Structural Functionalism Theory

Structural functionalism is an area in the social sciences which focuses on the social structure. In this structure, the purpose of its elements like institutions, traditions, and norms are well addressed. On the basis of Herbert Spencer’s analogy, the view taken is that these interrelated parts of society act as organs that work toward the proper functioning of a body as a whole. This theory argues that in a society stratification is universal and necessary. So functional stratification focuses on positions rather than individuals and the way those individuals are placed in appropriate levels.

Since these levels are important and need different skills, a system of stratification is paramount to provide for the achievement of all roles (Meyer, 77). Structural functionalist theory was analyzed by Talcott Parsons who based it on four assumptions; that systems are mutually dependent; and tend towards equilibrium. Functionalism explains the relationship of different parts of the system with each other, and to the whole. The parts work together in a systematic manner, without great divergence.

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The different parts are usually at equilibrium, or moving toward equilibrium with harmony than conflict. This leads the inter-relationships of the parts though they may be static or be drawn in event of a change . Thirdly in any particular system, allocation and integration is quite crucial. Lastly those systems are self maintaining and change occurs through evolution where the adaptation of social structures to needs and demands and the exclusion of needless structures remain inherent (Meyer, 65).

Change comes in and tends to be orderly and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.

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Conflicts stimulate adjustment of the parts to move toward a new equilibrium. Various parts of societies become more differentiated as change occurs, with these parts adapting to new needs and problems. This is related to how Durkheim views the development of division of labor (Meyer, 58). These assumptions led the scholar to focus primarily on order but to overlook, for the most part, the issue of change. In the US class differences go beyond differentials in income and wealth.

To know what people purchase or vote for, one needs to evaluate people at the same career who do a similar job. The upper class being the most referent is usually headed by executives, celebrities, doctors and lawyers. An example of a system that plays a crucial role in reproducing the U. S class structure is the poor lot of kids and the working class that rarely find their place through authoritative relationships with principals and teachers as they will be geared to subordinate work positions they are most likely to occupy in the future (Meyer, 59).

Inequality is one example of structural functionalism. According to functionalists, a certain degree of inequality is necessary is society is to function well for the common good. Without a certain degree of inequality the society could not operate effectively. In order to induce people to carry out the work required of them and get them perform roles required of them by society, rewards in the form of revenue, position, reputation, or power must be provided. Conclusion The functionalist theory presumes that society is a representation of systems.

It also assumes that each system acts towards the common good of the system. These two perhaps present the biggest assumptions of the theory. However, the assumptions fall short as they fail to explain societal animosity. If indeed each segment of society was to augment societal cohesion, then it beggars belief that society is always at war over certain aspects.

Works Cited

Meyer, J. William. The Effects of Education as an Institution. The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 83, No. 1. (Jul. , 1977), pp. 55-77. The University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Structural Functionalism Theory. (2016, Oct 06). Retrieved from

Structural Functionalism Theory essay
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