Impact of Functionalism

All sociologists, their actions, ideas, and theories are very important and have helped shape sociology into the science it is today. In my opinion, functionalism is the most impactful theory. Functionalism was first proposed by Herbert Spencer, but then other sociologists started using this idea and expanding it.

According to Herbert Spencer, functionalism “sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in that society” (Openstax, 2016, p. 15). Being a nursing major I really like the functionalism theory because it looks at society like scientists look at the human body, all connected. For example, if the lymphatic system is impaired, then the respiratory system could catch an illness. Functionalism looks at society the same way. This theory believes that if one aspect of society is impaired, such as high levels of poverty, other parts of society will be impacted, such as crime levels. I think this idea of everything being related is very impactful because it helps keep our society balanced. If one thing is thrown off, then everything is. Thus, we must keep our society in balance so our needs are met.

Emile Durkheim used functionalism to show how societies change and adapt over time. Durkheim believed shared values, languages, and symbols hold society together (Openstax, 2016, p. 15). I think this is very impactful because if our society didn’t share these commonalities chaos would erupt. Right now in America difference in values is being shown with the Black Lives Matter movement, and on the other side with groups supporting police officers no matter the circumstances. These two conflicting values are creating unrest and protests throughout the country. These instances support Durkheim’s functionalism theory that commonalities hold society together. Durkheim also believed that in order to look at society as a whole, you must look at laws, morals, religions, fashions, and traditions. All of these control social life which creates balance in society. I think laws are the easiest way to show the impact of this thought. Laws are what control what people can and can’t do. Without laws we wouldn’t have a balanced society. People could get away with terrible things and society would not be safe.

Functionalism is very impactful because it looks at every aspect of society, how it functions, and how that helps society function. This theory helps combine all aspects of society to meet the needs of the individuals in the society. Functionalism shows us how our society stays balanced.