In the discipline of Sociology, Structural Functionalism, often referred to as functionalism, centres on the structure and functioning of society. Functionalist theorists view society as constructed of interdependent structures that work together for the benefit of society as a whole. The structural functionalist approach has its detractors, but it still remains the most effective framework for characterising the art of living together in a community.
Structural functionalism has its origins in history with many theorists making significant and often controversial contributions. In this article an attempt is made to define the theory focusing on the structure of society as it has originally been equated to the human body. In the human body the individual organs each perform a function, together these functions make a system and the systems function as the body.
The interdependence of the structures within society is alluded to with particular emphasis on the consensus that should exist for the establishment and maintenance of equilibrium in society. The equilibrium will be achieved through evolutionary change which implies a gradual and non confrontational process. An account is given of the application of the theory and how the various structures within society functions for the good and benefit of the whole as well as a reflection on the relevance of the theory in modern society.
1. Definition of structural functionalism
Structural functionalism can be defined as, "…an idea of society being likened to a holistic, integrated system, but with a much stronger emphasis on the self perpetuation of the system which implies that the social institutions, which collectively form a social structure, function to maintain the harmony of the social whole."
Structural functionalism views society as an integrated system that is synchronised and in...