Functionalism in Society

Functionalism holds that society is a complex system whose various parts work together to produce stability and solidarity. According to this approach, the discipline of sociology should investigate the relationship of paths of society to each other and to society as a whole. We can analyze the religious beliefs and customs of a society, for example, by showing how they relate to other institutions within it, for the different parts of a society develop in close relation to one another.

To study the function of social practice or institution is to analyze the contribution which that practices, or institution, makes to the continuation of society.   Functionalists including Comte and Durkheim, have often used an organic analogy to compare the operation of society to that of a living organism. They argue that the parts of Society work together, just as the various parts of a human body do, for the benefit of society. To study a bodily organ like# a heart, we need to show how it relates to other parts of the body. By pumping blood around the body, the heart plays a Vito role in the continuation of the organism. Similarly, analyzing the function of a social item means showing the parts it plays in the continued existence and health of the society.

Functionalism emphasizes the importance of moral consensus,   in maintaining order and stability in society. Moral consensus exists when most people in a society share the same values. Functionalists regard order and balance as the normal state of society- this social equilibrium is grounded in the existence of moral consensus among the members of society. For instance, Durkheim, believed that religion reaffirms people‚Äôs adherence to core social values, there by contributing to the maintenance of social cohesion.

Until the 1960s, functionalist thought was probably the leading theoretical tradition in sociology particularly in the United States. Robert K Merton (1990) distinguished between manifest and latent functions....