Sociology Index


Structural functionalism is a perspective used in the analysis of society and their component features. Structural functionalism focusses on the mutual integration and interconnection of societies. Structural functionalism deals with and focusses on what social functions various elements of the social system perform with regard to the system as a whole. Social structures are placed at the center of analysis in structural functionalism, and social functions are deduced from these structures. Structural functionalism means that social institutions which collectively form social structures, function in order to maintain the harmony of the social whole. Structural functionalism was a theoretical school in British social anthropology and was formulated in opposition to evolutionism.

The concern of structural functionalism was a continuation of the David Emile Durkheim view of the need for stability and internal cohesion in the system as a whole. Though it is mainly associated with Talcott Parsons, the single most famous article is an article on social stratification by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore. 

Structural functionalism emphasizes the aspects of social institutions and behavior that are conducive to stability and order within society. The fundamental perspective is opposition to major social change. Structural functionalism is a range of theoretical perspectives within anthropology and sociology that addresses the relationship of social activity to an overall social system.

Robert King Merton is another well known sociologist who provided some important structural functional theoretical statements. Parsons and the structural functionalist approach to sociology occupy an intermediate position between classical and contemporary sociology. Parsons and the functional approach to sociology became so dominant that sociology and functionalism became more or less synonymous.

Wallace and Wolf trace the development of structural functionalism to Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Durkheim. Structural functionalism drew its inspiration primarily from the ideas of David Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. Structural functionalist theory is associated with Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard. The most famous accomplishment of the structural functionalists was the formulation of segmentary lineage theory.


Structural Functionalism as a Heuristic Device - Chilcott, John H. Abstract: Argues that structural functionalism as a method for conducting fieldwork and as a format for the analysis of ethnographic data remains a powerful model. As a heuristic device, functionalist theory can help in the solution of a problem that is otherwise incapable of theoretical justification.

Feminine Faces of Leadership: Beyond Structural-Functionalism? - Fennell, Hope-Arlene. Abstract: Reviews four philosophical leadership perspectives: structural-functionalism, constructivism, critical theory, and feminism. Explores the leadership phenomenon through the eyes of six women principals. Although the behavior of all six fall within a structural functionalism perspective, each is attempting to construct inclusive, positive, and enabling leadership practices.

Outcomes-Based Education Reexamined: From Structural Functionalism to Poststructuralism - Colleen A. Capper, Michael T. Jamison. Outcomes-Based Education positions itself as a means of emancipating students and teachers from traditional practices which lead to educational inequality.

Synecdoche and Structural Functionalism by N. J. Demerath III - 1966 Social Forces, University of North Carolina Press. Abstract: Both critics and defenders tend to regard structural functionalism as a single school with a distinct identity and a common strategy. This paper suggests that structural functionalism harbors at least two different approaches which lead to different conclusions and different vulnerabilities.

Structural-Functionalism Reconsidered: A Proposed Research Model by Ruth Lane - 1994 The City University of New York.
Abstract: Structural functionalism has fallen upon the ash heap of history, discarded by friends and foes alike for failures of theoretical rigor and, worse still, falsity of predictions about political development. Hindsight suggest that structural functionalism need not be so arbitrarily discarded. When radically revised by means of a conversion from macro-analysis to a form of micro-analysis, structural functionalism shows a theoretical vigor that its successors often lack.