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Definition of the Functionalism Theory in Society Expository Essay

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Updated: Oct 28th, 2019


The functionalism theory is one of socio-structural theories which views society from a systematic approach. It usually entails the study of inter-related components of a society as a whole. The underlying principle behind the functionalism theory is to relate the working of a society as one whole being that depends on several other organs and sub-organs for a complete compatibility and functioning of a single large system.

Under this approach, the system is perceived to be the society while the sub-systems include the various elements which make a society such as family set-ups, education systems, economic factors, social settings, political settings, cultural set ups and religious beliefs. Functionalism theory assumes that each sub-system has its own roles or functions which play a significant role in determining the nature of the society.

Although the theory of functionalism has been transferred and applied in other ideas, it remains one of the best theories that insightfully recognizes the organization and structure of an ideal society (Harrington 87). The theory has been a major boost towards the reshaping societies that have disproportional sub-systems like education and heath structures. Weeks (56) argues that for a society to exist, there must be inhabitants who make up the population or the demographic pattern of a society.

Borrowing from the concepts of the functionalism theory, it is clear that human demography has an impact on the society. There should be a balance of population especially in terms of resources usage. In addition, there must be aspects of social harmony through social norms and ethics. With an emphasis on population demography, Weeks (58) asserts that population demography of a society is determined by three elements mortality, migration and fertility.

However, the three elements are never constant due to the ever changing factors and subsystems of a society. Sub-systems of a society such as family, education and even religion are dynamic and so it is of ultimate importance recognize the relationship that exists between the elements of population and the ever changing society sub-systems (Weeks 67).

The scientific study of human population

Population demography is a sociological concept that is helpful in determining the application of functionalism theory in a society. For instance, by using elements such as mortality rate, immigration and fertility, a society may be able to plan for available resources either in terms of providing social amenities like education, health and employment. It is futile to plan for education if there are no children being born in the society.

The same can also be said in the case of employment if the mortality rate is increasing due to lack of proper medical attention to the available human resource (Weeks 103). This methodology of determining the trends of the existing population is of greater significance to government during budget allocations of resources to important functions such as education, health, infrastructure and the general economy. According to Weeks, there must be a relationship between these demographic elements and social functions (60).

Mortality rate which determines the size of the population in comparison with the rate of deaths in a social setting is of greater importance, especially when ascertaining the function of the public health. If the function of public health is not at its optimal operation, diseases such as HIV and AIDS will continue to eradicate human population and increase the mortality rate.

On the other hand, there will be an imbalance of the society considering the dependency ratio will increase as more patients will become unproductive. Fertility of a population is imperative in determining the production of a country (Weeks 105). If the population capability to give birth is optimal, then functions such as health, education need to be increased, but if the capacity to give birth is reduced, there is a probability that functions such as education may be operating at good levels or low levels.

There will be deficiency of man power in the society and so possible that other society’s functions will not work well towards the development of the society. Migration is another element that determines demographic population, if a society experiences inwards migration then functions such as culture, education, health facilities will be affected.

A lot of efforts will be initiated by the society to ensure it gains from inward migration especially in provision of human resources in the economic sector of the society. If the society experiences outwards migration, there still will be a positive and negative effect in the society’s functions. For example a positive effect will be experienced from reduced expenditure on functions such as public health and housing. On the other hand, a negative effect will be experienced from lack of man power in the economy of the society.


It is therefore of ultimate importance that a balance of these society functions be maintained by conducting a human population survey that highlights processes such as migration, fertility and mortality (Harrington 90). From these processes, societies will be able to cater for the needs of the society through education, health, culture, religion and by far with sub-functional needs that cater for age-groups and families.

Works Cited

Harrington, Austin. Modern social theory: an introduction. London: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Weeks, John, R. Population: an introduction to concepts and issues. 10th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co. , 2008.

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