Structural functionalism

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The structural functionalism , a theoretical direction of sociology , viewed social systems as their own existence -sustaining entity. It is investigated which stock requirements must be given in order to structurally secure the stock and what function this structure has. In part, structural functionalism is counted among the theories of action .

The English social anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955) saw institutions as the key to maintaining the global social order of society. He started from an analogy to the organs of the body, as it had philosophically emerged as functionalism in the USA in the second half of the 19th century. Radcliffe-Brown's studies of social function examine how rituals and customs help maintain the general stability of society. In doing so, he ignored the effects of historical changes. Together with the results of Bronisław Malinowski (1884–1942), his contributions had the greatest influence on structural functionalism.

Parsons' advancement towards system functionalism

The influential American sociologist Talcott Parsons developed the structural functionalism he co-founded in the course of his life into system functionalism. This becomes particularly clear in the AGIL scheme he developed in the 1950s , which borrows from general systems theory and lays the foundation for sociological systems theory .

After AGIL scheme must have a system perform four functions: A Daption, G oal-Attainment, I ntegration and L atency. For this purpose, the system forms subsystems, which in turn can be broken down.


The structural functionalism appealed strongly

He was of significant influence on the work of


Structural functionalism reaches its limits when it comes to the question of how the limit of the identity of a system can actually be determined. The question of where a system starts and where it ends is, in a biological system easy to answer: The system ends with his death . In the case of social systems, on the other hand, one encounters problems of self-reference : Only the system itself can define when it has developed into a completely different system, i.e. in what way it differs or internally delimits itself from an earlier stage of its system identity.

However, self-reference was not yet recognized in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition, the theory did not stand up to ideological demands, because no statements could be made about when a system change is imminent or what processes are necessary to transfer traditional to modern societies.

Structural functionalism, in critical contrast, plays an important role in Ralf Dahrendorf's theory of conflict and domination .

See also


  1. Gertraude Mikl-Horke : Sociology - Historical Context and Sociological Theory Drafts , Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich, 2011, page 211 ff.
  2. Cf. Niklas Luhmann , Dirk Baecker (Ed.): Introduction to Systems Theory. 2nd Edition. Carl Auer Systems Verlag, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-89670-459-1 , pp. 13-14.