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Functions and System Theory

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yourmum
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Apr 27 2012 08:31
Functions and System Theory

http://ruthlesscriticism.com/function.htm

Sociologists teach: the function functions!
[...]
They have scaled the summits of functional nonsense and report everything they see from up there: it is a function – if it functions. This is not at all kept quiet, by the way, but is expressed self-confidently:

“The function of any recurring activity [a striking subject], such as the punishment of crimes ... is the role they play in the whole of social life, and thus the contribution it provides for the preservation of the structural continuity.” (Fischer, Encyclopedia Sociology, p. 320)

In this brilliant scientific performance, a) a thing – as already exhibited several times before – is from the start immediately thrown together with its function, but to announce about this b) the essential information that its service is taking place, giving a valuable clarification about the standpoint of sociological reasoning. Whatever it may be – “any [!] recurring activity” – the science of society has nothing but an interest in its functionality, and sells this in mass produced tautologies, according to the model: “The function is that the function functions,” as value-free science.
[...]
PS: The objection that nevertheless the sciences talk not only about functionality, but also a lot about dysfunctionality, that this is also a criticism of the function concept, is unfortunately not correct. The discovery of a dysfunction does not shelve the error of functional thinking, but continues it – negatively.

RedHughs
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Apr 27 2012 19:38

I was hoping this would have some relation to mathematics. I am disappointed.

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Bewildered. Des...
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Apr 29 2012 03:55

Functionalism is just one paradigm in sociological theory. Durkheim has unfortunately been appropriated by conservatives while it was agreed that a lot of his ideas were rather more progressive. Talcott Parsons was the functionalist par excellence. In his theory structure comes first, followed by analysis of the functions that make that system possible. In this way, he mistakes effects as causes. His theories have been almost entirely discredited however. He has been attacked from all sides - Marxists, feminists, symbolic interactionists, critical theory, post-structuralists, postmodernists, etc etc. There is also a good argument that his take on social systems goes a long way in explaining USA foreign policy since WWII (Callinicos).

Functionalism only came about because of the unfortunate comparison of natural systems with social systems. The analogy is that society is a holistic entity made up of various 'organs' that perform functions that allow that system to reproduce itself over time. It's obviously rubbish because of the range of conflicting values inherent in all societies except for those with a 'primitive' mechanical solidarity (to use Durkheim).

All I'm saying is, this is something that sociology teaches, but only to point out how reification of social systems allows ideologies to reproduce themselves. Then again, some people get a hard-on for Parsons, but they're fools.

Harrison
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Apr 29 2012 13:15

btw there is this thread from a while back.
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/cybernetic-communism-what-democratic-forms-will-working-class-create-14042011

Harrison
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Apr 29 2012 13:15

[accidentally posted twice]

yourmum
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Apr 30 2012 09:52

@Bewildered: I think the Functionalist of all Functionalists is still Niklas Luhmann (which happened to be a student of Parsons).

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Apr 30 2012 10:46

I'm not familiar with Luhmann's work. (Can anybody be familiar with it ? haha).

The only functionalist I come close to sympathising with is Merton. Reading Parsons makes me want to claw my face off. And it's written in English !