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Masami Yajima

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Propositions of eufunction, malfunction and dysfunction

Masami Yajima
Professor of Sociological Criminology, Social Pathology, and Sexuality Sociology, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University


Dysfunction is still a valid concept in the field of functional sociology. However, in recent years, research on dysfunction has come to a standstill and there is little hope for new academic advancements. Furthermore, academic study has differentiated into specialized areas and the inclination towards evidence-based research has resulted in an infestation of narrow and nitpicky research. In this article, in reaction to these academic conditions, I shall boldly search for the laws of society from functions while making hypothetic proposals.

Proposition 1 to Proposition 3

Proposition 1: It is possible to understand society from the paradigm of functionalism.

Proposition 2: Functions include eufunction, dysfunction and malfunction.

Proposition 3: Eufunction contributes to the maintenance and growth of social systems in a particular society. Dysfunction impairs and dissolves the social systems in a particular society. Malfunction reduces eufunction and creates a situation of functional impairment.

Propositions 1 to 3 listed above comprise a single point of view and can be classified as perspective propositions. They are also logical propositions and can be classified as concept-prescribed propositions.

Proposition 4 to Proposition 7

Proposition 4: (Therefore,) Both dysfunction and malfunction are functional impairment, and are functional dissolution which is a consequence of that impairment.

Proposition 5: (However,) In the case of malfunction, functional impairment and functional dissolution occur because the function is not being performed efficiently and smoothly. In the case of dysfunction, functional impairment and functional dissolution occur because the function is being performed efficiently and smoothly.

Proposition 6: Both eufunction and dysfunction exist within the same social system.

Proposition 7: (In addition,) The same function is both eufunction and dysfunction.

Proposition 4 to Proposition 7 define the relationship among proposition constituent elements. As such, the propositions listed above can be classified as relational propositions or factual propositions. I would like to explain a little about Proposition 7. Eufunction and dysfunction are different sides of the same coin. They can be described as a two-edged sword or as effective medicine which can also be poisonous. The propositions listed above were actually theorized by Merton, R. K., not by me. I simply organized these theories into propositions to the best of my ability. Furthermore, the phrases listed in parenthesis above are conjunctions which indicate the logical relationship with the proceeding proposition. When examining each individual proposition, the phrases in parenthesis are not necessary.

Proposition 8 to Proposition 10

Proposition 8: Eufunction and dysfunction are a positive correlation.

Proposition 9: Eufunction and malfunction are a negative correlation.

Proposition 10: (Therefore,) Dysfunction and malfunction are a negative correlation.

From this point onward, we will deal with nomothetic propositions. Moreover, these are hypothetical propositions which I formed to go beyond Merton’s theory. Regarding Proposition 8, the higher that eufunction becomes, the higher that dysfunction becomes. This means that eufunction generates dysfunction. Regarding Proposition 9, a decrease in eufunction elicits malfunction.

Let’s look at a specific example related to education. In postwar Japan, the demand for modernization resulted in more concentrated educational content. This was a eufunction in which knowledge required in contemporary times was provided to children through compulsory education. Also, in a democratic society where education controls personnel allocation, the educational system for acquiring academic credentials is a eufunction. However, this eufunction has encouraged and intensified the dysfunctions of a competitive society, a society based on educational credentials, education with over-emphasis on intellectual training, and education focused on deviation value. These trends became the subject of criticism and the dysfunctions were eliminated through the promotion of relaxed education. However, this brought a simultaneous decline in eufunctions and eventually resulted in the malfunction of decreased academic ability.

Proposition 11

Proposition 11: Propositions 8, 9, and 10 apply to all societies.

We have now reached a proposition with a vast scale. This proposition does not apply to all phenomena. Instead, this proposition applies to several phenomena in any society.

For example, consider the issue of excessive caloric intake. The intake of calories is a eufunction which is absolutely required for life maintenance in human beings (indeed, in all living creatures). However, when this eufunction is practiced in excess, caloric intake becomes too great and results in the dysfunction of endangering life maintenance. Conversely, a shortage of calories results in the malfunction of endangering life maintenance. In summary, excessive caloric intake is a dysfunction and a caloric shortage is a malfunction.

This also applies to excessive consumption of sodium. Although sodium intake is a eufunction which is absolutely required for life maintenance, excessive sodium intake is a dysfunction and insufficient sodium intake is a malfunction.

Proposition 12

Proposition 12: A eufunction optimal value exists where dysfunction does not occur and malfunction is avoided.

Proposition 11 described above leads to this hypothetical proposition in which an optimal value for caloric intake and sodium intake exists. Actually, in medicine, this is not a hypothesis—it is a proposition founded on common sense. For both calories and sodium, the appropriate daily amount has been scientifically defined.

However, the medical field possesses some phenomena for which an optimal value cannot be defined. One example is cancer. Cancer cells are human cells. Therefore, a function which eradicates cancer cells would also eradicate normal cells. When considering only the function of eradicating cancer cells, the optimal value would be a value that ensures complete eradication. However, such a value cannot be defined as the optimal value. The actual optimal value exists at a halfway point of maximum suppression for the dysfunction of annihilating normal cells and maximum heightening for the eufunction of annihilating cancer cells. However, this optimal value is not always clear.

Unfortunately, in modern sociology, academic conditions exist in which it is impossible to scientifically define the eufunction optimal value for almost all phenomena in the research field.

Proposition 13 and Proposition 14

Proposition 13: Human history is the history of alleviating malfunction. It is the history of pursuing eufunction and the history of the appearance of dysfunction.

Proposition 14: The period from the second half of the 20th century to the first half of the 21st century is a shift from human history of overcoming malfunction to that of overcoming dysfunction.

Proposition 11 also gives birth to Proposition 13 and Proposition 14. These hypothetical propositions possess vast scale. Until modern times, mankind has lived in fear of starvation. Human history has been a malfunction of life maintenance. Human history can be traced back several hundred thousand years to the appearance of Homo sapiens. It can be said that this long history was spent in pursuit of eufunctions for the continued existence and prosperity of human beings. It can also be said that our history has been one of alleviating the malfunction of starvation. It is possible to portray civilization as mankind’s alleviation of malfunction and pursuit of eufunction.

It can be inferred that, upon reaching the 20th century, mankind finally succeeded in alleviating malfunctions and implementing eufunctions. Now, mankind’s endless pursuit of eufunctions has brought about excessive eufunctions, resulting in the appearance and radicalization of dysfunction.

Depending on the circumstances, it can be said that the postmodern times are an age of radicalized dysfunction resulting from endless pursuit of eufunction in early modern times.

Main Reference Literature
  • Merton, R. K., 1961, Social Problem and Sociological Theory in Merton, R. K. and Nisbet, P. A. (eds.), Contemporary Social Problems, Harcoult Brace & World, Ink.: New York & Burlingame, 697-737 (Social Problem and Sociological Theory, translated by Togo Mori, 1969, Contemporary Sociological Systems 13 Merton Social Theory and Function Analysis, translated by Togo Mori, Yoshio Mori and Minoru Kanazawa, Aoki Shoten Co., 410-471)
  • Masami Yajima, 2011, Social Pathological Imagination (Gakubunsha Co., Ltd.)
Masami Yajima
Professor of Sociological Criminology, Social Pathology, and Sexuality Sociology, Faculty of Letters, Chuo University
Born in Yokohama in 1948. Completed the Doctoral Program in Sociology in the Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University in 1979. Afterwards, served as a full-time instructor and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Literature, Taisho University and as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University before assuming his current position in 1993.
Conducts research on phenomena and conditions which arise from social strain such as crime, delinquency, juvenile problems and gender problems. Also conducts reverse observation of society and the times from those phenomena and conditions. His major written works include Social Pathological Imagination (Gakubunsha Co., Ltd. 2011) and Study of Juvenile Problems in Postwar Japan—Revised Edition (The Institute of Juvenile Problems, 2013), and so on.