Structural Functionalism Quiz



9 Questions

What is the main focus of structural functionalism?

Who proposed that societies tend to be segmented, with equivalent parts held together by shared values, common symbols or systems of exchanges?

What did Talcott Parsons argue were the four key functional imperatives of social systems?

What is the main criticism of functionalism?

Who developed the concept of deviance and made the distinction between manifest and latent functions?

What did Gabriel Almond and Bingham Powell introduce a structural-functionalist approach to?

What is unilineal descent?

Who heavily influenced Talcott Parsons?

What did feminist theorists criticize functionalism for?


Structural Functionalism in Sociological Theory

  • Structural functionalism is a theoretical framework 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.

  • It believes that society has evolved like organisms and 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.

  • Auguste Comte believed that society constitutes a separate "level" of reality, distinct from both biological and inorganic matter.

  • Émile Durkheim proposed that societies tend to be segmented, with equivalent parts held together by shared values, common symbols or systems of exchanges.

  • Structural functionalism may be regarded as a continuation of the Durkheimian task of explaining the apparent stability and internal cohesion needed by societies to endure over time.

  • Herbert Spencer was the first true sociological functionalist and alluded to the analogy of a human body to describe society.

  • Spencer recognized three functional needs or prerequisites that produce selection pressures: regulatory, operative, and distributive.

  • Talcott Parsons contributed to sociology, political science, anthropology, and psychology and was heavily influenced by Durkheim and Max Weber.

  • Parsons believed that the social system is made up of the actions of individuals and that social norms were always problematic.

  • Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore gave an argument for social stratification based on the idea of functional necessity.The Limitations in Parsons' Thinking: Summary

  • Merton identified three main limitations of functional unity, universal functionalism, and indispensability in Parsons' thinking.

  • Merton developed the concept of deviance and made the distinction between manifest and latent functions.

  • Merton criticized functional unity, stating that not all parts of complex society work towards the functional unity of society.

  • Merton believed that some institutions and structures may have other functions or be dysfunctional for some while being functional for others.

  • Merton discussed two types of functions: manifest functions and latent functions.

  • Merton recognized social dysfunction as any undesirable consequence that disrupts the operation of society.

  • Merton believed that there may be functional alternatives to the institutions and structures currently fulfilling the functions of society.

  • Gabriel Almond and Bingham Powell introduced a structural-functionalist approach to comparing political systems.

  • Almond and Powell argued that in order to understand a political system, it is necessary to understand its institutions and their respective functions.

  • Unilineal descent is a theory that African "primitive" stateless societies are primarily organized around unilineal descent groups.

  • Structural functionalism reached the peak of its influence in the 1940s and 1950s and was in rapid decline by the 1960s.

  • Functionalism was criticized for being unable to account for social change, ignoring inequalities, and containing no sense of agency.Functionalism in Sociology

  • Functionalism is a theoretical perspective in sociology that focuses on the role of social structures in society and how they function to maintain social order.

  • It emphasizes the importance of social institutions, such as the family, religion, and education, in regulating and controlling behavior.

  • Talcott Parsons was one of the key figures associated with functionalism, and his work emphasized the importance of social systems and the ways in which they contributed to social order.

  • Parsons argued that social systems had four key functional imperatives: adaptation, goal attainment, integration, and latency.

  • Functionalism was criticized for being too deterministic and for neglecting issues of power, conflict, and inequality.

  • Feminist theorists in particular criticized functionalism for ignoring the ways in which women were oppressed and exploited within the family structure.

  • Postmodernism, a more recent theoretical perspective, challenges the idea of grand narratives and claims of objectivity in sociology.

  • Jeffrey Alexander sees functionalism as a broad school of thought, rather than a specific method or system, and advocates for a more flexible and nuanced approach to understanding social systems.

  • Some theorists argue that rather than needs, societies have dispositional facts that support the existence of particular social institutions.

  • Other influential theorists associated with functionalism include Robert Merton, Emile Durkheim, and Herbert Spencer.

  • Functionalism remains an important perspective in sociology, but has been subject to ongoing critique and revision over time.

  • Critics argue that it has tended to overemphasize stability and order at the expense of recognizing the ways in which social structures can be sources of conflict and inequality.


Test your knowledge on Structural Functionalism in Sociological Theory with this quiz! From Auguste Comte to Talcott Parsons, this quiz covers the key figures and concepts associated with this theoretical perspective. Challenge yourself to recall the functional imperatives of social systems, the criticisms of functionalism, and the contributions of feminist and postmodern perspectives. Whether you're studying sociology or simply interested in social theory, this quiz is a great way to deepen your understanding of structural functionalism.

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