Major Sociological Perspectives: Structural-Functional

Major Sociological Perspectives: Structural-Functional

The structural-functional perspective emerges as a prominent theoretical framework in sociology, originating from the contributions of early thinkers such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Emile Durkheim during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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The structural-functional perspective, also called functionalism, is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. It developed from the sociological writings of early theorists like Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, and Emile Durkheim in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Key Ideas

  • Views society as a system of interconnected parts that work together to promote social stability and solidarity
  • Focuses on social structure comprising the patterned and recurrent relationships among individuals, groups, institutions
  • Examines the functions that various elements of society perform to meet individuals' basic needs and societal requirements

Key Concepts

  • Functional requisites - basic needs like food, shelter that social institutions help fulfill
  • Functions and dysfunctions - consequences an element may have for society, either beneficial or detrimental
  • Social equilibrium - state of balance maintained through integration of society's component elements
  • Value consensus - shared common values regulating behaviors and enforcing conformity


  • Recognizes the interconnectedness between society's component elements
  • Explains the requisite functions social processes have to fulfill
  • Highlights contribution of structural elements like social institutions to stability


  • Seen as too conservative, overestimating social order and consensus
  • Underemphasizes conflicts of interest present in most stratified societies
  • Doesn't adequately explain forces of societal change over time

While later perspectives have critiqued and built upon structural functionalism's limitations, it still offers a macro-lens to understand the integrative workings of societies.

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