Functionalism is referred to as consensus structuralism because it emphasises the central role that agreement between members of a society on morals plays in maintaining social order. It is this moral consensus that creates an equilibrium, which is the normal state of society. Durkheim was concerned with the question of how societies maintain internal stability and survive over time. He sought to explain social cohesion and stability through the concept of solidarity. In "primitive" societies it was mechanical solidarity, the fact that everybody performed similar tasks, that held society together. Durkheim proposed that such societies tend to be segmentary, being composed of equivalent parts that are held together by shared values, common symbols, or, as his nephew Mauss held, systems of exchanges. In modern, complex societies members perform very different tasks, meaning that a strong interdependence develops between them. Based on the metaphor of an organism in which many parts function together to sustain the whole, Durkheim argued that complex societies are held together by organic solidarity. He espoused a strong sociological perspective of society which was continued by Radcliffe-Brown, who, following Auguste Comte, believed that the social constituted a separate "level" of reality distinct from both the biological and from inorganic matter. Explanations of social phenomena therefore had to be constructed within this social level, with individuals merely being transient occupants of comparatively stable social roles.
Consequently, he proposed that most stateless "primitive" societies that lack strong centralised institutions or government are on an association of such corporate descent groups. Structural-functionalism also took on Malinowski's argument that the basic building block of society is the nuclear family, and that clans are therefore an outgrowth of families, not vice versa.
The central concern of structural-functionalism was a...
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