FunctionalismA. Identifying norms operating in a situation

As a group, agree on a particular everyday situation to be analysed. For example, you could choose to look at behaviour in the classroom, on a bus, in a restaurant, and so on.

Now, on your own, write down all the norms of behaviour you can think of that apply to this situation.

For example, who is meant to do what? What would you never do? How should you dress, speak, move about, respond to others?

Now compare your own notes with those of the other members of the group.
Are there norms on which you all agree? Any disputes?

B. How we are socialised and controlled

Parsons argues that we conform as a result of socialisation and social control.

Make a list of:

  • All the people or organisations that are involved in socialising us
  • All the people or organisations that are involved in controlling us

Do any appear on both lists? What do you conclude from that?

C. Identifying the layers of the social system

Draw Parsons’ model of the social system as a series of concentric circles, with an individual’s actions in the innermost circle, followed by norms, status/roles, institutions, sub-systems and the social system.

Now, in each circle, add two examples from two different sub-systems – the economic and the educational sub-systems – starting with the individual in the centre and working outwards to the whole society.