Distinguishing Structuralism & Functionalism

Structuralism vs Functionalism

Structuralism and functionalism are two theoretical perspectives with many differences. Structuralism emphasizes that various elements are connected and part of a larger structure, which can be observed in society, cultures, and even language. Functionalism, however, underscores that every element of society has a specific function, and it is the interdependence of these functions that allows for the successful maintenance of a society. Both structuralism and functionalism are considered as theoretical perspectives in various social sciences such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and so on.

Key Takeaways

  • Structuralism focuses on the connections and relationships between elements that make up a larger structure, while functionalism emphasizes the unique roles and functions of each element within society.
  • Both perspectives highlight the interconnectedness of elements, but they analyze the connections in different ways.
  • Structuralism and functionalism are applied in various social sciences such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics.

What is Structuralism?

Structuralism is a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the importance of a structure that all elements of society are part of. Structuralists understand society by examining the different links and relationships that contribute to the formation of the structure. Claude Levi Strauss and Ferdinand de Saussure are considered pioneers of this approach. The application of structuralism can be seen in social sciences such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics. In linguistics, structuralists like Saussure emphasize how language has a structure. In other disciplines like anthropology, structuralism can be understood through the study of human culture, lifestyles, and behavior. Structuralism is subjective and more philosophical.

What is Functionalism?

Functionalism, in contrast, is based on the idea that each element of society has its own function, and it is the interdependence of each element that contributes to social order and stability. For example, consider the various social institutions that exist in society. The family, economy, religion, education, and political institution each have their own unique role, which cannot be fulfilled by any other institution. For instance, if the education institution does not exist, the secondary socialization of a child does not occur. This results in the creation of individuals who have not internalized the culture, norms, and values of society and also individuals who are unskilled because the child only gets education from the family. This then affects the economy of the country, as the labor force is unskilled. This demonstrates that, according to functionalists, each institution or element of society has a unique role that cannot be fulfilled by another. When disruption occurs, it not only affects a single institution but impacts the equilibrium of the entire society. This can be seen as an instance of societal instability.

What is the difference between Structuralism and Functionalism?

  • Structuralism emphasizes that different elements are connected and are part of a greater structure, while functionalism highlights that every element of society has its function.
  • Both structuralists and functionalists emphasize that elements are interconnected, but the manner in which they are connected is analyzed differently.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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