Structural Functionalism is simply known as Functionalism; it is defined as a system of parts, all of which serve a function together for an overall effectiveness and efficiency for society. This theory views norms, customs, traditions, and institutions that surround society and society should acknowledge different elements to gain social stability. Failure to do so results in imbalance, negative attitudes, war, and misunderstanding in a community. An example can portray this concept: for instance, the government or state, provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running.
The family is dependent upon the school to help children grow up to have good jobs so that they can raise and support their own families. If it all goes well, parts of the society produce order, stability, and productivity. If it does not go well, parts of the society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity. Functionalists accept the fact that change is sometimes necessary to correct social dysfunctions (the opposite of functions), but it must occur slowly so that people and institutions can adapt without any rapid disorder.
A set of theories that differs from Functionalism is the Conflict Theory. Conflict Theory states that “society or an organization functions so that each individual participant and its groups struggle to maximize their benefits, which inevitably contributes to social change such as political changes and revolutions” (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry./Conflict_theory). Functionalism makes seven main assumptions which focuses on several level of analysis which are [society, community, individual, social unit (ex. family, organizations, and so forth)].
Functionalism focuses on “macro-level (looks at large-scale social institutions like society as a while, government, the labor force, and so forth)” (http://structuralfunctionalism.com/). It looks at grand-scale sensation and pays little attention to individual agency and personality development. Though, micro theories like symbolic interactionalism center more on individuals and their everyday interactions with others and small-scale social groups or organizations. There is a metaphor for functionalism which is the human body. Without one or more important organs, the body cannot operate. So saying that functionalists argue: in order for a society to operate, it has to place and motivate individuals to occupy the necessary positions in the social structure. There are two main ways society does this is through motivation and rewards.
A society must “instill in the proper individuals the desire (motivation) to fill certain positions. Once the proper individuals are in these positions, society must offer them appropriate (rewards) so that they maintain desire to fulfill their difficult positions (i.e. jobs)” (http://structuralfunctionalism.com/). There are two examples that functionalism plays a good role which are education and crime. Structural-functionalists see education as contributing to the smooth functioning of the society. Education helps maintain society by socializing young beings into values of achievement, competition, and equality of opportunity. Education transmits culture such as shared beliefs, values, and train the most qualified individuals for the most socially important positions. It teaches people not only the skills and thinking skills to maximize their potential, but also teaches them to be good citizens and get along with others.
They would not see education as contributing to inequality along with class, race, gender, and so forth but rather as serving the positive function of the overall society. Structural-functionalists view crime as a necessary part of society. Through public outrage and legal punishment, the majority of people in a given society recognize, accept, and adhere to a shared set of moral guidelines and rules. Without crime, there would be no legal system or shared morals in our society. As well as a stable crime rate is a sign of a healthy society. If the crime rates escalate, people will lose trust and solidarity. But, if the rates of crime remain low, people will think that they are living in a state where is no freedom and individuality or no shared moral guidelines that penetrates right, wrong, immoral and moral, normal, and deviance.
Friley, G. (2012). Understanding Human Society .