Robert K. Merton

             In his work, Robert Merton addresses many of the fundamental flaws in structural functionalism as a whole. His theories are much more versatile, dealing with many of the criticisms of structural functionalism. While, he was not a pioneer of grand theories as was Parsons, rather Merton focused on smaller social systems (Ritzer and Goodman, 107). While Durkheim or Parsons may have been concerned with human society as a whole, Merton was more focused on mid-sized social systems. Furthermore, he always tried to vary in what he chose to study.
             Merton rejected many of the notions that were the basis for structural functionalism. He believed that all of these postulates relied on abstract theoretical assertions rather than actual empirical data. To Merton, it is the duty of the sociologist to examine each of these empirically, (Ritzer and Goodman 107-108). The presumptions that he contested stated that all functions in a society were indispensable, inherently positive, and that there were no other alternatives to these functions. (Ritzer and Goodman, 107). In "Modern Sociological Theory" by Ritzer and Goodman, the example of Southern slave-owners is used as an example of an institution that undermined the social structure of the Southern United States by making the slave-owners over dependant on agriculture and not suitably prepared for the inevitable arrival of industrialization. Obviously slave-owning in the American South, and worldwide for that matter, was an institution that was in fact dispensable. Merton asserts that rather then being solely positive and have discreet effects, it is much more complex.
             He introduced terms such as manifest and latent functions, terms used in other fields such as psychoanalysis however new to sociology. Manifest functions are those that are intended, and readily apparent. While the term latent function refers to consequences that are underlying and not intended at the time but develop la...

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Robert K. Merton. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:43, May 16, 2022, from