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Major category: Sociology
Structural functionalism is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole.  This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions and institutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole. In the most basic terms, it simply emphasizes "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system." For Talcott Parsons, "structural-functionalism" came to describe a particular stage in the methodological development of social science, rather than a specific school of thought. The structural functionalism approach is a macro level type analysis, with a broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole. Contents
2 Prominent theorists
2.1 Auguste Comte
2.2 Herbert Spencer
2.3 Talcott Parsons
2.4 Davis and Moore
2.5 Robert Merton
2.6 Almond and Powell
3 Structural functionalism and unilineal descent
4 Decline of functionalism
6 Influential theorists
7 See also
Classical functionalist theories are defined by a tendency towards biological analogy and notions of social evolutionism: Functionalist thought, from Comte onwards, has looked particularly towards biology as the science providing the closest and most compatible model for social science. Biology has been taken to provide a guide to conceptualizing the structure and the function of social systems and to analyzing processes of evolution via mechanisms of adaptation ... functionalism strongly emphasises the pre-eminence of the social world over its individual parts (i.e. its constituent actors, human subjects). —Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society 1984 
Whilst one may regard functionalism as a logical extension of the organic analogies for society presented by political philosophers such as Rousseau, sociology draws firmer attention to those institutions unique to industrialised capitalist society (or modernity). Functionalism also has an anthropological basis in the work of theorists such as Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. It is in Radcliffe-Brown's specific usage that the prefix 'structural' emerged.
Radcliffe-Brown proposed that most stateless, "primitive" societies, lacking strong centralised institutions, are based on an association of corporate-descent groups. Structural functionalism also took on Malinowski's argument that the basic building block of society is the nuclear family, and that the clan is an outgrowth, not vice versa. Durkheim was concerned with the question of how certain societies...
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27. ^ Cuff & Payne, 1984:44
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45. ^ cf. Kuper, 1988:196, 205-6
51. ^ Cassell, Philip The Giddens Reader (1993) The Macmillan Press Ltd, pp. 6
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