Structural functionalism was the dominating theoretical school in British social anthropology from about to , and was originally formulated in. mode of analysis or a structural-functional mode of analysis. Using ment of these two approaches and their relation Journal of Anthropology 18 (Summer ). A theoretical orientation in anthropology, developed by Bronislaw Malinowski. Functionalism is similar to Radcliffe-Brown's structural functionalism, in that it is.
He argued that all societies need to solve problems of control and coordination, production of goods, services and ideasand, finally, to find ways of distributing these resources.
Initially, in tribal societies, these three needs are inseparable, and the kinship system is the dominant structure that satisfies them. As many scholars have noted, all institutions are subsumed under kinship organization,   but, with increasing population both in terms of sheer numbers and densityproblems emerge with regard to feeding individuals, creating new forms of organization—consider the emergent division of labour—coordinating and controlling various differentiated social units, and developing systems of resource distribution.
The solution, as Spencer sees it, is to differentiate structures to fulfill more specialized functions; thus a chief or "big man" emerges, soon followed by a group of lieutenants, and later kings and administrators.Structural Functionalism
The structural parts of society e. Therefore, social structures work together to preserve society. He coined the term " survival of the fittest " in discussing the simple fact that small tribes or societies tend to be defeated or conquered by larger ones.
Of course, many sociologists still use his ideas knowingly or otherwise in their analyses, especially due to the recent re-emergence of evolutionary theory. Structural functionalism and Parsons have received a lot of criticism. Numerous critics have pointed out Parsons' underemphasis of political and monetary struggle, the basics of social change, and the by and large "manipulative" conduct unregulated by qualities and standards.
Structural functionalism, and a large portion of Parsons' works, appear to be insufficient in their definitions concerning the connections amongst institutionalized and non-institutionalized conduct, and the procedures by which institutionalization happens.
He held that "the social system is made up of the actions of individuals. Social norms were always problematic for Parsons, who never claimed as has often been alleged [ citation needed ] that social norms were generally accepted and agreed upon, should this prevent some kind of universal law.
Whether social norms were accepted or not was for Parsons simply a historical question. As behaviors are repeated in more interactions, and these expectations are entrenched or institutionalized, a role is created. Parsons defines a "role" as the normatively-regulated participation "of a person in a concrete process of social interaction with specific, concrete role-partners.
In one sense, an individual can be seen to be a "composition"  of the roles he inhabits. Certainly, today, when asked to describe themselves, most people would answer with reference to their societal roles. Parsons later developed the idea of roles into collectivities of roles that complement each other in fulfilling functions for society.
These are functional in the sense that they assist society in operating  and fulfilling its functional needs so that society runs smoothly.
Contrary to prevailing myth, Parsons never spoke about a society where there was no conflict or some kind of "perfect" equilibrium. To reach a "perfect" equilibrium was not any serious theoretical question in Parsons analysis of social systems, indeed, the most dynamic societies had generally cultural systems with important inner tensions like the US and India. These tensions were a source of their strength according to Parsons rather than the opposite.
Parsons never thought about system-institutionalization and the level of strains tensions, conflict in the system as opposite forces per se. Socialization is important because it is the mechanism for transferring the accepted norms and values of society to the individuals within the system. Parsons never spoke about "perfect socialization"—in any society socialization was only partial and "incomplete" from an integral point of view.
Socialization is supported by the positive and negative sanctioning of role behaviours that do or do not meet these expectations. If these two processes were perfect, society would become static and unchanging, but in reality this is unlikely to occur for long. Parsons recognizes this, stating that he treats "the structure of the system as problematic and subject to change,"  and that his concept of the tendency towards equilibrium "does not imply the empirical dominance of stability over change.
Individuals in interaction with changing situations adapt through a process of "role bargaining". Where the adaptation process cannot adjust, due to sharp shocks or immediate radical change, structural dissolution occurs and either new structures or therefore a new system are formed, or society dies. This model of social change has been described as a " moving equilibrium ",  and emphasizes a desire for social order.
Moore gave an argument for social stratification based on the idea of "functional necessity" also known as the Davis-Moore hypothesis. They argue that the most difficult jobs in any society have the highest incomes in order to motivate individuals to fill the roles needed by the division of labour. Thus inequality serves social stability. The problem is that these rewards are supposed to be based upon objective merit, rather than subjective "motivations.
Critics have suggested that structural inequality inherited wealth, family power, etc. Merton made important refinements to functionalist thought.
However, he acknowledged Parsons' theory problematic, believing that it was over generalized. Merton believed that any social structure probably has many functions, some more obvious than others. Manifest functions referred to the recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern.
Structural functionalism - Wikipedia
Latent functions referred to unrecognized and unintended consequences of any social pattern. Consequently, there is a social dysfunction referred to as any social pattern that may disrupt the operation of society. Some practices are only functional for a dominant individual or a group. The manifest function of education includes preparing for a career by getting good grades, graduation and finding good job.
The second type of function is "latent functions", where a social pattern results in an unrecognized or unintended consequence. The latent functions of education include meeting new people, extra-curricular activities, school trips.
Merton states that by recognizing and examining the dysfunctional aspects of society we can explain the development and persistence of alternatives. Thus, as Holmwood states, "Merton explicitly made power and conflict central issues for research within a functionalist paradigm. This means that the institutions that currently exist are not indispensable to society. Merton states "just as the same item may have multiple functions, so may the same function be diversely fulfilled by alternative items.
Merton's theory of deviance is derived from Durkheim's idea of anomie. It is central in explaining how internal changes can occur in a system. For Merton, anomie means a discontinuity between cultural goals and the accepted methods available for reaching them.
Merton believes that there are 5 situations facing an actor. Conformity occurs when an individual has the means and desire to achieve the cultural goals socialized into them. Innovation occurs when an individual strives to attain the accepted cultural goals but chooses to do so in novel or unaccepted method.
Ritualism occurs when an individual continues to do things as prescribed by society but forfeits the achievement of the goals.
Retreatism is the rejection of both the means and the goals of society. Rebellion is a combination of the rejection of societal goals and means and a substitution of other goals and means. Thus it can be seen that change can occur internally in society through either innovation or rebellion.
It is true that society will attempt to control these individuals and negate the changes, but as the innovation or rebellion builds momentum, society will eventually adapt or face dissolution. Almond and Powell[ edit ] In the s, political scientists Gabriel Almond and Bingham Powell introduced a structural-functionalist approach to comparing political systems. They argued that, in order to understand a political system, it is necessary to understand not only its institutions or structures but also their respective functions.
They also insisted that these institutions, to be properly understood, must be placed in a meaningful and dynamic historical context.
This idea stood in marked contrast to prevalent approaches in the field of comparative politics—the state-society theory and the dependency theory. These were the descendants of David Easton 's system theory in international relationsa mechanistic view that saw all political systems as essentially the same, subject to the same laws of "stimulus and response"—or inputs and outputs—while paying little attention to unique characteristics.
The structural-functional approach is based on the view that a political system is made up of several key components, including interest groupspolitical parties and branches of government.
Sociological Theory/Structural Functionalism
In addition to structures, Almond and Powell showed that a political system consists of various functions, chief among them political socialization, recruitment and communication: Unilineal descent[ edit ] In their attempt to explain the social stability of African "primitive" stateless societies where they undertook their fieldwork, Evans-Pritchard and Meyer Fortes argued that the Tallensi and the Nuer were primarily organized around unilineal descent groups.
Such groups are characterized by common purposes, such as administering property or defending against attacks; they form a permanent social structure that persists well beyond the lifespan of their members.
In the case of the Tallensi and the Nuer, these corporate groups were based on kinship which in turn fitted into the larger structures of unilineal descent; consequently Evans-Pritchard's and Fortes' model is called "descent theory". Equilibriumin a social context, is the internal and external balance in a society. While temporary disturbances may upset the equilibrium of society, because of social structure, society will eventually return to a balanced, orderly state.
That society strives toward equilibrium also means that changes happen slowly. This section explores some of the propositions of structural functionalism.
One proposition derived from Structural Functionalist theory is that people have social capitaland that greater amounts of social capital translate into benefits.
Well integrated members of an institution those with substantial social capital will remain members of the institution in order to maximize the potential of their social capital. This assumption leads to another proposition: The higher the level of integration between these intermediate groups, the more cohesive society will be as a whole.
The absence of social cohesion can result in greater violence toward others and one's self. It shows that all of the different organizations and institutions in society are interdependent. When one institution in society changes, other institutions accommodate that change by changing as well, though the ultimate effect is to slow overall change.
Specific Conceptual Diagram[ edit ] Below is a chart depicting how deviance is functional for society and how society responds to deviance. A "deviant" individual commits an act that is deemed by the rest of society as criminal, because it leads to public outrage and punishments. Because a large portion of society respond to the action as though it is deviant, this draws a boundary between what is and is not deviant.
Thus, deviance actually helps to indicate what is not deviant, or, the function of labeling behaviors or ideas as deviance is to insure that most people do not engage in those behaviors.
History of Structural functionalism[ edit ] Functionalism developed slowly over time with the help of many sociologists in different parts of the world. However, we begin with Herbert Spencer. Herbert Spencer, an English sociologist, was a forerunner of formalized Structural Functioanlism.
He is best known for coining the phrase "survival of the fittest" in his book Principles of Sociology One of the primary focii in Spencer's work was societal equilibrium. Spencer argued that there is a natural tendency in society towards equilibrium. Thus, even when the conditions of the society are altered, the resulting changes to the social structure will balance out, returning the society to equilibrium.
Durkheim's theory was, at least in part, a response to evolutionary speculations of theorists such as Edward Burnett Tylor.
He wanted to understand the value of cultural and social traits by explaining them in regards to their contribution to the operation of the overall system of society and life. Later the focus for structural functionalism changed to be more about the ways that social institutions in society meet the social needs of individuals within that society.
Durkheim was interested in four main aspects of society: Durkheim addressed his first focus in his book, The Division of Labor in Society. In older, more primitive societies Durkheim argued that " mechanical solidarity kept everyone together.
Mechanic Solidarity here refers to everyone doing relatively similar tasks. For instance, in hunting and gathering societies there was not a substantial division of labor; people hunted or gathered. Durkheim theorized that shared values, common symbols, and systems of exchange functioned as the tools of cohesion in these societies. In more modern and complex societies individuals are quite different and they do not perform the same tasks.
However, the diversity actually leads to a different form of solidarity - interdependence. Durkheim referred to this as "organic solidarity. Organic solidarity leads to a strong sense of individuals being dependent on one another. For instance, while a construction worker may be able to build homes for people, if he is injured on the job, he will turn to a doctor for treatment and probably a lawyer to sue his employer.
The division of labor in society requires specialization, and the result is organic solidarity. Durkheim's work on suicide was also tied to structural functionalism. In his book, Suicide, Durkheim hypothesized that social relationships reduced the likelihood of suicide. By collecting data across large groups in Europe, Durkheim was able to distinguish patterns in suicide rates and connect those patterns with other variables.
Inversely, the greater the cohesive bond between individuals the less likely one was to commit suicide. One concrete example Durkheim explored was the difference in solidarity between Protestants and Catholics.
Due to a variety of factors, Durkheim argued that Protestants had lower social solidarity than Catholics, and their weaker bonds resulted in higher rates of suicide. Thus, solidarity helped maintain societal order.
Another thread in the development of Structural Functionalism comes from England, where it emerged from the study of anthropology in the early twentieth century in the theorizing of Bronislaw Malinowski and A. Malinowski argued that cultural practices had physiological and psychological functions, such as the satisfaction of desires.
He argued that the social world constituted a separate "level" of reality, distinct from those of biological forms people and inorganic forms. Radcliffe-Brown argued that explanations of social phenomena had to be constructed at the social level. To Radcliffe-Brown, individuals were only significant in relation to their positions in the overall structure of social roles in society. In the United States, functionalism was formalized in sociological thinking by Talcott Parsons, who introduced the idea that there are stable structural categories that make up the interdependent systems of a society and functioned to maintain society.
He argued that this homeostasis is the critical characteristic of societies. Parsons supported individual integration into social structures, meaning that individuals should find how they fit into the different aspects of society on their own, rather than being assigned roles. Parsons saw social systems as "a plurality of individual actors interacting with each other in a situation which has at least a physical or environmental aspect, actors who are motivated in terms of a tendency to the "optimization of gratification" and whose relation to their situations, including each other, is defined and mediated in terms of a system of culturally structured and shared symbols.