Study of the way each part of society contributes to the functioning of society as a whole

  • Example-school’s function is to teach new generations society’s ways fills a need for society
  • Example-Durkheim’s study of suicide
  • Approach is influenced by biology
    • Different parts of the body are seen as contributing to the body as a total system
    • Tissues, bones, cells related to one another to form a system
    • There is interaction and interrelatedness among the parts
  • Sees society with 5 major parts (social institutions):
    • Economy
    • Family/kinship
    • Government/decision-making
    • Education/socialization
    • Religion/cosmology
  • A change in one part will cause adjustment in other parts to maintain balance
  • Social balance is emphasized
  • Types of functions
    • Manifest – overt and obvious functions
    • Latent- hidden functions; unintentional effects
    • Dysfunctions-useless or negative effects
  • Structural-Functionalism asks these kind of questions:
    • What function does this social phenomena perform for society?
    • What need does it fill?

Example: What function does prostitution serve for society? (Kingsley Davis)