Functionalist views of Social Institutions

Table summarising the views of Functionalists such as Talcott Parsons and Durkheim toward social institutions and the criticisms (Disadvantages) of these views.

Functionalist views of Social Institutions


  • Social Institutions socialize people into the key values of society, resulting in a value consensus that enables the members of our society to live and work together effectively. This means that people are aware of how to behave and react in most situations they face in a socially accepted way.
  • Social institutions, such as religion, give these values a "sacred quality", meaning they become a powerful social control/ moral code to govern behaviour. These moral codes can be made official through laws such "Do not steal", meaning definitions of deviant or immoral behaviour are even clearer.
  • They also encourage Social Solidarity and sense of belonging within a community,


  • Functionalism puts too much emphasis on order, failing to explain social conflicts and deviance.
  • Ignores the freedom of choice that people have; views everything as controlled and precise.
  • Functionalists view socialization as an infallible process, which fails to explain behaviour and problems such as child abuse and delinquency.
  • Marxism accuses Functionalism of ignoring the inequality of power within society, and that this unequal distribution may mean that some groups are more influential with their values and norms than others.


Key Words: -Consensus = A general agreement.
 -Functionalism = A sociological perspective that focuses on understanding how the different parts of society work together to keep it running smoothly.
 -Social Institution = A part of society, such as education, religion, mass media or the family.
 -Social Integration = A sense of belonging to society.
 -Social Solidarity = A sense of community.
 -Social Structure = An alternative term for the social organisation of society.
 -Value, or moral consensus = An agreement among a majority of members of society that something is good or worthwhile.


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