept, the words Functionary and Official have been derived in Political Science. (4) In mathematics, the word function or function is used to explain the relation of one variable to another variable. When we say that the birth rate of a society is a function of its economic conditions, we use the term function to explain the relationship between birth rate and economic conditions. (5) Function – The ultimate meaning of a procedure. This concept probably originated with biology, in which function refers to a condition in which an anaerobic process contributes to the maintenance of the system of the body. According to Merton, it is this concept which gives a sense of the real meaning of function in society and anthropology. Hahn explained that in sociology, function can be accepted as the functioning of an element by which that element helps in maintaining the social order. In the words of Merton, “Functions are those observable results which make possible the adjustment or adjustment of a social system.” which explain the meaning of the function. For example, use (Utility), purpose (Motive), purpose (Intention), goal (Aim) and result (Consequence) are similar words. It is true that all these words have different meanings from each other but if they are not used in a disciplined manner then they can create a confusing situation in any functional analysis. For example, if we say that ‘the object of punishment is to prevent crimes’ then it may be difficult to distinguish between the purpose of punishment and the function of punishment. On this basis Merton clarified that for functional analysis it is necessary that great care should be taken while using words which have the same meaning as jakarya.




A Paradigm for Functional Analysis 


Merton’s statement that

The need for functional analysis has been emphasized by many social scientists, but there is definitely some deficiency in the discussion of all these. In this situation, functional analysis can be made systematic only when a definite form of it is prepared. It is also necessary to have a definite format of functional analysis so that social facts can be studied in a scientific manner on the basis of a certain criterion. From this point of view, Merton presented a model of functional analysis to overcome the difficulties of functional analysis with respect to certain concepts. The concepts and features included in this format presented by Mutton can be understood as follows:


(1) The Item – The scope of social facts is very wide. The social facts we use for study for functional analysis, according to Merton, they should be called ‘subjects’. In this way, the topics which may be more important for functional analysis, Merton called Social Role, Institutional Pattern, Social Process, Cultural Pattern, Emotions, Social Norms of Behavior, (Norms), Group Organization. , social structure and social control. Merton is of the view that for any functional analysis it is necessary to study the facts related to all these subjects.


(2) Subjective Dispositions – In some cases, the motivations of a person are studied for functional analysis. For this it is necessary to know in advance what kind of facts or data we need to collect in order to study what kind of motivations. Along with this it is also necessary to know how the nature of those facts differ from other facts and how they can be used. This means that the facts which play a special role in society as a motive and purpose, it is necessary to select them for functional analysis.


(3) Objective Conseqences – Merton states that in the functional analysis of a subject, we have to face mainly two problems: First, how is the contribution of social facts known within that social and cultural system. In which the functions of that fact are involved and secondly how to understand a fact by separating the subjective motivation from its objective consequences? Explaining the first condition, Merton said that the results of social processes are qualitative. When the complete form of these results comes in front of us, then it can be understood whether the result of a process has come out in the form of function or as Dys function. In this context, Merton clarified the concept of function by separating it from the concept of non-action. According to you “Functions are those observable consequences which make possible adaptation or harmony in a social system.” On the other hand “Functions are those obvious consequences which reduce adaptation or harmony in a social system”. ”  Explaining the second problem, Merton said that the functions of a process are also not the same in every case. It can also be direct or implicit. In the words of Merton, “Manifest Functions are subjective results”. Those which produce the quality of adaptation in the social system and which are desired and accepted by the persons participating in this system. In contrast, “Latent Functions” are those which are neither intended nor recognized by the general public. In this way, Merton presented solutions to the problems encountered in functional analysis by introducing the concepts of functions, nonfunctions, direct functions and implicit functions.

He pointed out that in any functional analysis it is necessary to know which of the results of the subjects or processes we are studying are functional and which results are obvious as non-functioning. Similarly, it is also necessary to know that when a process starts explaining implicit functions instead of direct functions, then what is its effect on the social system.


(4) Unit related to function (Unit Subserved by the Fanc tion) – Merton’s statement that the subject ‘which we analyze on the basis of function, if that subject or unit does any work for any person or sub-group. If so, it is also possible that it is for some other person or group. Do ineffective For example, if the support given by the government to the private sector may be functional for some capitalists, then the same support may be non-functional for the poor groups. Along with this, it is also necessary for the researcher to keep in mind that what are the types of functions of a unit that come before him. According to Merton these functions can be expressed as psychological functions, group functions, social functions and cultural functions. In other words, it can be said that those effects of any subject must be studied which are the social status of the individual, sub-Groups are clear on the larger social system and on the cultural system.


(5) Functional Requirements – It is a controversial question that what can be the functional needs of a society or group. In this regard, Malinowski and Brown where zoological

While needs were accepted as social needs, Merton made it clear that functional needs should be analyzed in the context of their situation. It means that the work performed by a particular unit can be functional only if it elucidates a desired and useful effect in the context of a particular situation of the group.


(6) Concept of Mechanism – Mutton pointed out that functional analysis in sociology is similar to the study done in physiology and psychology, in which the system of functions of the body or the mind or the clear forms of mechanism. is discussed. This implies that in functionalist analysis, role-segmentation, insulation of Institutional Derands, Hterarchie Ordering of Values, social division of labor and customary Ritual Inactment etc. are those systems or procedures, with the help of which this analysis can be made more systematic. It is clear from this that it is not enough to understand the functions of different elements or units, but it is also necessary to understand the mechanism by which certain units perform specific functions.


(7) Functional Alternatives – While doing functional analysis, it is necessary to keep in mind that the functions that one unit performs, can be performed by another or alternative unit in almost the same way. We call these ‘functional options’. In functional analysis, it is necessary to study these alternatives because the functions which are possible by complementary or alternative elements, their results may be of different nature. In this way, any researcher should do any analysis keeping in mind the diversity of functions arising from these options.


( 8 ) Structural Context – Merton clarified that the variation that arises in the social structure as a result of alternative functions is not unlimited. In this regard he wrote that “the mutual dependence of the elements of social structure reduces the possibility of change to be produced by functional choices.” Many scholars before Merton believed that the elements of social structure were to be produced by functional choices. They are not very effective in stopping change. In contrast, Mutton suggested that all the elements of a social structure are related to each other in such a way that if the functions of one unit are performed by another unit, the social structure itself begins to exert control over them. It means that the function of a unit in the social structure should be analyzed in the context of a particular session.


(9) Dynamics and Change – Explaining the format of functionalist analysis, Merton pointed out that many scholars have come to believe that the nature of social structure is fixed or fixed and that social structure generally has some kind of does not change. Such a notion is very erroneous. In fact, functionalist analysis does not accept any social structure as fixed or fixed. Such ideas were developed by anthropologists for the study of primitive and simple societies, which continued to be used for functionalist analysis in sociology as well. According to Merton, no unit of social structure essentially functions at all. Rather, its effects can also be in the form of ineffective. All such dysfunctions create conditions of tension and pressure in the social structure. From this point of view, for functional analysis, it is necessary to know what are the processes of change that arise when the conditions of stress and pressure are created due to the non-functioning of different units in the social structure. This means that it is also necessary to study the nature and direction of change through functional analysis.


(10) Problem of Validation – According to Merton, one of the main problems of functional analysis is whether this approach can be considered valid in sociological studies. Addressing this problem, he stated that “By functional analysis, we mean only a method by which sociological facts are explained. This approach plays no role in the collection of facts”. That formative analysis does not say that we should be influenced by a particular concept and collect facts. Functional analysis only believes that the facts obtained should be analyzed according to the precautions and rules given in the form of functional analysis.


It is clear from the above discussion that in the functional format presented by Merton,


There are many problems and concepts involved in functional analysis. On the basis of these concepts, the scholars of sociology can do functional analysis of social data in a scientific manner. Merton is considered the ‘leader of modern functionalism’ on the basis of the way Merton tried to find a solution to the problems in this model and on the basis of the earlier mistakes related to functional analysis.



functionalist theory


The word ‘FUNCTION’ was first discussed in the works of Herbert Spencer, but the credit for the use of the word FUNCTION as a scientific concept is given by the French thinker Emile Durkheim in his book The Rules of Sociological Method (1895). According to him, that contribution of any unit of a system, which helps in fulfilling the need of the system, is called ‘function’.] In this the function is divided into two parts-


1.Positive function

2.Negative Function


In religion, where he has discussed many positive functions – discipline, organization etc., while he has discussed negative types of suicide. After mile Durkheim, we find a detailed analysis of the word function in the works of Radcliffe Bran and Moulinowski. Radcliffe Bray has divided the word typology into two parts-





By eunomia, they mean the arrangement of the entity, the nature effect and by dysnomia means the harmful effect.




B. Moulinoskini in his book A Scientific Study of Culture and Argonoutes of the Western Pacific made a detailed analysis of functionalism. Both Brun and Moulinsky scholars have discussed three fundamental beliefs of Typism-


1. Universal Functionalism

2.Functional Unity and

3.Functional Indespensability

Every unit of a social system according to the assumption of universal type. contributes in some way or the other. Therefore, there is no entity which is not cooperative in some way or the other. Therefore all units are functional. This principle is called universal functionalism.

Functional unity means that when all the units of the system are functional, then unity is established in all these units. In this way each unit is cooperative. Therefore, all the units maintain functional unity while performing their functions. Functional inevitability means that when all the units function simultaneously and have established functional unity, then none of them can be removed from the system of the unit. . So each unit has its own importance and hence cannot be excluded from any unit system.




RK Merton:


American sociologist Robert Kingsley Merton has laid great emphasis on functionalist analysis in the sociological world, so he is considered one of the proponents of functionalism. Merton is not only a contemporary of Parsons but has also been his disciple, consequently Parsons’ influence on Merton is clearly visible. In addition to Tolkat Parsons, the influence of Max-Weaver and W.I. Thomas (W.I.Thomas) has also had an impact on Merton. Merton has also accepted the technicality of his analysis while accepting Max Weaver’s ‘Frame Work’ of social action. Similarly, it has also accepted the importance of social situation in the analysis of social events of WI Thomas. Although Merton Sir’s theory of social action and Social Behavior has had a great influence, Merton’s approach in the analysis of social phenomena is quite different. Merton’s method of study is called Paradiom, on the basis of which he has presented the analysis of functionalism.

Functionalist analysis is not a new phenomenon, but we find such ideas in the works of earlier sociologists and socialists. But the credit of bringing this ideology back in the sociological world and establishing it and giving a solid basis goes to Merton only. Merton clearly said that we get a lot of written material regarding functionalism. At the same time, he also said that Functional Analysis is based on Method, Principles and Facts (Method Principles & Facts) in which the weakest path is of the method itself.

Merton not only brought the term function in sociology but also reinterpreted it and in addition discussed other concepts like function and many types manifest and late etc. Before Merton, scholars like Durkheim, Radcliffe Brown (R. Brown), Malinowski etc. had discussed functionalism. Brown and Malinowski discussed three concepts of functionalism. First, every element of society certainly contributes to survival, failing which it will cease to exist. Second, functional unity is found between all the elements and thirdly. No element can be separated. Merton refuted all three of these beliefs by Radcliffe Brown and Moulinowski

Refuting the first assumption of functionalism propounded by him, Merton has written that the way anthropologists have mentioned the practicality of society on the basis of this belief, it is necessary to test or find out its reality. It is true that some unity must exist in every society, this level of integration can be different in Lokna society. This means that the ‘prevalent’ behavior types that are functional in one society may be nonfunctional in another society or group. From this point of view it is necessary that the characteristics of different types of units are definitely understood while doing functional analysis. With the help of this, it can be understood that how and how much the functions of different units contribute in producing social integration in a particular society.

Refuting the second assumption of Brown and Moulinowski, Merton said that it is not necessary that every tradition as an established element of culture must necessarily contribute to the maintenance of society. In other words, it can be said that the traditions which keep providing security to the society for many generations, sometimes or in a particular period either prove to be useless or create a condition of change in the society. For example, in India, the traditional functions of the caste system have become ineffective in the present times and this practice has started creating changes in the social system instead of providing animals. Thus Merton does not accept that the functions of any unit are universal in nature. He states that any element type of culture or social structure can also be functional, but it is not proper to assume that every such element must have some function.

Rejecting also the third assumption of Brown and Moulinowski, Merton has said that it is not that ‘every type of civilization’ fulfills certain social types, such as customs, material elements, thoughts and beliefs. Merton states that it is not known from this phrase whether Malinowski intends to explain the inevitability of typology or whether he refers to the inevitability of cultural elements. The reality is that the recognition of the inevitability of the typology can only be understood on the basis of two interrelated conditions.

The first is that some functions are indispensable because they cannot maintain the existence of society if they do not by their work. This means that in every society there are certain functions which produce the pre-conditions that make up the society. These were called by Merton the “typastic pre-institutions” (functional pre-necessities) of society and based on that he introduced the reference to ‘typastic pre-necessities’. Talking about the second condition, Merton pointed out that every society has certain social and cultural forms which help in fulfilling these typos. Putting this assumption simply, Matten said that just as elements of the same nature have many functions of different nature from each other, similarly the same kind of function can also belong to many units. This implies that Merton presented the inevitability of the type in its addressed form as “Functional-alternatives”.

Merton says that in order to explain the word function, many scholars have treated it in many forms till now. Hence a problem of multiple concepts for one word function has arisen. The word function has been used till now in the form of utility, purpose, result, goal etc. They also say that the concept of function is objective and observable. Giving the definition of function, he has written that the mobility of any unit or element which helps in maintaining this system or helps in adaptation with other systems, then it is called function.

Merton says that every entity is neither always functional nor universal. Here he has criticized the ideas of Durkheim, Brown and Malinowski. It says that in every system there are some such units which try to obstruct the fulfillment of the need of the system or obstruct or weaken the balance of the system. Therefore, such an activity is not called a function but is called non-functioning. In this way it is Merton’s discussion of the word non-working. They also say that the same element can be functional at one time for the system and at other times it can also be non-functional. At the same time, what is functional for one group may be nonfunctional for another, so again they argue against Brown and Malinivsky that not every element needs to exist in society, elements that have become nonfunctional can be removed. Is . On this basis, he has also rejected the recognition of the indistinguishability of the elements.

Clearly, according to Merton, every element of society has both sides. The activity of any element which contributes positively to the system is called function and that which makes negative contribution is called non-function. For example, if religion binds people in any society in the thread of unity, which strengthens the organization of the society, then this is the function of religion. But if religions


If I spread jealousy, hatred and animosity, which results in religious riots, then it is a non-functioning of religion. In this way function and non-function can be explained by many examples. For example, if any organization has a system to give time bound promotions to its employees and if this increases the efficiency of the employees, then the competition between them decreases, then this is its function. But as a result of time bound promotion, there is slackness in the employees and it reduces their work efficiency, then it is its ineffective.

In addition to function, non-function, Merton has also mentioned non-function [Non-Function]. According to them there are some elements in every system which neither try to break the system nor keep its organization strong. Merton has called such elements as useless, such as – purdah-practice. Whatever may have been the functions of Prada system in the medieval period, but it has no functional importance in today’s industrial society. Yet it is prevalent in some lower middle class Muslim families which has no non-functional side. In this way, the work is that which has no effect on the system.

Continuing the discussion of non-functioning, Merton says that when its quantity in the society increases significantly and the authorities of social control are unable to stop them, then change becomes inevitable in the society. Thus, according to Merton, the system changes only when the non-functional method increases.

In the course of his analysis, Merton has again divided the functions and non-actions into two parts – manifest and unmanifest. Merton took both the terms from Freud’s theory of dreams. According to them Manifested functions are those functions which are intended and clearly proved by the members of the society. On the other hand, the latent function is said to be that which is neither intended nor clearly proved. According to them, the latent address gives a new perspective to the sociologists, due to which they become more proficient in research work. Therefore, according to Merton, the task of sociologists is to find out the rest of the hidden secrets of society.

Manifest and unmanifest can be understood with many examples. Merton gave the example of Hopi tribe. They say that the people of this tribe gather together to bring rain and perform some mundane rituals. This ritual does not bring rain, but the disintegrated members of the Hopi tribe gather in one place and work collectively, their solidarity is strengthened. This is no small achievement. This is the hidden function of this ritual. Similarly, the prohibition of close access is valid in all societies of the world today. Its apparent function is that it does not cause jealousy and quarrels for sex in the family. So the family remains organized but its hidden function is that children do not become ugly and crippled by prohibition of sexual relations between close blood relatives.


Thurstein Bevlin said that buying valuables is very popular among the luxury class. The apparent function of buying valuables is that it satisfies our needs, but its overt function is that it serves as an indicator of the high economic status of the buyer.

Similarly, the manifest and unmanifest nature of non-work can also be understood, for example, if workers go on strike in a factory, then its apparent non-function is that it stops production, but if the strikers go on a fast unto death and out of it If one of the workers died and the workers ransacked the factory, then it is apparently unworkable, because no one expected it.

It is clear from the above analysis that Merton has presented a detailed outline of functional analysis. But since the Second World War, Merton’s Code of Functionalism has also been severely criticized and this theory has proved to be weak in terms of popularity. The main reason for this is that in these years many useful methods have developed in the field of sociology – such as exchange-theory, folk methodology etc. Apart from this, functionalist analysis takes many such assumptions whose system needs to be investigated because they cannot be considered axiomatic in any way. Percys Cohen has divided all the criticisms related to functionalism into three parts-





2. Fundamental and


In criticisms, according to Cohen, functionalism promotes objective interpretation. It suggests hypotheses which are not worthy of investigation, at the same time, it examines such a scientific level which is not present in sociology.

In the original criticisms, Cohen says that functionalism over-emphasizes the normative elements in social life. The result is that it reduces the importance of social conflict at the cost of social stability. In functionalism, so much emphasis has been laid on the harmonious nature of the social system that it fails to explain the importance of social change. In ideological critiques, according to Cohen, functionalism promotes conservative biases. The logic behind this is that functionalism emphasizes harmonious relationships between different parts of the social system.


Criticizing Merton, it has been said that he has not been able to decide what role the method of study will play in his theory. Also, Merton’s concepts of function and non-function are quite vague because according to them any result may be functional for one and non-functional for another. In such a situation a clear dividing line between function and non-function cannot be drawn. Merton says that when there is an increase in the amount of unwork in the society, then there is a change. But, critics say that increasing the amount of inaction will not change the society but will lead to the disintegration of the society.

On the basis of all the above discussions, it can be concluded that Merton’s contribution is that he not only brought functionalism from anthropology to the field of sociology but also gave its vitality. Although Merton has been criticized, it is true that functionalism has been a strong ideology in the sociological world in the first half of the 20th century.

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