The structural functional approach


 The structural-functional approach

            The structural-functional approach can also be regarded as the sociological theory. This approach explains why society functions the way it does by putting emphasis on the relationships that exist between the various social institutions that make up the society (Miller, 2003). These institutions are; the government, law, education and religion.  The concepts of “mechanical solidarity and “Organic Solidarity” are the concepts of solidarity as developed by Emile Durkheim.  These two terms were introduced by Durkheim as part of his theory of societies, in the division of labor in societies. A Society can only exhibit mechanical solidarity only if the cohesion and integration of the people is as a result of the homogeneity of the individuals.  People are more connected to each other through similar works, educational and religious training. Mechanical solidarity operates in a small society. Organic Solidarity us as a result of the interdependence that arise from specialization of work.  Organic solidarity can only be built in modern, industrialized societies (Barnes, 1977). Durkheim supports the Organic solidarity where a society is based on the shared practices and norms.  The society is more than the people who live in it. Durkheim’s ideas are the basis of the functionalism theory. Social cohesion can only exist in a society where individuals are equal and share the same norms and values.

Parson’s analysis of social systems begins with a theory of individual actions. Social actors according to him are defined by their identities and action. The goal of the actions of an individual is always to maximize their satisfaction. According to Parson’s the only way to resolve the conflict that exist between individual desires is by characterizing the common value system that preceded the constraints of the social actor (Bicchieri, & Muldoon, 2011). This way the conflicting desire of social actors will not lead to inequality. Manifest functions can be defined as conscious, deliberate and beneficial while latent functions are defined as unconscious, unintended and beneficial. Dysfunctional can either be latent or manifest, they often have a negative effect on the society (Helm, 1971).  The negative impact gives rise to inequality. Social inequality refers to the way society fulfills the needs of its members through ranks of people in a hierarchy.   A cohesive society is one that works towards the wellbeing of its members, a society that fights marginalization of its members which ultimately results in inequality.  A cohesive society promotes trust on equal levels and creates a strong sense of belonging since the society is not built on hierarchy.














Barnes, G. M. (1977). Emile Durkheim's Contribution to the Sociology of Education. The Journal           of Educational Thought (JET)/Revue de la Pensée Educative, 213-223.

Bicchieri, C., & Muldoon, R. (2011). Social norms.

Miller, S. (2003). Social institutions. In Realism in Action (pp. 233-249). Springer, Dordrecht.

Helm, P. (1971). Manifest and latent functions. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), 21(82), 51-60.



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