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2. Talcott Parsons and Analytical Functionalism

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about Talcott Parsons’ contribution to functionalism in sociology, focusing in particular on: (i) Parsons’ efforts to overcome the criticism that functionalism ignored agency through his development of the ideas of personal and interpersonal order; (ii) his devising of a more systematic categorisation of the functions societies perform, particularly his concept of functional imperatives that all societies must fulfil; (iii) his statement that all social systems tend towards perfect integration and criticisms of this.


In this course, Professor John Holmwood (University of Nottingham) explores functionalism as an approach within sociology. In the first lecture, we think about the emergence of functionalist ideas in the work of Émile Durkheim and their influence in anthropology. In the second lecture, we consider Talcott Parsons’ efforts to create a more systematic functionalist method within sociology, and how Parsons sought to overcome the issue of agency within functionalism. In the third lecture we look at some of the criticisms of functionalism. Next, we look at how Robert Merton attempted to create a new approach which could address these criticisms. In the fifth and final lecture, we explore the ways in which functionalism can help us to understand society and politics through the example of feminism and the family.


Professor John Holmwood is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham. He researches sociological theory and issues around education and schooling. His recent publications include (with Gurminder Bhambra) Colonialism and Modern Social Theory (2021), (with Therese O’Toole) Countering Extremism in British Schools? The Truth about the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair (2018) and (as co-editor) A Handbook of British Sociology (2014).

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APA style

Holmwood, J. (2021, August 23). Functionalism - Talcott Parsons and Analytical Functionalism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Holmwood, J. "Functionalism – Talcott Parsons and Analytical Functionalism ." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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