Structural Functionalism

Structural Functionalism: Definition, Theories and Criticism

The perspective of structural functionalism holds a major position within the classical sociological framework. The theory in question pertains to macro-level analysis, focusing on the examination of expansive social structures and social institutions. The explanatory value of structural functionalism has diminished in the modern era. However, this theoretical paradigm holds substantial importance within the field of social sciences. This article provides an overview of the structural-functionalist approach, with a particular emphasis on its fundamental ideas, the emergence of related theories, and a critical evaluation of this perspective.

Understanding Structural Functionalism

Structural Functionalism, often known as Functionalism, places its focus on the macro-level social structures, social institutions, their interconnectedness, and their impact on society. Within the framework of Structural Functionalism, it is important to note that the concepts of structure and function do not inherently possess a complementary relationship. The study of society’s structure can be conducted independently of its functions, just as the examination of various social processes’ functions can be undertaken without considering their structural form.

Structural functionalism is based on three easy ideas: keeping society stable, making sure everyone works well together, and how society changes over time. The social structure of a society is made up of many different parts, such as institutions, norms, and values, that are all linked and depend on each other. Each part of the system has a specific job, and all of these social patterns work together to keep society stable and balanced. Also, social structure changes as the needs of society change. If any part of the structure doesn’t work right, society as a whole could fall apart.


The Structural Functionalists think that any kind of rapid social change is caused by social tensions between different parts of society. For example, a small difference between traditional beliefs and social values could lead to a change in society. People don’t like it when things change quickly in society because it upsets the balance and makes things unstable.

Structural Functionalism is an explanatory theory primarily developed by Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons. Further debates and theories on Structural Functionalism have been articulated by various scholars like Radcliffe Brown, Kingsley Davis, and Wilbert Moore.

Leave a Comment