FUNCTIONALISM, also called STRUCTURAL FUNCTIONALISM, is a way of approaching a problem or scenario. These various ways are also called THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS.
In FUNCTIONALISM, society is viewed as a collection of social structures, all of which depend on and affect each other. You can think of a functionalist’s view of society as one would look at the different systems of the body. All of society’s institutions and structures are interdependent and when one of them has a problem, the rest compensate to continue to allow society to function smoothly.
Functionalism can be viewed as a sort of “let things handle themselves” way of looking at society, as the belief can be summed up as “things will work themselves out”. So if lung cancer rates skyrocket due to smoking, society will, eventually, look at that and go “holy cow, we need to make sure fewer people smoke!” and that’s what will cause social change.
Functionalism is a MACRO view of society, meaning that it takes society as a whole and analyzes it from a distance, rather than on an individual basis.
Some Notable Functionalists:
- Émile Durkheim: A French sociologist, Durkheim has several well-known works, which include The Rules of Sociological Method,The Division of Labour in Society and Suicide.
- Robert K. Merton: An American sociologist, Merton’s idea of functionalism had to do with standardized social/cultural beliefs that were functional for both society and the individual.