The purposes of this papar are to clarify the theoretical structure and methodological meaning of the functional analysis and lay a foundation for a systematic reconstruction of key terms of this analysis. In this paper, the functional analysis is understood as a kind of system analysis (interaction analysis) which uses a teleological way of reasoning for the explanation of the working mechanism of interaction processes. Then our problems are two. (1) To construct a coherent theory of the system analysis (2) To find a scientific meaning in the teleological way of explanation which has been notorious for its theological characteristics. (1) The key concept of the interaction analysis is that of the “equilibrium”. This concept is first imported from physics into social sciences and mostly explored in economic theory. The equilibrium concept in sociology should be somewhat wider than that in economics. Our first task is, therefore, to discuss how in what sense it is wider than its counterpart in economics. We also discuss about the sociological meaning of the existence theorem and stability condition of the system analysis in sociology. (2) We replace the notorious concept of “teleology” by a cybernetical way of explanation. The functional analysis is a kind of cybernetics which set a assumption that the social structure is forced to change if functional requisites are not significantly satisfied. This interpretation of the functional analysis also pave a way to the theory of social change. Functional requisites are not supposed to be axiomatically satisfied and the dissatisfaction of some functional requisites will necessarily leads to a dissolution of the social structure. This is the essential way of thinking of social change in terms of the functional analysis. We also show a way to a functional theory of conflict using the cybernetical way of reasoning.
1. Why must we ask ourselves wether the theory of functionalism can solve the problem of social change? Every living thing is in the state of moving or changing. Society is not stationary, but changing. If a general theory need reflect the general character of the object, the sociological theory which dose not, or cannot explain the phenomenon of social change is impossible to continue its existence as a scientific theory. The subject of this article, threfore, is to critically study the nature of functionalism as the theory of social change. 2. There is a lot of sociological theories of social change, but they can be divided into two classes, 1) studies of the changes in the subsystem of society, and 2) studies about the change of society itself. And the latter is also classified into 3) studies of quantitative changes. 4) studies of developmental changes, and 5) studies of qualitative changes. As social changes is the change of society itself, the theory of social change must be the study of qualitative change of society. 3. The essential element of sociological functionalism is the way of thinking society as a dynamic equilibrium system of number of interelated parts, and its indispensable concepts are equilibrium and interdependence. Functionalism depending upon the concept of equilibrium, as a rule, focuses on the problem of totality in model-building of social system, and functionalism depending upon the concept of interdependence does on the problem of autonomy of subsystem. Talcott Parsons is a representative of the former, and Robert K. Merton is a representative of the latter. We grasp the growing characteristics of sociological functionalism through the interaction and permeation between the two basic types. Then, we need pay attention to the third intermediate type which permeates and unifies the two. 4. The type 1 studies the organismic and pathological changes of society. The type 2 studies the social changes by community organization movement and social engineering techniques. And the type 3 studies the social changes in the welfare state and at a period of economic rapid growth. Generally speaking, functional theory of social change is analysis of the mechanism which changes society, rather than by which society changes. Sociological functionalism, therefore, does not analyze the naturally and spontaneously developing process of history. It is the study of quantitative change instead of qualitative change.
There are at least two problems which should be solved by functionalism before it produces a fruitful theory of social change. One is to overcome its normative bias. The other is to introduce the category of causality. The methodological basis of the functional theory of social change will be established when it constructs “normism as a methodology” which is expected to solve the two problems presented above. The stress on the idea of integration does not necessarily lead to the negligence of the idea of change. The basic presupposition of the theory of social change of all kinds is a satisfactory analysis of the conditions of structural stability. The traditional functionalism has produced only an unsatisfactory theory of integration. The development of the sociological equilibrium theory may produce a satisfactory theory of integration. The specificatiom of the equilibrium postulate frees the functionalism from the unreasonable bias to integration. The specification might make alive the principle of causality in a new form. The functionalism will lead a scientific theory of social change only after it introduces the category of causality. The functional theory of social change is basically characterized as a theory which explains the stagnation and the change at the same time. The strategic policy of the functional theory of social change is to explain the present form and the change of social structure through the analysis of the conditions of stability. This policy has been realized especially in the functional requisite theory. But these requisites are necessarily the requisites for the system. How is it possible for the functional theory to grasp an independent demand of individual? It is the problem about the relation between man and institutionalization. Now let me introduce the concept of purposive causality. The purposive causality is defined as a causality in which individual motives and intentions can be the drive of change. The purposive causality is dependent on the structural causality in the framework of the traditional functionalism. The methodology of the functionalism has been unable to give a full explanation to a creative character of human action. The structural causality, on its last stage, appears as a true causality only when it is mediated by a concrete action of a real person.
The social sciences, sociology in particular, have aimed to develop an empirically-verifiable body of theory through application of the structural-functional analysis of social action in general. Functional sociologists, whether they be the Grand Theorists or Middle-range Theorists, have therefore concerned themselves with “objective” and “scientific” investigation of phenomena, rejecting metaphysical as well as positivistic interpretations of social reality. While the voluntaristic theory of social action caught the imagination of sociologists articulating the theoretical position of sociology vis-a-vis social idealism, radical utilitarianism and Social Darwinism, a new, though somewhat “off-beat” sociological approach has begun to appear, challenging the theoretical foundation of systematic sociology in general. Ethnomethodology is one of such challenges posed upon against the Orthodox Sociology. Ethnomethodology finds its origin in the work of Alfred Schutz, an Austrian sociologist who wrote a three-volume work titled Collective Papers, in which most of his ideas are contained. His “subjective” approach to social action, tied with his interest in phenomenology, appealed to social scientists in New York and California. Included in this group of ethnomethodologists are Harold Garfinkel, Aron Cicourel, Peter Mcllugh, Marvin Scott and many young sociologists. What these sociologists aim to accomplish may be summarized in the following : 1) in the process of scientific enquiries, a priority should be given to the subjective aspect of social interaction based on mutual understanding and on the accepted “rules of the game”, 2) instead of developing generalized rules arbitarity constructed by scientists, ethnomethodologists, by taking the position of social actors, attempt to understand not only the expressed symbolic interaction but also more subtle, unstated, unpredictable definitions of situations, 3) the ethnomethodologists treat the acting individuals not merely as “actors” but as “theorists” capable of defining the situation, impressing others in ways they desire and to some extent manipulating the given social structure to their advantage, and 4) in this type of observation, it is indispensable for the observer to react with those whom he analyses so as to enable him to identify the processes by which new shared knowledge and group experiences emerge and become sanctioned. In ethnomethodology, however, emphasis is upon culturally unstated social facts, rather than those formally institutionalized or stated. Because of this interest, ethnomethodologists tend to preoccupy themselves with many unusual, off-beat topics such as homosexuality, the social system of gamblers, social interaction in horse racing, etc. They are convinced that orthodox sociology is able to deal with only a very small portion of social reality which appears above the surface while a gigantic mass of unstated social interaction remaining beneath totally untouched. With this approach, E. Goff man attempts to analyse the communication processes which are primarily being “give-off” by the social performers. He uses a dramaturgical approach and cynically examines social interaction in terms of the performance that takes place in front or back of the curtain in relation to the audience. Aron Cicourel, articulating the theory of Harold Garfinkel, attempts to develop the theory-methodology of Ethnomethodology in his recent work by pointing out the theoretical, methodological shortcomings of the conventional survey methods. Ethnomethodology is still theoretically ambiguous and methodologically unclear to many. For one thing, where should we draw a line between ethnomethodology and social interactionist approach?