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Functionalist Theory

Functionalist theory emphasizes that the scientific method can be applied to the study of the social world just as it can to the physical world, and can be looked at objectively (McClelland). It also contends that the study of the social world can be value-free and uninfluenced by the investigator's values. Another emphasis of functionalist theory is that certain needs must be met for a social system to exist, and that the social system works to maintain an equilibrium through the socialization of its members into the basic values and norms of the society. Various social control mechanisms exist in society to restore conformity when the rules are broken, or to segregate non-conforming members from the rest of society.

In terms of obesity, it is not considered the norm of society, though it is rapidly becoming so in America, with more than half the population being overweight. However, obese people are still regarded as 'outsiders' by many and frowned upon and shunned. It is believed by many that people are overweight because they do not have the self-control to eat properly and exercise as they should, and so it is their fault that they are obese. The functionalist social control mechanisms of sneering and gossip are examples of how society attempts o rein in these rule-breakers (McClelland). Obese people are stared at, talked about, pointed too, their every mouthful scrutinized when they eat out. While usually not overtly saying anything, the public makes their feelings known.

Functionalist theory focuses on the individual and shows how their behavior is molded by the broader social forces of society (McClelland). Functionalism is concerned with the way people are molded by society, rather than how they make their own decisions. They see people more as puppets made to fit into the norm or face rejection. This can certainly be seen in the case of obesity: everyone wants these people to lose weight and be more like...

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Functionalist Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:12, February 22, 2017, from