Publisher description for Dynamic functionalism : strategy and tactics / Michael A. Faia.


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Counter Over the last several decades, functional theory in the social sciences has fallen into disfavor. Alleged to be a static form of theory incapable of explaining social change, methodologically impotent and ideologically tainted, functionalism stands accused of being socially and politically reactionary. In this book, Michael Faia challenges the view that functionalism should be rejected. He shows, on the contrary, that the more developed theories in the social sciences tend (or should tend) to move toward a 'functionalist culmination'. He claims that because functional theories are causal, multivariate, time-ordered, and characterized by reciprocal causation, they are in fact inherently dynamic, demand the highest methodological rigor, and also force sociology to transcend its infamous 'paradigm disputes' by recognizing that the social sciences have already achieved an 'integrated methodological paradigm'. Drawing a sharp distinction between functionality for interests and functionality for organizational survival, Faia suggests that, in terms of the latter, stable population theory and life-table analysis provide ways in which an evolutionary view of society may be restored to a central place in the discipline. He also argues that 'requisite analysis' as a major undertaking of functionalism should be replaced by 'neo-evolutionary' inquiries, emphasizing a social-selection perspective. The central arguments of the book are illustrated by a wide variety of examples drawn from several academic disciplines. These range from the incest taboo to witchcraft, from tenure in the US Congress to duration of marriage, from Malthusian population theory to the Club of Rome world model, from Malinowski on magic to Zerubavel on social definitions of time, from Blau's 'macrosocial theories' to Szymanski's Marxist formulations, and from the alleged deterrent effect of capital punishment to the impending 'sex pre-selection' of children. The reader thus gains a strong appreciation of the wide applicability of the functionalist mode of explanation.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Functionalism (Social sciences) Social structure