Theories Of Structural Functionalism

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What happens when a cog in a machine decides to rotate in a different direction? If an organ in the body decides to shut down? The respective system would need to adjust to this deviance in order to compensate for its shortcomings; this happens in society as well. The sociological perspective of structural functionalism deals primarily with this way of thinking – each part of society functions together to contribute towards the whole. The United States currently accounts for five percent of the world’s population, yet twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population; according to the sociological perspective of structural functionalism, this is due to interrelated parts of society failing to fulfill their duties, social facts not being…show more content…
Spencer was an English philosopher and biologist born in 1820; because of his dual training in both the arts and sciences, Spencer was able to make a connection between the body and society (Openstax, p. 15). He discovered that the way society functions mirrors that of the body – parts working towards a whole. Spencer referred to these parts as social institutions, “or patterns of beliefs and behaviors focused on meeting social needs, such as government, education, family, healthcare, religion, and the economy” (Openstax, p. 15). Each of these institutions greatly impacts the individuals it encounters in different, yet necessary ways, and it is extremely rare that an individual deals with only one in their lifetime. In fact, the institutions one belongs to can change quite frequently. “The functionalist perspective emphasizes the interconnectedness of society by focusing on how each part influences and is influenced by other parts” (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2007). Spencer’s writings and development of theories influenced Emile Durkheim, who began to apply these same theories to his own works. While trying to determine how societies can change and survive over time, Durkheim…show more content…
“With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has more than 20% of the world’s prison population… [and] one in 110 adults are incarcerated in a prison or local jail.”(ACLU). According to the theory of structural functionalism, it is the duty of the social institutions to focus on fulfilling social needs. With such high prison populations, it is simple to conclude that these deviances occur as a result of inadequate teaching of social norms within schools, homes, or other institutions an individual may be associated with. Many times in these social institutions dysfunctions are prevalent. Dysfunctions can best be defined as “Social processes that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society” (Openstax, p. 15). Essentially, a dysfunction is a bad grade on an exam or truancy in school – a minor punishment for not achieving society’s standards. For many individuals, these dysfunctions deter any effort to continue to strive to reach society’s standards due to their negative connotations. Therefore, if an individual encounters an excessive number of dysfunctions, he or she will be more likely to resort to deviant behavior, in attempt

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