In any introductory sociology course, students are taught about the three main sociological perspectives: conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism. These perspectives seek to make sense of our complex social world. Of the three, it seems that functionalism is the most outdated and does not adequately address the growing inequality in our society.
Functionalists believe that society is a system made-up of interworking parts, and that each part is needed to keep society functioning. We each fulfill necessary social roles and are rewarded for our work according to how much we contribute to society. In other words, if we're "worth" more to society, we are given greater rewards (i.e. pay, status, etc) for our work. This may have been true at one time, but how would functionalists explain things like like cast of "Jersey Shore?"
Recent reports claim that cast-members make $30,000 an episode, far more than many working and even middle class people make in an entire year. It would be hard to argue that these reality TV stars are "worth" more to society than police officers, firefighters, nurses, and teachers, which begs the question, are we really rewarded based on our worth, and is functionalism really relevant in the age of reality television, YouTube, and instant celebrity? While I'm not proposing we do away with reality TV or pay everyone the same salary, I am suggesting that as a culture, we reevaluate our priorities from time to time and really think about what we value and how we reward those within our society.