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									Today’s Class

  –   Parsons
  –   Merton
  –   Functionalist approach to stratification
Talcott Parsons (1902-1979)

   Dominance of functionalism mid-20th century
   Grand theory: problem of order
   Definition of social action
    –   Voluntaristic
    –   Subjective
    –   Limited by culture
   Society as a system
The System of Modern Societies

   System of action with 4 subsystems
   Subsystems and primary functions (AGIL)
    –   Adaptation
    –   Goal attainment
    –   Integration
    –   Pattern-maintenance (Latency)
Subsystems and Primary Functions

Subsystem             Function

Social system         Integration

Cultural system       Pattern maintenance

Personality system    Goal attainment

Behavioral organism   Adaptation
Independence of Subsystems

Subsystems are related but independently
  variable – no subsystem is completely
  reducible to any other subsystem.

Example: individual career choice
Parsons on Sex Roles

   Segregated roles in American family
   Asymmetrical relation: functional, but causes
   Functional for occupational system
   Functional for “solidary kinship unit”
   Work and family: “mutual accommodation”
   Functional for spouse relationships
   Strain: prestige differential
Critiques of Parsons

   Too focused on order and stability; ignores
    conflict, inequality and change
   No elaboration of theory through empirical
Robert K. Merton (1910-                 )

   Middle-range theories
   Types of deviance
    –   Innovator
    –   Ritualist
    –   Retreatist
    –   Rebel
   Anomie: inconsistency of means and goals
   Role-sets
    –   Possibility of conflict
Merton’s Contributions to

   Manifest vs. latent functions
   Concept of dysfunction
   Concept of functional alternatives
Stratification: A Functionalist Account
(Davis and Moore)

   Social inequality as necessary, inevitable,
   Need to distribute people into positions
   Not all positions are equal
    –   Functional importance
    –   Talent and skills
   Rewards: material, intellectual/emotional,
    cultural (prestige)
Stratification: A Functionalist Account
(Davis and Moore)

   Highest rewards to:
    –   Most functionally important
    –   Most talent or skills required
   Prestige as reward (not merely outcome of
    material rewards)
Problems with Functionalist Account

   Defining “functionally important”
   Market imperfections
    –   Linking talent and opportunities
    –   Elite behavior (restricting access)
   Ignores dysfunctional aspects of stratification
Dysfunctions of Stratification

   Limits expression of talent  limits society’s
    productive resources
   Provides elite with power to maintain status
   Inhibits social integration (hostility,
    resentment, etc,)
   Limits sense of social membership 
    reduced loyalty and participation
Executive Compensation

   Year 2000: $20m average pay
   Growing disparity: CEO pay as multiple of
    blue-collar pay
    1980: 42x
    1990: 85x
    2000: 531x
   Pay not tied to performance
Pay for Performance?

                           CEO Pay Stock
Company           Years    (Cumul.) vs. S&P
Bank of America   ’96-00   $96m     -34%

Sprint            ’96-00   $218m    -34%

Conseco           ’95-99   $146     -50%
Functionalism vs.

   Problem-solving
   Structural differentiation
   Systems
   Culture
In-Class Writing

 According to Colomy and Greiner, why was
 the Youth Offender System (YOS) created in
 Colorado in 1993? How does their
 neofunctionalist explanation differ from a
 functionalist explanation of the creation of
Class Discussion

   What are the competing views of how to
    handle these cases? Who expresses these
   Do the filmmakers have a clear point of
   What are your opinions on how these kinds
    of offenders should be handled?

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