Functionalist Theory

  1. Functionalist Theory

    Social science researchers who are functionalists assume that the driving force behind all social life is to continue to operate and function efficiently; that is to support the status quo of a given society. They believe that social change is dysfunctional unless it occurs in a gradual, evolutionary manner. It is believed that society and the social institutions in it function efficiently when the following needs are met by:
  • Teaching people the system’s basic values and rules they have to live by.
  • Establishing cohesive social relationships and bringing people together
    (i.e., through sport).
  • Teaching what goals in life and society are important and how to achieve
    these goals.
  • Responding to social and environmental changes that are occurring outside
    the system/society while maintaining equilibrium within the system.
    The research questions that functionalists seek to answer are affirmative in nature. Examples include: What is the relationship between sports participation and the development of good moral character? Can sport and physical activity foster social integration of various groups? What is the relationship between sport participation and achievement motivation? Can sport participation build character? Most people would answer these questions with a resounding YES.
    Weaknesses: Functionalist theory has several limitations. First, theorists exaggerate about the positive effects sport, fitness, and physical activity have on people who are involved, while the dysfunctional parts of sport and the social system are eliminated or not acknowledged. For example, the statement that “sports builds character” is used in the promotion of sporting activities. A failure of character building (e.g., an athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs) is solely attributed to the athlete’s personal failure rather than a combination of internal and external pressures.
    Another weakness of the functionalist thinking is the assumption that the needs of all individuals in society are the same; differences are not accounted for. The assumption that everyone has equal access to sports, fitness, and physical activity is simply a myth. It ignores the sociocultural reality where research has clearly shown differences when it comes to gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, (dis-) ability, the environment, and more.
    The third major limitation of the functionalist theory is the ignorance of the fact that sport - fitness - physical activity are the creation of people, and thus, they can be changed. However, since functionalists believe that there are no major downsides to sport - fitness - physical activity and how they are organized, they insist that no change is needed and that the system works well for everyone involved. “This causes us to underestimate the existence of differences and conflicts of interest within a society and to ignore cases in which sport benefits some groups more than others” (Coakley, 2004, 40). Chapters 6, 7, and 8 in this book will speak to these inequalities existing not only in the North American society but in the global world of sport, fitness, and physical activity.
Functionalist Theory Functionalist Theory Reviewed by mabelinter on avril 02, 2020 Rating: 5

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