Functional Subsystems of Society

Functional Subsystems of Society

Functional Subsystems of Society

Any individual, social system, organization, or social institution which contributes to the way in which society meets one of its functional problems is a part of the functional subsystem that develops in society to cope with that particular problem.

Government is the social institution most directly concerned with the functional problem of goal attainment. It is through governmental pro-cesses that society determines which goals to pursue and which means to use in attaining them. Government is the main centre of power and control in society.

It is necessary that some members of society have the power necessary to force individuals to cooperate in attaining system wide goals, and those with the broadest power over people are members of government (e.g., the President, Supreme Court justices, congressmen).

On the other hand, there are other individuals in society who exercise power and are not members of government. Generals, ministers, business managers, consultants, educators, advertisers, and propagandists have power and use it to influence the goals of society and the means to attain them. This also is true of organizations, such as political parties, churches, labour unions, and trade associations. All of these individuals and organizations are part of the goal attainment subsystem of society because in their activities they mobilize the power needed by society to attain its collective goals.

Just as government plays the central role in the goal attainment subsystem, so the economy has the primary responsibility for the adaptive sub-system. The basic adaptive problem-to adapt human and nonhuman resources so that they satisfy human wants and needs-is solved by economic activity. But the economy is not the only social institution which serves adaptive functions.

The government in its defence programs

The government in its defence programs is per-forming an adaptive function by transforming resources into the form required for national security. The schools also perform an adaptive function by upgrading the human resources of society into a generalized facility to be used in pursuit of many social goals. An educated populace is more effective in producing goods and services in peacetime and in fighting in wartime.

The family plays the primary role in pattern maintenance and tension management. It is the main agency of socialization in society. As children we learn in the family the acceptable patterns of Behaviour and the code of our society. We learn to respect and identify with the basic cultural patterns and social goals of society to such a degree that we are unable, in good conscience, to think and act much differently. The family also plays a part in the day-to-day management of tension. The home is a place of sanctuary for the individual where he can be himself and release the tensions stored up in his interactions during the day in the outside world. Other groups make up the pattern maintenance and tension management subsystem besides the family. Schools, religious groups, and recreational groups bear responsibility for pattern maintenance; and hospitals and other health organizations, as well as recreational and religious groups, play a part in tension management.

The integrative subsystem is not as closely identified with a particular social institution as the other three functional subsystems. Any social institution or agency which functions to achieve solidarity among the members of society is part of the integrative subsystem. Examples in our society are law, police, social workers, journalism, religion, and psychiatry. These agencies and institutions function to "bring into line" the Behaviour of the individual members and groups in accordance with the integrative needs of society. They check or reverse tendencies to deviant Behaviour, and they promote the conditions of harmonious cooperation.


What next? 2015 Existing Impressions