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Functionalist Perspective

Functionalist Perspective

This article will tell you everything you wanted to know about functionalist perspective, what it means, and also some famous examples of this perspective. Have a look...
Neha Joshi
Why is the world the way it is? Heard this question too many times? Well, I always heard my social science friends talk about this one question, and have discussions on it that really never made sense to me. Why challenge or go and find out the way people behave, and that too in response to the environment around it? Over a time, I grew up and understood sociology better than before. It really is important to understand various perspectives that exist in sociology, including this particular perspective. Do you know why? Different perspectives give us a wider range of understanding as humans. We can look at a particular happening in ten different ways, and understand its occurrence better.

What is a Functionalist Perspective?

Functionalist perspective is a sociological perspective which states that everything in this society exists for a reason. That reason, whatever it may be, and however strange, is important for the way we live. Basically, everyone and everything in this world has a purpose of their own. This perspective was earliest known to evolve from the works of Emile Durkheim. It was later put forward by Talcott Parsons in the mid-20th century. Parsons was a Harvard sociologist, and he gave this perspective the much-needed shape and meaning.

"The world is a system of interrelated parts, and each part makes a necessary contribution to the vitality of the system." ―Bohm

This definition surely helps us in understanding this perspective better. Remember that this is just a perspective. This is how certain people look at things and circumstances around them.


As we all know, this perspective is one of the three main theories of sociology. These examples will also explain the importance of sociology in a way. Emile Durkheim and the normality of crime is a classic example of this perspective. It says, in simple words, that if crime did not exist, the jobs relating to lawyers, policemen, etc., would also not exist, and thus result in high rates of unemployment. This perspective on poverty stood out to be one of the best examples. The functionalist perspective on education states that, the basic role of education is of course passing on knowledge to the next generation. According to Durkheim, the role of education as moral education is also of socializing people into society's mainstream. According to him, it helped in forming a cohesive social structure.

Another famous example is the functionalist perspective on family. According to Murdock, Goode, and Parsons, the ideal family is the nuclear family in today's modern world. According to them, this is a positive institution, which consists a working and earning husband, a wife dependent on him, and their children. They say that this institution meets well with the needs of an advanced and developed industrial society.

A lot of people live by these perspectives, and have made a lot of changes in society that have benefited one and all. The conclusion is that, a functionalist perspective sees purpose in everything that exists in society, from institutions to conditions to environment. It thus considers the function of every element in the society as an important marker that helps mankind thrive.