Understanding Functionalism notes

Understanding Functionalism
Functionalism is sometimes also referred to as consensus theory as it believes that society
functions better when there is agreement (consensus) among everyone.
Functionalism is a structuralist theory. This means that it sees the individual as less important
than the social structure or organisation of society. This is because the individual is produced
by society and therefore society is most important.
Functionalists study the role of different parts of society (social institutions) in bringing about
social order. People need to be taught core values of their society and to internalise them so
they become shared. The end result of this is value consensus (society agrees on what the
important values and standards of behaviour are).
There are basic functional pre-requisites (basic needs) that need to be met if society is to
How does Functionalism view society as being similar to the body?
Functionalists see society as a complex system made up of different parts that all work
together to keep the whole system going (organic analogy)
Every part of the body has
a function which helps to
keep the body alive and
Every part of society helps to
keep society going e.g. the
family helps bring up the next
The human body grows and
Societies gradually develop
and change.
All of the parts of the
body link together into 1
big system.
All of the parts of society
work together and depend on
each other – they are
The body fights disease
Society has mechanisms to
deal with problems when they
occur e.g. the police and legal
system .