Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Critical Theory

Playing Necromancer with Structural Functionalism

Today I’d like to raise an old idea from the dead–structural functionalism. Structural functionalism is the idea that society is rightly conceived as an organism, subject to external and internal pressures that it must adapt to via evolving norms, institutions, and other patterns of behavior. If societies cannot adapt, they collapse, either internally, via rebellion, or externally, via foreign subjugation. For structural functionalists, social structures serve stabilizing or adaptive functions. They seek to identify what those functions might be and to sort out which structures are adequately performing their functions and which are not. Systems of institutions, when well-suited to their functions, combine to produce stability and survival. The goal of our various social adaptations is a kind of sustainability, an imperviousness to outside stress or collapse. Structural functionalist began to fall out of favor in social science in the 1960’s as theorists influenced by the endemic social conflict that took place during that period embraced conflict/critical theories (Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, and so on). My aim today is to raise structural functionalism from the dead, adjusting it to reincorporate the various conflict theories back within its larger whole.

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Are Men Exploited?

It is often argued by feminists that women are exploited in traditional relationships. Economically dependent and doing many hours of unpaid childcare, it’s argued that women do not, in the traditional structure, receive the full value of their labour in exchange for their services, and that the traditional marriage in which the woman does not work strips her of her freedom and independence and raises the cost to any move on her part toward autonomy. However, is it possible to also perceive the traditional relationship as exploitative of the male role? I propose it is. Here’s how.

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“Silences and Exclusions”: How we Waste our Time with Little Things

If there’s one thing that international relations theorists love to do, it’s criticise each other’s theories. Unfortunately, in the course of that noble goal, the distinction between “important” and “unimportant” criticisms is often lost, and sometimes even deliberately disregarded. It is forgotten that our theories are models, that they cannot possibly be all-inclusive without their logical lessons being lost in the chaos, without losing their subject specificity. Consider this example–many theorists have made a name for themselves criticising a dominant theory in international relations, the neorealism of Kenneth Waltz. ¬†Today I’d like to discuss Waltz’ theory and some of its criticisms, and question how helpful or effective those criticisms really are.

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