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Merton's Contribution to Sociology

Even more meaningfully, whether or not the that bureaucracy could actually deliver those benefits or services or not, the people believed that it could not, and they made their decisions based on that perception. Collins goes on to apply this Mertonian analysis to "any institution: if it exists, it must be serving some function, which is the business of the sociologist to ferret out" (Collins 198).

The point here is that what appears to be a "problem" to some may very well be a desirable situation to others. In addition, this situation may very well be a natural result of the processes of society, rather than some aberration. The manifest function of society, in this specific regard, is to do away with the machine politics, but this is in conflict with the latent function, the machine politics itself, which is actually created by the needs of the "ordinary people" in that society (Collins 198).

Collins offers a critique of Merton which is not wholly justified. Collins argues that Merton's functional analysis is too accepting of the status quo, too "benign" in his analysis of the "dysfunctional" aspects of society. Collins also argues that

that Merton fails to address the conflict which is such an integral part of the contradictions between latent and manifest


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