Functionalist Explanation, Social Stratification, Social Inequality, Social Structures, Labeling Theory
Structural functionalism is a perspective used in the analysis of societies and
their component features, focusing on their mutual integration and interconnection.
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, and social functions are deduced from these structures.
Structural functionalism means that social institutions
which collectively form social structures, function 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 Durkheimian task of explaining the need for stability and internal cohesion in the
system as a whole.
Unlike the other major theoretical approaches, the
structural functional model comes from a variety of authors. Though it is mainly
associated with Talcott Parsons, the single most famous article is a short summary article
on social stratification by Kingsley Davis and
Wilbert Moore. Robert Merton is another well known sociologist who provided some important
structural functional theoretical statements.
Parsons and the 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 Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Durkheim. The functional approach was
developed from the 1930s through the 1960s in the United States. Parsons used concepts and
models from Weber and Durkheim to establish a sociological approach which countered the
emphasizes the aspects of social institutions and behavior that are conducive to stability
and order within society. Functionalism analyses the way that social processes and
institutional arrangements contribute to the effective maintenance and stability of
society. The fundamental perspective is opposition to major social change.
Structural-functionalism drew its inspiration primarily
from the ideas of Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. Structural
functionalist theory is associated with Radcliffe-Brown and Evans-Pritchard.
Structural functionalism is a range of theoretical
perspectives within anthropology and sociology that addresses the relationship of social
activity to an overall social system. 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, one that is
easily understood by professional educators. As a heuristic device, functionalist theory
can help in the solution of a problem that is otherwise incapable of theoretical
justification. - eric.ed.gov
Feminine Faces of Leadership: Beyond Structural-Functionalism? -
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 behaviors of all six fall within a
structural-functionalist perspective, each is attempting to construct inclusive, positive,
and enabling leadership practices. (39 references) (MLH)
Outcomes-Based Education Reexamined: From Structural Functionalism to
Poststructuralism - Colleen A. Capper, Department of Educational Administration,
1186D Educational Sciences Building, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michael T. Jamison -
Educational Policy, Vol. 7, No. 4, 427-446 (1993)
Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) views itself as a drastic break from current educational
practices and a means of providing educational success for all students. Though not stated
in overt terms, OBE also positions it self as a means of "emancipating "
students and teachers from traditional practices which lead to educational inequity. This
article reexamines OBE from a multiparadigm perspective of organizations and educational
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. Thus, it matters whether one is primarily
concerned with the structural part or the systematic whole. In each case there are
advantages and disadvantages, but charges of Panglossian unity, illusions of
indispensability, static analysis, and ideological conservatism do not apply equally to
Structural-Functionalism Reconsidered: A Proposed Research Model
by Ruth Lane © 1994 The City University of New York.
Abstract: Structural-functionalism, once the flagship of comparative political research,
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