The overall objective of KAM 6 is to provide a critical review and assessment of advanced theories about the interventions used in human services by looking at the social systems theories of Merton (1967), Trevino (2008), Parsons (2012), and Weber (1964). In addition, the breadth will describe how research into the literature reveals the ways in which the fundamentals of social systems influence the rate of rehabilitation for adolescents in the juvenile justice system.
An understanding of systems theory and systems thinking is one of the greatest breakthroughs in the field of sociology. Systems often develop over time through various traditions and habits; this understanding has led to necessary governance for structured organizations. Giddens and Duneier (2000) note that organizations are designed to shape structure among business firms, hospitals, or colleges. Traditionally, societies existed in small group settings and rarely associated themselves with any forms of organizations or government.
In these times, the lives of the people were less affected by government laws and other organizational systems.
Giddens and Duneier (2000) further note that organizations are much more relevant in our day-to-day lives than they were in the 1950s; the influence of these organizations begins with our births in hospitals and extends to our death. Today’s advanced technology could not exist without some formal organization. For example, every phone call, use of a water faucet, electricity all stems from our dependence upon an organization (e.g., a phone, water, or electrical company etc.). As we find ourselves dependent on our phone and electric companies, they are dependent on other organizations as well. The examples above illustrate only a few noteworthy ways in which we have evolved in our understanding of systems’ existence and their organizational structure.
Though organizations have continued to evolve, their influence is not always viewed as beneficial. Often, organizations have the ability to take away choices and allow other experts or officials to make or influence decisions: for example, the government requires that we pay taxes, obey laws, and face punishment when convicted of a crime. In view of social systems and organizational existence, how and where do we start to ensure that the structure of our legal system functions according to its intended purpose and our juvenile justice system follows suit and is influenced accordingly? It will increase the success rate of rehabilitation of adolescents in the juvenile justice system.
Talcott Parsons is one of America’s most admired sociologists. Sometimes called “the midwife of modern sociology,” he is best known for his contributions to the sociology of law.
He spent three decades analyzing the legal system as a whole from the perspective of his social system approach, yet his approach has been ignored. His viewpoint was that law is essential for any and all societies; this belief and an early encounter with Max Weber’s philosophy further ignited his zeal for the law (Parsons, 2012).
Trevino (2008) believed that general systems are composed of four primary systems and that systems theory consisting of general systems or subsystems of action. He further identified the subsystems as cultural, personality, behavioral, and social systems. Known as a functionalist, Parsons identified each subsystem based on its function. He identified the functions as follows:
a) adaptation (A), b) goal attainment (G), c) integration (I) and d) pattern maintenance (L).
In summary, these functions, according to Parsons, are required for any system to survive its environment. It resulted in what he referred to as AGIL (Trevino, 2008, p.3). Functionally, AGIL is defined as follows: Adaptation (A) refers to an organism’s behavior; Goal attainment (G) refers to the personality of the individual; Integration (I) refers to social systems; L pattern maintenance (L) refers to the maintenance of a specific pattern of normalcy in any system’s culture. In conclusion, the AGIL concept notes that in order for a system to survive or maintain its stability in its environment, it must adapt to its environment (adaptation), attain its goals (goals), integrate its components (integrate), and maintain its latent pattern (pattern maintenance).
Parsons paid special attention to the studying of the social and cultural systems. According to him, social system aims at regulating of the individuals’ actions and establishing of the rules and norms. Cultural system investigates the values and beliefs that motivate individuals to perform certain actions. Parsons believed these two systems to be distinct and interdependent at the same time (Trevino, 2008).
Parsons considers society to be a social system with the highest level of development, regulations, and self-sufficiency, which is closely connected with the environments and other social systems within it (Trevino, 2008). Analytically, it is possible to divide a society into four primary subsystems, which indicates its structure and explain the interrelations. Therefore, we can conclude that latency-pattern maintenance subsystem links to the cultural aspect of the society, the goal attainment subsystem relates to the individual members and social relations between them, and the adaptation subsystem is concerned with the behavioral mechanism.
Society can function normally only in case of establishment of law and regulations. Parsons pays a lot of attention to the integrative function of the society, which forms a core of the sociological theory and plays an important role in the development of the society as a united system. Moreover, Parsons considers legal system to be an important element in the life of every society, which performs integrative function and directly serves in society (Trevino, 2008).
The explanation of the legal system begins with the definition of law according to Parsons. Therefore, he believed law to be formalized and integrated collection of rules and norms that regulates individuals’ actions in the society. Moreover, law should establish some obligations for individuals who play certain roles in the particular collectives. Speaking about collectives or associations, there are some other aspects to consider. As collectives may apply to the different spheres of a social life, we can speak about different types of law. Therefore, there are law of the state and law of the legal persons, which can be defined as full members of a society (Trevino, 2008).
Legal system of any society consists of three main elements. According to Parsons, they are a system of court, sanctions, and legitimation. System of court presents authoritative explanation of laws through the judicial review. Sanctions are applied to those individuals, who do not follow laws and social regulations. Legitimation aims at the development of the united system of laws, which are not only legally established but also morally based.
To sum up, Parsons developed a studying of a society as an integrated social system based on the laws and legal regulations. According to him, legal system, establishing rights and obligations, integrates a society into a united structure and keep its subsystems together.
This subsystem is challenged when there is more than one goal to be attained. If there is only one goal to attain, then only the systems’ relevance has to be determined. However, once the number of goals exceeds one, there is a possibility that the system will be lacking in an area of goal attainment. The goal-attainment function is most relevant to the relationship established with the systemic environment; it is economical and is often second to goal attainment from a system perspective (Trevino, 2008). For example, the economy performs this function through means of labor, production, and allocation.
The polity system is responsible for fulfillment of this function. According to Parsons, polity or government refers to the efficient organization of the social system so that it becomes a united system and can attain all accepted goals in the most appropriate way. One of the main purposes of the polity is to maintain the legal system of the society. Parsons emphasized on the relative independence of the legal system in the polity structure. According to him, it is a very important feature of the legal system as it gives all opportunities to provide fair system of jurisdiction and sanctions (Trevino, 2008).
Goal attainment often becomes a problem when there is a discrepancy between the normal customs of a system and its needs due to an unexpected or abnormal exchange. This discrepancy often arises when the internal system is unable to adapt or adjust to external or environmental pattern changes. When situations are more complex resulting in multiple goals, then the protection of the systems’ integrity is necessary. Therefore, a society must have set goals established through political systems, in which the allocation of resources is also determined. At this point, in order to achieve success there must be an establishment of balance (Trevino, 2008).
The integration function is holistic and is only as effective as its subsystems and their ability to insert themselves and function appropriately. The subsystems’ ability to appropriately secure their existence is dependent on the system of support and its systematical performance. The overall system focuses on its ability to distribute rights and responsibilities for all members of its supporting cast (Trevino, 2008).
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Moreover, integrative function provides interaction and communication between different subsystems of the society. Additionally, it is related to the concept of the inner environment of the society. Integrative function provides the adaptation of separate social parts to the social surroundings (Parsons, 2012). In the modern society, the institute of citizenship and law guarantee the fulfillment of this function. Parsons believed integration to be one of the most significant features of any society. Therefore, we can conclude that the integrative function witnesses the existence of the society as a united social system.
This function is closely connected with the fiduciary system. As we have already mentioned, Parsons considered law to play an integrative role in the social life. However, the legal system can perform its function only in case of value of norms and regulations for the members of the society. As the fiduciary system deals with the morality and values, it provides the legitimation as a part of the legal system. The fulfillment of this function in the modern society is operated through the instrumental activism, which allows the citizens treatment of the society as the means in their relation of the values, beliefs and interests (Trevino, 2008).
The pattern-maintenance function refers to the ability to maintain the stability of a culture through established patterns or institutionalized structure of the system. This function is often performed through the institutions of family, education, and religion or religious beliefs. The two distinct aspects of this function are the normalcy of its pattern and the state of institutionalization. This function is often viewed from the perspective of an individual participating in a social system, in terms of his/her motivation or commitment to behave in a certain manner (Trevino, 2008).
In order to maintain relevancy to the focal topic of America’s juvenile justice system, rehabilitation, and intervention, I will reference Trevino’s (2008) social and cultural systems.
Parsons defined social systems as those that reflect on the regulated norms of a collective whole and on the cultural systems’ reflection of individual values. Both systems are independent of one another, but interdependent as well (Trevino, 2008). Parsons also referred to society as a social system, one of the highest levels of adequacy, in relation to its environments.
Robert K. Merton was an influential sociologist on the issues of deviance. Merton is best known for his contributions to the field of criminology. He is also well known for introducing concepts such as self-fulfilling prophecy, anomie, strain, focused group interviews, middle-range theory, and deviant behavior (Merton, 1967).
Merton, a gifted young man, was awarded a scholarship to Temple University, where he was introduced to sociology. Upon completing his studies at Temple University, he became a fellow at Harvard University to continue his graduate work. At Harvard, Merton spent most of his time reading essays by Emile Durkheim who, along with Talcott Parsons, greatly influenced his theories. Also at Harvard, Merton took a course in theory taught by the young Talcott Parsons. This encounter enhanced Merton’s thoughts on sociology (Calhoun 2003).
It was during his time studying sociology that Merton realized that achieving the American dream was not attainable for every individual. This belief motivated Merton’s essay “Social Structure and Anomie” (1938). In this essay, Merton took the opportunity to expand on Emile Durkheim’s anomie theory. This work became known as one of the most influential theories in the field of criminology. Merton’s works defining anomie, strain, manifest and latent functions, self-fulfilling prophecy, deviance, and the theory of reference groups have been used extensively in the field of criminology and criminal justice.
Merton’s “Social Structure and Anomie Theory” (1938) viewed crime as a result of societal conditions. Though he viewed society as productive, he noted that it also caused frustration and strain because not all groups had equal access to societal means and goals. Durkheim’s (1984) theory stated that anomie is a feeling of isolation and normlessness as relates to deviant behavior or suicidal desires. Merton would expand Durkheim’s theory developing a similar explanation for deviant behavior that was disregarded until the 1980s. During this time, Merton’s anomie theory received a great deal of attention, as did his strain theory. His strain theory noted that while wealth is a widespread American goal, society does not afford this opportunity to everyone. Additionally, he noted that success is best gained through education and hard work, since to do so by other means would violate social norms.
Merton (1967) posited that there are several types of individual adaptation. He suggested that conformity is the most common means of adapting and maintaining societal stability. To further define Adaptation I, conformity, he noted individuals’ socialization of societal goals leads to role-playing based on rules. Individuals who choose to conform accept societal, cultural, and social goals and the means of attaining them.
Merton mentioned that every individual possesses conformity features and remains conformists. This statement is true even in the case when individuals do not aim at achievement of certain goals and aims.
Those who used unconventional means to attain culturally approved goals Merton labeled Adaptation II (innovators). He described these individuals (e.g., corporate criminals or drug dealers) as those who accept both cultural and societal goals, but reject the cultural means of attaining their goals. Merton’s Strain Theory describes this circumstance as an individual’s drive to attain success while exceeding his/her means to accomplish success. Merton notes that in this case, deviance occurs among members of this population, who choose illegal means to achieve culturally and socially established goals.
Additionally, this type of adaptation can be observed among poor individuals, who feel helpless and weak to achieve power and wealth by applying to the legal and cultural systems of the society. In other words, innovation stage is typical for uneducated and criminal individuals who deny adapting to the accepted social norms.
Merton (1967) referred to Adaptation III as ritualism. These individuals resort to abandoning cultural goals, while conforming to cultural normalcy and means, in order to cope with their societal strain. Ritualism is described as most common among individuals with very meek personality and social standing. These individuals have limited opportunities to attain socially built goals, but they will not risk what they have by means of innovation. They are regarded as deviant based on their willingness to give up their goals of success but are considered good citizens due to their willingness to follow the rules.
Merton would further discuss the least common adaptation to society, which he referred to as retreatism, Adaption IV. It takes place when an individual rejects the societal goals and means of society. Merton categorized those individuals as drug addicts, psychotics, alcoholics, psychoneurotics, outcasts, outsiders, and drifters. As a sociologist known for his study of deviancy, he noted that the deviance of the retreatists is their eccentric way of life and unwillingness to conform.
According to Merton, deviance comes in various forms. In all cases, it rejects the social norms and performs the other type of behavior, which is not socially accepted. In fact, every individual can have different opinions on the concept of the norm and deviant. According to Merton, deviance emerges when an individual does not apply to the cultural standards and moral norms of a certain society.
Finally, Merton (1967) labeled Adaptation V as rebellion. This level of adaptation is similar to retreatism; individuals of this category reject cultural goals and cultural means. These individuals, rebels, promote drastic means that are inconsistent with the social order of their environment. They propose new norms and often these norms bring new values. Some seek to do this through politics and political revolution or by promoting alternative religious groups. Because of its rebelliousness against the social order, this approach is seen as deviant.
Therefore, we can observe certain similarities between the adaptations IV and V. However, the previous stage presents a passive behavior of the individuals while the fifth type of adaptation refers to the active activity of the members of society.
In his 1948 essay, “Manifest and Latent Functions,” Merton further noted differences between manifest and latent functions relative to societal functions (Merton, 1967). Manifest function was defined as any element of social structure whose significance is known and expected by society, whereas latent functions are those elements of social structure that are not known or expected. For example, in the case of the dissemination of handguns in our society, the handgun’s manifest function would be protection, something it is intended to do. It could also function as a sporting symbol in society. On the other hand, a latent function of the handgun is its use to murder or wound a human being.
Merton’s (1967) idea concerning societal functions presents societal crime as having some intended and unintended functions, and therefore having a viable existence. He further noted that crime’s function within society serves numerous functions. For example, crime provides employment for police officers, judges, lawyers, and others. It also defines the boundaries of conforming behavior that society must follow. A manifest function would be to establish what is right or wrong. A latent function of crime would be the institutionalization of minorities under state or federal authority. Therefore, according to functionalists such as Merton, crime has a function in our society.
Merton has developed a functional analysis of the social structure. According to him, we can view society as a certain functioning unity. All parts of the society perform different functions, which are interdependent with each other and work in harmony, providing an internal constancy. In “Manifest and Latent Functions,” Merton expresses the statement that work for social integration plays an important role in the functioning of the economic, politic and cultural subsystems, providing general welfare to every member of a certain society. It is true that every society possesses a certain degree of integration. However, it may differ according to various factors and depending on time, type and level of development of the society.
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Additionally, Merton emphasized on the possibility of the existence of the dysfunctions in the society. In fact, every individual and collective in the society has certain roles and performs some functions. All of them are interdependent and beneficial. Only in such case, we can speak about the normal development of the society and the high level of the inner integration. However, sometimes, we can observe the emergence of the disorders in the fulfillment of the usual functions. The concept of the dysfunctions means the existence and performance of such functions, which do not bring advantages to the members of the society (Merton, 1967). They may be beneficial for some groups while having a negative impact on others. The emergence of the dysfunctions destroys the society and slows down its development.
Merton also developed the labeling process known as self-fulfilling prophecy, outlined in his 1957 essay, “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1957, p. 423). In other words, when someone continually receives negative feedback from people whose opinions they value, they conform to those perceptions. They essentially fulfill the label that was falsely placed on them, thereby making the label true. When someone receives negative labels, they are more susceptible to deviant behavior.
Merton saw deviancy as a social problem, defining it as conduct that deviates from established societal norms for individuals (Merton, 1967). Merton (1967) further divided deviant behavior into two classes: a) nonconforming behavior and b) deviant behavior. Nonconforming behavior challenges the legality of social norms; therefore, its participants are those who desire to change the norms. While aberrant behavior is carried out with the knowledge that legal norms are violated, the violator attempts to escape the overwhelming approval of day-to-day norms (Merton, 1967, p. 352). Merton also believed that an individual’s status or lack thereof was relevant to social structure and varied patterns of behavior, which exist when standards or guidance concerning behavior are unclear or do not exist (Giddens & Duneier, 2000, p. 124).
Max Weber was known as a so-called “classical sociologist” due to the breadth of his interests of study, a breadth that has often been compared to that of Karl Marx. Like Marx, Weber had a greater interest in politics, history, language, religion, law, economics, and administration. Weber’s philosophies concerning history, economics, and politics are vastly structuralized. His greater aim is to understand how structures and institutions affect the lives of people, and how this changes over time. Weber observed and acknowledged the importance of communal positions and structures such as religion, ideas, status, and bureaucracy. He believed that these structures had the greatest influence on individuals and their behavior or actions.
Weber (1964) defined sociology as the science of understanding social action and explaining its effects. Further, he defined action as human behavior to which the actor connects a personal meaning. He would further explain that action is considered social when the acting individual(s) are able to define it via personal meaning and account for others’ directed behavior. Conversely, Weber noted that action is not considered social if it is not relative to the behavior of others.
He further noted that an action that is not the result of a conscious thought is not considered social action. For example, a car accident is not social action when there is no motive or intent behind this action. On the other hand, an ice carver has motive and intentions behind his/her actions; therefore, his/her actions are considered social actions.
Weber further classified social action into four types of mode orientation: a) instrumental or purposeful social action (Zweckrationalitat); b) value-rational action (Wertrationalitat); c) affective social action; and d) traditional social action. Instrumental or purposeful social actions are planned and acted upon based on evaluating the intended goal and the relevancy of others. For example, a student desiring to become a doctor knows he or she must maintain a competitive high school grade-point average, score a competitive score on the appropriate exams, complete appropriate forms for college entrance, and maintain a competitive college grade-point average in order to receive acceptance into medical school and attain his or her goal of becoming a doctor. All goals are planned and acted upon to attain the goal of becoming a doctor. Valuerational actions are those that lead to a goal of value but with little thought concerning the consequences or means taken to attain it. Affective social actions are based solely on one’s emotions to express personal feelings. For example, shedding tears after the loss of loved one or cheering on a favorite team are considered affective actions. Traditional social actions are those that are executed due to traditions or customs. For example, traditionally a Thanksgiving meal consists of dressing up for most families, because it is a family tradition or custom that has been carried out in honor of this holiday.
Weber (1964) further described the means by which social actions may lead to social relationships. A relationship is defined as behavior where all actors take into consideration the meanings and actions of one another. This relationship is not based on group membership; it may or may not be a relationship of communality or loneness. It only exists when there is a probability that a certain kind of social action will take place. There is also a possibility that this relationship will cease to exist when there is no longer a likelihood of social action. Therefore, this relationship may be short- or long-term; its meaning among the actors may change over time. Its meaning is not necessarily shared or the same for the parties involved.
According to Weber, the concept of the social relations may be explained with the concept of the social actions. However, before speaking about the social actions, there is a need to discover some other related topics such as conflict, legitimate order, association, self-interest, custom, and others. Additionally, Weber does not apply to the individual characteristics of the social relations. On the contrary, he is more interested in the explanation of the social nature of the individual actions. Moreover, he believes that any individual action has social features, and it does not depend on the behavior of the other individuals.
However, not only individuals form a society. It also consists of the collective entities. The examples of such entities are associations, business corporations, organizations, and states. These collective entities also perform social relations as they deal with individuals and apply their action toward them. Weber was aware of the importance of study of the social relations within the collective entities, because of several reasons. Firstly, it allows explaining of the concept of the social relations from different points of view. Secondly, collective entities are closely connected with the separate individuals and influence their actions. Thus, the studying of the social relations of collective entities helps to interpret the nature of the individual actions.
Weber distinguished four main types of the social actions. They are value-rational, instrumentally rational, effectual and traditional (Weber, 1964). After the explanation of these types, he presented the concept of the social relationship. Thus, according to Weber this term denotes the behavior of the plurality of actors in its meaningful content. In other words, any social relationship is based on the possibility to achieve a meaningful course of the social action. What is important here is that Weber has not regarded social relationship as dyad (Weber, 1964). Although the relationships between two actors are widely used for analysis, it is just a simplification of a much more complicated process. On the other hand, the existence of more than two participants of the social relationships brings new unsolved questions. For example, can we speak about one type of social relationship between three or more actors or do we have to explain the presence of several relations in such case? G. Simmel discovered this problem. As Weber knew about this studying, we can assume that he was aware of such a problem.
The nature of the social relationships may be various. For example, conflicts, sexual attraction, hostility, loyalty, economic exchange may cause the appearance of such relationship. Here, it is important to mention that Weber does not view conflicts or hostility as a breaking of social relationship. He considers them as one of their types. It witnesses that social relationship may occur within one social group and between different parties (Weber, 1964).
Social relationships do not always mean a total understanding and interacting. Different parties may have different subjective meanings and do not apply to the common situation. Therefore, the social relationships may be asymmetrical. Moreover, Weber believes that social relationship with completely corresponding attitudes is a rare case in reality (Weber 1964).
There are many classifications of the social relationships. The first one divides them according to the principle of length and duration. Therefore, there are social relationships of fleeting and permanent character. In the second case, relationships may apply to the repeated recurrence of the behavior of the actors, which applies to the meaningful content. The second typology is based on the dynamic nature of the social relationships. Thus, there may be changeable and permanent subjective meanings. In this case, there is a need to investigate the problem of changing of the old relationships or the appearing of the new ones (Weber, 1964).
Then, the social relations may be classified according to the nature of their emergence. Thus, they may be spontaneous or agreed on the mutual correspondence. Weber tried to explain the second type. When social relationships occur on the mutual consent, the participants expect each other for total understanding and complete agreement. Additionally, social relationships may be communal and associative. Social communal relationship consists in the subjective feelings of both parties. The associative social relationships are based on the rational adjustment of interests or similarly motivated agreements.
Weber also determined close and open social relations. Here, he presented the other important feature of the social relationships. Thus, he considered organization to be a close relation, in which some individuals motivate and enforce the regulations. In other words, organizational action is the staff action legitimated by the representative or executive power and the action of the members, which are directed by the administration (Weber, 1964).
To sum up, according to Weber social relationships have two main elements such as the existence of two or more participants and a meaningful content. They emerge exclusively in the society, although they contain individual actions. Social relationships may occur in one social group and between different parties. Additionally, there are specific close relations, which determine the features of the social relations in the organizations. Social relationships help to identify the participants’ feelings, intentions and interests.
Weber (1964) described imperative co-ordination as the possibility that certain or all commands from a specific source will always be obeyed by selected people or groups. However, this is not all-inclusive of the various methods of exercising power or influence over other people. Weber noted that the reasoning for obeying commands varies and is often formed on a case-by-case basis; some reasons may be habitual and others may be for rational advantage.
Further, he noted that one of the criteria for achieving imperative control is interest, leading to voluntarily submission, leading to obedience.
Not every case of imperative co-ordination is economically motivated. Often there are situations that require the imperative co-ordination of action of groups, e.g., requiring control of a staff of people. In these situations it is realistic that a select group will focus on attaining goals of a higher authority’s policy or command. These cases consist of members who obey superiors because tradition, influential ties, or various interests or motives bind them. Weber (1964) added that the element of legitimacy must also accompany the factors of traditional and personal gain or influential reasons for unity in order to qualify as an imperative coordinated system.
However, the type of the legitimacy may significantly differ according to the type of obedience, kind of the administrative staff, created for its protection and the mode of the exercising authority. As a result, there are different classifications of the authority types based on the kinds of the claimed legitimacy. Although, pure examples of legitimacy in the authority system are viewed quite rarely in reality, the attempts of making objective classifications allows finding the most important criteria, justified by the results.
From a sociological point of view, legitimacy of the authority system may be viewed as a possibility of existence of applicable attitudes on a certain level. Not every situation focuses attention on the belief of the obedience of a person under the influence of the power. It is also important to mention that separate people and whole groups can simulate loyalty for the sake of the material self-interest. On the other hand, some people may apply to it due to the individual haplessness and the absence of the alternative way. However, the studying of these problems is not important for the classification of types of imperative coordination. In this case, it is important to know that different situations treat legitimacy as valuable according to its type and significance to a certain extent (Weber, 1964).
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Obedience is the other important aspect in the system of the imperative coordination. This concept is used in order to determine the action of a person and a command, which can be treated as a basis for an action for its own sake. Moreover, it is valuable only for the formal obligation, and it does not apply to the actor’s attitude toward the content of the command (Weber, 1964).
The system of the imperative coordination and authority types can widely explain the features of the social relationships and cultural phenomena within social groups and collective entities. Often, such relationships have an authoritarian character. It is an essential element in nearly every case according to a power to command issues to a certain degree.
A system of authority must never limit itself to the appeal of influential or ulterior motives, if intended to sustain its longevity. Weber (1964) posited that every system of authority attempts to legitimize its existence. He further introduced three types of legitimate authority and their validity of legitimacy: a) rational grounds; b) traditional grounds; and c) charismatic grounds. Rational grounds (legal authority) are relative to a belief of legal norms, patterns, or rules and the right of those in positions of command to issue or uphold those rules or patterns of normalcy. In this case, obedience is necessary in order to establish legal orders extended to the individual exercising the authority of office within the scope of his or her office of authority. Traditional grounds (traditional authority) are relative to the acceptance of traditional rights of dominant group leaders, e.g., religious or cultural. In this case, obedience is owed to the person traditionally in charge, and given the position of authority. In most cases, loyalty enforces the obedience based on sanctions or customs. Charismatic grounds are relative to the dedication of an exceptional characteristic of an individual(s). In this case, it is the charismatic leader who is obeyed based on his/her trustworthiness or exemplary qualities (Weber, 1964, p. 328). In closing, Weber noted that there are three types of authority: traditional, rational, and charismatic. However, he identified traditional and rational authority as the most stable for the maintenance of administrative structure of organizations. Further, he noted that structures based on charismatic authority will require a change to a more stable form of authority in order to sustain their existence.
However, all these three types can be rarely found in the pure form in reality. This fact, nevertheless, does not object to making the analysis of their formulation in the ideal form.
Weber (2000) was the first theorist to address the concerns of modern organizations. He argued that organizations are established for coordinating activities of human beings, or the goods they manufacture, across space and time. He further noted that organizational development is based on the control of information and its ability to effectively write rules and file maintenance. Weber noted that organizations are hierarchical, with power driven from the top down, and he further concluded that most tend to be bureaucratic. Bureaucracy was previously known as the rule of officials, particularly government officials. Additionally, Weber emphasized the necessity of bureaucratic development for larger modern social systems. Although this systematic or authoritative approach has its shortcomings, Weber further described what he called an ideal type of bureaucracy (Giddens & Duneier, 2000, pp. 250-251).
Weber described the characteristics of an ideal type of bureaucracy as follows: a) clear-cut hierarchy of authority (positions of the highest authority are located at the top and each higher office controls and supervises the one below it); b) written rules governing the officials at all levels of the organization; c) officials work full-time and for salary (there are opportunities for long-term career advancement, promotions, and a known, fixed salary attached to each job); d) separation between the tasks of an official within the organization and his/her life outside (there is a distinct separation between an official’s personal and professional lifestyle); and e) no organizational member owns the material resources that they operate (unlike workers traditional communities, bureaucratic workers do not own their offices, desks, or the machinery that they use on a day-to-day basis). Weber believed that an organization structured in this manner would be more effective in pursuing and accomplishing its established or intended goals (Giddens & Duneier, 2000).
All three theorists were considered functionalists in the field of sociology defined as the study or analysis of a social activity and its contribution to society as a whole. As discussed, Parsons’s, Merton’s, and Weber’s theories are very similar with respect to their thoughts about organizational structure and the characteristics required for success. Parsons’s (1947) AGIL concept noted that a system’s success is reflective of its ability to maintain stability within its operating environment, its ability to adapt to its environment, and its ability to attain its goals, integrate its components, and maintain its required pattern of consistency. Weber (1964) noted that in order for a system to sustain its existence, its authority must never limit itself to the appeal of influential or ulterior motives, and must be presented in a legitimate manner. Further, he presented three types of legitimate authority and means of confirming their legitimacy: 1) rational grounds; 2) traditional grounds; and 3) charismatic grounds. Rational grounds (legal authority) are relative to a belief of legal norms, patterns, or rules and the right for those in positions of command to issue or uphold those rules or patterns of normalcy. Traditional grounds, traditional authority, are relative to the acceptance of traditional rights of dominant group leaders, e.g., religious or cultural. Charismatic grounds are relative to the dedication of an exceptional characteristic of an individuals (Weber, 1964, p. 328).
While Parsons’s and Weber’s theories concerned themselves with legitimizing authority within a structured organization and its means of securing its existence, Merton’s focused on his efforts to revisit Durkheim’s anomie theory. Merton further expanded Durkheim’s theory by focusing on deviant behavior, noting that crime exists as an institution of its own. Similarly to Parsons and Weber, Merton was able to further explain how an institution such as crime is legitimized and is able to maintain its existence. He suggested that though it is the American dream to attain wealth, this opportunity is not afforded to all within society. Further, Merton argues that education and hard work are considered appropriate bases for success in America, but when success is attained through other means, it is considered a violation of social norms.
All three theorists agree that there are several characteristics of which a structured organization or social system should be comprised in order to survive in society and sustain its existence. For example, Trevino (2008) noted the importance of a social systems’ ability to adapt to its environment; he further noted the importance of existing with purpose or intent to achieve a goal(s). This belief is similar to Merton’s (1968) individual Adaptation I, the conformist. The conformist within an organization is willing to accept or adapt to the cultural goals of his/her society or organizations of association. Social systems composed of individuals with such characteristics are the most common type; they are distributed throughout society and tend to enforce the maintenance of a balanced society (Merton, 1967). Weber (1947) does not disagree with either Parsons or Merton; however, he presents his views differently. Weber focused on legitimization and structure. Although Parsons and Merton noted the importance of conformity, adaptation, and purpose (goal attainment), Weber noted that in all processes of conforming and adapting, there must be forms of order, rules, and patterns of normalcy. This normalcy is attained through a bureaucratic structure, one with a hierarchical establishment. Weber referred to this hierarchical basis as “rational grounds.”
Trevino (2008) also noted that a social system is further defined by its ability to fulfill its overarching function through integrating other subsystems with which it is aligned. Weber’s (1947) concepts of instrumental or purposeful social actions are most similar to Parsons’ integration systemic function, based on its focused ability to plan and further evaluate means of attaining goals and external elements. Further, Weber’s noted charismatic legitimacy concept closely relates to Parsons’ concept of the integrating systems’ function. This function has the ability to bring together all acting parties of an organization or system in order to achieve the necessary goal or holistic function.
Trevino’s (2008) final note concerning social systems is that they are further defined by their ability to maintain their pattern of function within the society in which they operate. Social systems are able to maintain stability through associated or established structured patterns. These associations are most often found in families, school, or religious organizations; and these social systems are often reasons why we commit or are motivated to respond in a certain manner. Weber’s (1964) concept of traditional social actions is more similar to Parsons’ pattern maintenance function. Traditions are often habitual and as individuals or systems encounter set activities, they will respond in the same manner based on what is traditionally or habitually known.
I will conclude this discussion with Trevino’s (2008) note of Parson’s AGIL theory, along with Weber’s (1947) social actions and legitimacy authorities, as applicable, by presenting the similarities between both theorists’ beliefs. Merton’s (1967) individual Adaptation’s II-V (Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism, and Rebellion) remain unmentioned due to their relevancy to crime as an organization and social system within society. Merton explained that crime has a place in society, and that society creates it. Parsons and Weber refer to social systems as professional organizations. Similarly, Merton (1967) speaks of the justice system as an organization that is not accredited by society as a whole but is institutionalized by a societal organization.
The presented views provide a greater understanding of structured organizations and their notable characteristics as well as how they work to maintain social systems. The view or research from a functionalist perspective is relevant, considering the perspective’s examination of society as a whole through the contributions of social actions or activities. Parsons (2011), Weber (1947), and Merton (1967) contributed to the field of sociology as functionalists, but Merton’s perspective and views were the most influential. While Parsons presented the AGIL concept as a necessary means for a social system to sustain its purposeful existence, Weber presented his theory concerning the development of organizations, the varied roles of authority, and their means of legitimizing and organizations structural existence. Merton took an interest in reviewing crime within society and its existence, noting that crime exists because society fosters social differences among individuals. Merton (2000) noted that the American dream, which implies that hard work is equal to success regardless of where you start or who you are in life, was alive and well among most Americans. He further posited that this idea might be partially true but not applicable to all, due to social class. He suggested that those associated or known as have-nots are not provided the same opportunities as those who have, e.g., promotions or means of advancement. It is a consistent consensus across society and it is this inequality that drives an individual to succeed by any means, often illegal ones.
This review will present the relevance of Merton’s, Parsons’s, and Weber’s theories to the characteristics that enhance the performance of social systems and their organizational structure. A thorough review of identified characteristics of success will be compared to the successes and failures of the American juvenile justice system. I will review the needs and purposes by which societies sustain their existence. Also, the ways in which the juvenile justice system may better serve society, influence positive behavior, and more successfully rehabilitate adolescents are discussed. Additionally, I will review and compare the juvenile justice system’s methods of functioning with respect to Trevino (2008) AGIL concept, and review the foundational rules and regulations of this organization, with respect to Weber’s (1947) legitimacy and authoritative theories. Further, I will discuss how to increase the rehabilitation rate of adolescents associated with this system, as noted by Merton (1967), while also enhancing the operating functions of juvenile delinquency intervention programs.
In the depth component, I will discuss and compare the current beliefs of Webb (2009), Barbee (2010), Fratello, Salsich, and Mogulescu (2011), McCarter, Haber, and Kazemi (2010), Rodriguez, and Baille (2010), and others, in addition to the abovementioned theories of Merton (1967), Trevino (2008), Parsons (2012), and Weber (1964) concerning reformation of the juvenile justice system and juvenile rehabilitation programs. Additionally, the reviews of Smith (2011) and Smyth (2010) will be discussed along with what are believed to be the successful characteristics of the juvenile justice system and relative organizational rehabilitating programs providing insight into the factors necessary for success. In conclusion, the probability and possibilities of enhancing the rehabilitating goals of America’s juvenile justice system and associated programs will be discussed.
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