One theory that I am still a little confused on is British Structural Functionalism. I have mixed thoughts about this theory, too. I found it interesting to learn about the ideas of structure and agency. Looking at it through the example of criminals, I found this to be an easier thing for me to understand. I believe people are not born bad (agency) but are products of their society (structure). We live in a society that still blames certain people for the negative events that occur. I believe people develop the way they do based on the environment they grow up in. This point of view can be a little problematic, though. Just because one person from a society grows up to be bad, does not mean every other person from that society is bad. Poverty stricken societies tend to have this connotation that they are frilled with crime and people who do bad things just to do bad things. People in richer communities are just as likely to develop into “good” or “bad” people as someone in a lower income community. I believe social structure has a lot to do with how people develop, but it is not the only factor in what makes people who they are.
Another part of Structural Functionalism that I do not necessarily agree with is the impression it gives that there can be a good and/or perfect system. I do not think there is a type of government or leadership that would be completely and entirely satisfactory to EVERYONE. No matter how many times or ways people have tried to create the “perfect world,” someone always ends up unhappy. People have their own ideas and motives. That is part of what makes humans so fascinating. I do not think there will ever be a “perfect” society. It would be completely impossible to keep everyone happy and everything perfect. It can be argued that the word “perfect” is relative. What one person considers perfect may not be what someone else does.
Structural Functionalism also ignores conflict. The idea that conflict does not drive a system can be taken different ways. To some degree, I think I agree with that because people do typically fight with each other just to fight. I do, however, feel that people who have different beliefs or wants than other people and that may lead to conflict. I do not think conflict leads a system because I feel that it is usually stemming from an individual.
I also found it interesting to learn about ‘avoidance relationships.’ I heard about things like that, but I had never given it much thought. We are fortunate enough to live in a society where we can talk to and be around anyone we choose. It sounds almost old fashioned to think that people live in societies were one person in a family must avoid someone else in the same family. I was interested to hear about societies where women live with their husband’s family but cannot eat or sometimes speak to their father-in-law.
I am still not sure I completely understand British Structural Functionalism, but I am interested in learning more. This theory bring ideas that I had not thought about in depth, but I am glad I had the opportunity to learn some about it.