From Functionalism to Cultural Studies: Manifest Ruptures and Latent Continuities
Article first published online: 17 MAR 2006
Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 88–103, February 1996
How to Cite
Burrowes, C. P. (1996), From Functionalism to Cultural Studies: Manifest Ruptures and Latent Continuities. Communication Theory, 6: 88–103. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.1996.tb00121.x
- Issue published online: 17 MAR 2006
- Article first published online: 17 MAR 2006
Functionalism practically disappeared as an explicit tradition in communications due to the radical theoretical realignments of the 1980s. Three criticisms proved decisive to this undoing; political conservatism; problems of logic, mainly tautology and an inappropriate appeal to teleological explanations; and a tendency to impose psychological and sociological analyses on specifically cultural materials. Formulated in reference to systemic Parsonian functionalism, which dominated the broader social sciences, these criticisms are relatively easy to reconcile within the contextual, actionist Mertonian tradition, which took root in the communications context, but only through a constructive dialogue with the cultural studies and cultural indicators approaches, both of which have spent the last decade investigating a traditionally functionalist concern – the hypothesis of cultural systems integration. If functionalism offers to this cross-fertilization a focus on the normative orders of society, the cultural indicators approach provides a rigorous methodology and cultural studies cautions a greater sensitivity to social hierarchies.