Functional approach is also known as Davis and Moore theory. The Functional Approach starts with premise that every part of society contributes to the maintenance of the whole society. Thus it is interested in the need of all societies for stability, harmony and integration and it seeks to find out how parts of society such as the system of stratification fulfill this need.
It must be distinguished from the approaches of Marx and Weber which may be called a conflict approach where societies are divided into group that have a conflict of interests. The Functional Approach emphasizes that the whole society is cohesive and integrated by a consensus (agreement, unanimity) of values. It is necessary to find out how stratification serves the need of cohesion and integration of society.
Davis and Moore gave the function of stratification in the form of four points.
1. In every society some positions are more important than the others.
2. In every society there are some people who are more able than others.
3. The more able people must be adequately motivated and trained to occupy the most important positions.
4. It is necessary to establish a system of rewards in order to motivate the most able people to undergo the training necessary to fill the most important positions the reward will consist of wealth, power or prestige and in this way some groups will have more of this than others. A system of rewards leads to a system of stratification.
In other words, Davis and Moore insist that stratification is necessary so that the most able people in society occupy the most important positions. This is the function of stratification and it is because it fulfils such a vital function that its universal stratification is inevitable.
Tumin’s criticism of Functional Approach
Tumin criticizes each of the points of the Davis and Moore theory.
1. It is not possible to say that some positions are more important than others. It is necessary to make a value judgment if one insists that the position of an engineer is more important than that of a worker. If the survival of a society is in question then it needs both and so both are equally important.
2. It is difficult to say who are the table and qualified people in the society because the system of stratification itself insures that those who are more privileged also appeared to be the most able and most qualified. The deprived simply do not have the chance to acquire the abilities and qualification necessary and so stratification acts as a barrier against the discovery of able people.
3. It is wrong to say that able people have to be motivated to undergo a long period of training. It is said that their training involved making two kinds of sacrifice for which they have to be motivated. The first sacrifice is the cost of training itself which they have to bear and the second sacrifice is the loss of earning while they undergo training. There is no need to be motivated for this because the cost of training is borne by the parents and loss of earnings can be made up in the first few years of their job.
4. Giving the rewards to the more able is not the only way to motivate them because it is possible that they will be motivated by greater job stratification or the spirit of public service. In fact giving rewards to some and depriving others has dysfunctional consequences and not always produce stability and harmony in the society. It leads to conflict and does hostility between groups and society and may even lead to disintegration of society.
Stratification does not fulfill the need for stability because there are differences of power among groups which invariably lead to conflict and change. This is the conflict approach to stratification where rewards are due to some groups dominating others rather than due to some groups being more qualified than others. Davis and Moore merely express an ideology which legitimizes and sanctions power differences and maintains the status quo of society. Thus stratification is not necessary and inevitable