Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

 

The Functional School of Law

Nnamdi Ebo 2Lawyer Zone  | By Nnamdi Ebo | The Functional School of Law.

The Functional School.

The functional school of theorists’ type of concept is generally called Structural functionalism,87 88 or in many contexts simply functionalism. It is regarded as a broad perspective in sociology which sets out to interpret society as a structure with interrelated parts. Functionalism addresses societal issues in terms of the function of its constituent parts and configuration; ie. norms, native law and customs, traditions and institutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as “organs” that work toward the proper functioning of the “body” as a whole. Talcott Parsons described “functionalism” as a particular stage in the methodological development and advancement of social science, rather than a specific school of thought. The functionalist approach was implicit in the thought of the original sociological positivist, Auguste Comte, who stressed the need for cohesion after the social malaise of the French Revolution. Functionalism shares a history and theoretical affinity with the empirical method. Jean-Jacques Rousseau a French philosopher and writer believed that the natural goodness of man was warped by society; his ideas influenced the French Revolution. Sociology draws firmer attention to those institutions unique to industrialized capitalist societies like the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Japan etc.

Émile Durkheim

Durkhein’s structural functional approach to theoretical functionalism can be applied to societal groups in Nigeria. According to Durkheim, most stateless and “primitive” (correction): I prefer non-industrial societies, lacking strong centralized institutions (e.g. the Ibos of pre-colonial Nigeria) are based on an association of corporate-descent groups. Structural functionalism postulates that the basic building block of society is the nuclear family (or the extended family system of the pre-colonial Ibos), and that the clan (or kindred group) is an outgrowth, not vice versa. Durkheim was concerned with the question of how certain societies maintain internal stability and survive over time. He proposed that such societies tend to be segmented, with equivalent parts held together by shared values, common symbols, culture, language and tradition. Durkheim maintained that many parts function together to sustain the whole and argued that complicated societies are held together by organic solidarity. Functionalism claims that society constitutes a separate “level” of reality, distinct from both biological and inorganic matter. Explanations of social phenomena had therefore to be constructed within this level, individuals being merely transient occupants of comparatively stable social roles. The central concern of structural functionalism is a continuation of the Durkheimian task of explaining the apparent stability and internal cohesion needed by societies to endure over time.

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  1. 87. It is in Radcliffe-Brown‘s specific usage that the prefix ‘structural’ emerged
  1. 88. http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/function.htm Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences; The University of Alabama, USA: Anthropological theories.

Societies are seen as coherent, bounded and fundamentally relational constructs that function like organisms, with their various parts (or social institutions) working together in an unconscious, quasi-automatic fashion toward achieving an overall social equilibrium. All social and cultural phenomena are therefore seen as functional in the sense of working together, and are effectively deemed to have “lives” of their own. They are primarily analyzed in terms of this function. The individual is significant not in and of himself but rather in terms of his status, his position in patterns of social relations, and the behaviors associated with his status. The social structure, then, is the network of statuses connected by associated roles. Émile Durkheim must have had the pre-colonial Ibos in the Southeastern part of Nigeria in his mind when he postulated his theories of functionalism. It is not on record that he sojourned to Africa nay Nigeria in his time.

Structural functionalism reached its height in the 1940s and 1950s, and by the 1960s was in rapid decline. By the 1980s, its place was taken in Europe by more conflict-oriented approaches, and more recently by ‘structuralism’. Some of the critical approaches gained popularity in the United States. Herbert Spencer, a British philosopher famous for applying the theory of natural selection – (a natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to survive in the environment) – was in many ways the first true sociological functionalist. He wrote the treatise – Principles of Sociology (1874-96). Spencer was also regarded as a political sociologist and he recognized that the degree of centralized and consolidated authority in a given polity could make or break its ability to adapt. In other words, he saw a general trend towards the centralization of power as leading to stagnation and, ultimately, pressure to decentralize. He argued that all societies need to solve problems of control and coordination, production of goods, services and ideas, and, finally, to find ways of distributing these resources. According to Spencer, the kinship system is the dominant structure. As many scholars have noted, all institutions are subsumed under the kinship organization; but with increasing population (both in terms of numbers and density), problems emerge with regards to feeding individuals, creating new forms of organization and coordinating, controlling various social units and developing systems of resource distribution.

Lawyer zoneTalcott Parsons

His starting point, accordingly, is the interaction between two individuals faced with a variety of choices about how they might act, choices that are influenced and constrained by a number of physical and social factors. Parsons later developed the idea of roles into collectivities of roles that complement each other in fulfilling functions for society. Some roles are bound up in institutions and social structures (economic, educational, legal and even gender-based). These are functional in the sense that they assist society in operating and fulfilling its functional needs so that society runs smoothly and peacefully. Socialization is supported by the positive and negative sanctioning of role behaviors that do or do not meet these expectations. A punishment could be informal or formalized, through institutions such as prisons and mental homes. If these two processes were perfect, society would become static and unchanging, and in reality this is unlikely to occur for long.

Accordingly, individuals in interaction with changing situations adapt through a process of “role bargaining.” Once the roles are established, they create norms that guide further action and are thus institutionalized, creating stability across social interactions. Where the adaptation process cannot adjust, due to sharp shocks or immediate radical change, structural dissolution occurs; new structures and a new system must be formed or society dies. This model of social change has been described as a “moving equilibrium,” and emphasizes a desire for social order. Thus it can be seen that change can occur internally or inside the society through either innovation or rebellion. It is true that society will attempt to control these individuals and negate the changes, but as the innovation or rebellion builds momentum, society will eventually adapt or face dissolution or extinction.

Critique: In the 1960s, functionalism was criticized for being unable to account for social change in world societies (and was often called consensus theory). In Africa, dictators where springing up with alacrity as if it was a vogue. Another criticism describes the ontological argument that society can not have “needs” as a human being does, and even if society does have needs they need not be met. A further criticism directed at functionalism is that it contains no sense of agency,89 that individuals are seen as puppets, acting as their role requires. Further criticisms have been leveled at functionalism by proponents of other social theories, particularly conflict theorists, Marxists, feminists and postmodernists. Conflict theorists criticized functionalism’s concept of systems as giving far too much weight to integration and consensus, and neglecting independence and conflict. Marxism which was revived soon after the emergence of conflict theory criticized professional sociology (functionalism and conflict theory alike) for being partisan to advanced welfare capitalism. Feminism started rising as functionalism waned and it attempted a radical criticism of functionalism. It believed that functionalism neglected the suppression of women within the family structure and the society.

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  1. 89. In philosophy and sociology, Agency is the capacity of an agent to act (e.g. in a community or country). In philosophy, the agency is considered as belonging to that agent even if that agent represents a fictitious character, or some other non-existent entity. Human agency is the capacity for human beings (dictators) to make choices and to impose those choices on their hapless subjects. Africa is a casestudy; Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire, Gnassingbe Eyadema’s Togo, Marcias Nguema’s Equitorial Guinea, Idi Amin’s Uganda

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Legal Method . Book CoverCulled from: Legal Method  | Author: Nnamdi Ebo  |  Published by LawLords Publications  |  ISBN: 978-978-49827-9-6  | 1st Edition 2012
Buy the book, Legal Method  |  Click  Bookshop
Nnamdi Ebo | [email protected]  |  © 2014 Nnamdi Ebo . All Rights Reserved

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