Postulates of functionalism

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Postulates of functionalism


The form in which functionalism was developed by anthropologists prior to Merton was based on several assumptions. These beliefs were mainly three : (1) all the units that make up a social structure must perform some function within the social system, (2) these functions of social units itself. sustain the existence of a social and cultural order, and (3) functions are the inevitable result of each element or unit. On the basis of his study, Merton pointed out that these assumptions presented by anthropologists are not only very controversial but have also proved to be useless in functional studies. On this basis, Merton, while criticizing these assumptions, considered the format of functional analysis presented by him to be more appropriate. Mutton’s views in this regard can be understood as follows:




(1) Postulate of the Functional Unity of Society – Prior to Merton, Radcliffe Brown and Malinowski had given special importance to the belief that all units that make up a social structure are social. Some work must be done for the arrangement. Radcliffe Brown wrote that “the function of a particular social practice or behavior is its contribution to the whole social life and social system by which that system becomes functional. It is clear from this that a certain kind of unity is found in every social system. And this unity is possible only by the functions of the units that make up the social structure.In this regard, Merton wrote that on the basis of this assumption, the functional unity of the society mentioned by the anthropologists, its reality can be known through examination. It is necessary to do

It is true that some unity must exist in every society, but this level of integration may be different in Vamana societies. This means that the ‘practices’ or ‘behaviors’ which are functional in a society may also be non-functional in another society or group. From this point of view it is necessary to understand the characteristics of the functions of different units while doing functional analysis. With the help of this, it can be understood that how and how much the functions of different units contribute in producing social integration in a particular society.


(2) Postulate of Universal Functionalism. A traditional belief of functionalism was also that the functions of different units maintain the existence of a social and cultural system. Explaining this, Malonsky wrote, “Every type of civilization, custom, material element, thought and belief, etc., fulfills certain social functions.” On the basis of this belief, Kluckhohn also said that “any A culture cannot protect its existence unless it performs certain functions in which the quality of adjustment or adaptation is inherent. Merton rejected this belief, saying that it is not necessary that every tradition as an established element of culture must necessarily contribute to the maintenance of society. In other words, it can be said that many traditions They continue to provide stability to the society for generations, they sometimes or in a particular period either prove to be useless or create a condition of change in the society (for example, the traditional functions of the caste system in India in its present times. Instead of providing stability to the social system, Merton does not accept that the nature of the functions of any unit is universal. He states that culture or social structure Any element of the universe can be functional, but it is not proper to assume that every such element must perform some function.



(3) Postulate of Indispensability – According to Merton, it is also not proper to accept the functionalism presented by anthropologists that ‘functions are the inevitable result of every cultural element or unit. “He does not agree with Malinowski’s statement that ‘every type of civilization, custom, material element, thought and belief, etc., performs certain social functions. By this I want to clarify the inevitability of Lenosky function or the meaning of the inevitability of cultural elements. The reality is that the recognition of the inevitability of a function can be understood only on the basis of two interrelated conditions. The first is that because some functions


It is inevitable that if they do not do their work, the society cannot maintain its existence.

It means that in every society there are certain functions which produce the pre-conditions that make up the society. Merton called these ‘Functional Prerequisites’ of the society and on the basis of these he introduced the concept of ‘Functional Pre-necessities’. Talking about the second condition, Merton pointed out that every society has certain social and cultural forms which help in fulfilling these functions. Putting this assumption simply, Merton said that just as elements of the same nature have many functions of different nature from each other, similarly the same kind of function can also be related to many units.

This means that Merton presented the immutability of the function in its modified form as Functional Alternatives. It is clear from the full discussion that Merton’s functionalism is quite different from the earlier functionalism presented by anthropologists. While Merton, on the one hand, accepted that the ordering of various elements of a social structure is possible only because of its functions, on the other hand he also clarified that no element of culture is always functionalism but sometimes it is also non-functional. It is possible .

Secondly, whether an element of culture will function or not function in a particular period or situation, it depends on how the culture is influencing that element. For the functional analysis of various elements, it is also necessary to keep in mind whether the functions of a particular element are direct or implicit (Latent). It is only by doing this that the true nature of functions and their social effects can be understood. In functional analysis, Merton also discussed many such situations in which the functioning of a social unit neither increases adaptation in the social system nor does it lead to any disruptive condition. Merton named such a function as non-function. Thus Merton has accepted functionalism only as a method of analysis of social sciences. While mentioning the limitations of this method and the precautions to use it, he said that functionalism is not concerned with calming down any ideal condition but with a positivist elegance.




functionalist theory


The word ‘FUNCTION’ was first discussed in the works of Herbert Spencer, but the credit for the use of the word FUNCTION as a scientific concept is given by the French thinker Emile Durkheim in his book The Rules of Sociological Method (1895). According to him, that contribution of any unit of a system, which helps in fulfilling the need of the system, is called ‘function’.] In this the function is divided into two parts-


1.Positive function

2.Negative Function


In religion, where he has discussed many positive functions – discipline, organization etc., while he has discussed negative types of suicide. After mile Durkheim, we find a detailed analysis of the word function in the works of Radcliffe Bran and Moulinowski. Radcliffe Bray has divided the word typology into two parts-





By eunomia, they mean the arrangement of the entity, the nature effect and by dysnomia means the harmful effect.




B. Moulinoskini in his book A Scientific Study of Culture and Argonoutes of the Western Pacific made a detailed analysis of functionalism. Both Brun and Moulinsky scholars have discussed three fundamental beliefs of Typism-


1. Universal Functionalism

2.Functional Unity and

3.Functional Indespensability

Every unit of a social system according to the assumption of universal type. contributes in some way or the other. Therefore, there is no entity which is not cooperative in some way or the other. Therefore all units are functional. This principle is called universal functionalism.

Functional unity means that when all the units of the system are functional, then unity is established in all these units. In this way each unit is cooperative. Therefore, all the units maintain functional unity while performing their functions. Functional inevitability means that when all the units function simultaneously and have established functional unity, then none of them can be removed from the system of the unit. . So each unit has its own importance and hence cannot be excluded from any unit system.

A comprehensive analysis of functionalism in the modern sociological world was done by American sociologist RK Merton. In his book The Social Theory and Social Structure, he not only brought functionalism back to the sociological world, but also its

Why interpretation?

The main proponent of functionalist theory is Tolgut Parsons, who has tried to establish functionalism in his book The Structure of Social Action (1837) and The Social System (1851). According to them, there are three pre-requisties of any social system.


1.Biological Pre-requisites

2.Cultural Pre-requisites and,

3.Functional Pre-requisites



Parsons has given the most emphasis on the functional pre-necessities of these three pre-necessities and has told that any social system has four functional pre-needs, which are fulfilled by the four sub-systems of that system. These are the four pre-requisites-

1.Latency and Latency

2. Goal Attainment

3.Adaptation and



It is also called AGIL for short. There are also four earlier sub-arrangements-


1.Value System

2. Political System

3.Economic System and

4.Social System




While the value system fulfills the need of latency, the political system fulfills the needs related to goal attainment; Economy is related to adaptation and integration is related to social system. In this way Parsons says that these four sub-systems respectively fulfill four types of needs. It can be seen in brief here-

Sub – System  Pre – prerequisites

Value- Latency

Political – Goal

Economic – Adaptation

Social – Integration

Apart from this, Parsons has discussed five pairs of Pattern Variables. In this he has told that if a doer wants to do any action, then he has two options in front of him, out of which he chooses one and does social action. The following is the five addition Pattern Variable.



1. Discipline vs indiscipline

2. self-interest vs. social-interest

3. Exclusiveism Vs Universalism

4.Part vs Whole &

5. Paid vs Earned

So it is clear that Parsons has done a fine analysis to understand social change




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