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Emile Durkheim's Works and Understanding The Concept of Functionalism

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Emile Durkheim was a functionalist and believed that a society functions based on several components within the particular society. Emile Durkheim, applying functionalism, referred to solidarity as “community bonding in traditional societies in which people share beliefs and values and perform common activities” (Carl 12). Like functionalism, the conflict theory also refers to a sort of bonding that is like solidarity; Karl Marx, a conflict theorist, stated that people would likely bond once they developed a sense of class consciousness. Lastly, symbolic interactionism uses the theory that certain groups bond because of their society’s symbols, such as a flag or their language. So, all three of the sociological paradigms are related in that bonding exists in each of them based on certain concepts.

It is important for a sociologist to use ‘sociological imagination’ so that he can view the situation from a sociological perspective, rather than an individual perspective. Sociological imagination refers to being able to have a “…collective understanding of social issues” (Solis-Gadea). For example, if a sociologist wanted to do a study on a group of wealthy individuals within a society, he would best benefit from looking at what sociological factors contributed to the group’s wealth. He should not look at the individuals and leave out the sociological components. By failing to use sociological imagination, the sociologist is only able to see the individuals’ wealth in a biographical way. A consequence of not using sociological imagination would be that the sociologist would end up with individual findings, not sociological findings.

A symbolic interactionist would likely discourage using negative symbols when referring to the homeless population. It would be discouraged because if we refer to the homeless with negative labels such as “alcoholics,” “drug addicts,” “lazy,” or “dirty,” then they are less likely to be able to escape the homeless environment and move up in social class. So, it would have a rather negative and devastating impact on them. Being that they, like anyone else (under the symbolic interactionism theory), are influenced by their societal symbols, they are likely to associate themselves with the particular symbols.

I enjoy Emile Durkheim’s theories on suicide. In general, he theorized that two social forces influenced suicide: solidarity and social control (Carl 7). Whether the solidarity one feels to his/her society is either lacking or overly high, suicide may be more likely to occur. Regarding social control, when there is little hope for one’s future or when social instability is rampant, the likeliness of suicide also increases. Given the theories, suicide is a compelling issue because it can be linked to the impact a certain society (or its forces) has on an individual’s influence to commit suicide. To me, it is very sad to think that someone would take his/her life because of the influence society had on him/her.

Concerning the legalization of drugs, there are both manifest and latent functions of such a law. In my view, the manifest functions are increased revenue, through taxation, and the end of government spending to fund the current “war on drugs.” On the other hand, the latent functions might involve a higher number of people addicted to drugs and increased healthcare costs. According to Robert Merton, “one cannot complete a functional analysis without considering both manifest and latent functions” (Carl 13). It is difficult for me to list any further latent functions simply because they are just that – latent. Latent functions relate to consequences that are “unforeseen or unexpected” (Carl 13).

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Emile Durkheim’s Works and Understanding the Concept of Functionalism. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from
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