There are a number of basics beliefs that underpin functionalism. These beliefs surround education, religion, the family, crime and the media.


Education: To functionalists, a comparative can be drawn from education to a major organ in the human body that is a vital and integral part of the whole system. The education system is seen as a mini-society in which it prepares students for the workforce.


DurkheimReligion: Emile Durkheim defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things.” He said that to understand religion, we must understand sacred symbols and what they represent. Durkheim said that “in worship, man finds it difficult to direct his feelings to something which is superior to him, so he directs his feelings at a symbol”.


Talcott Parsons regarded religion as a source of general images of order and specific societal values, crucial to maintaining minimal coherence in any society.


Family: Functionalists believe that the function of the family is to ensure the progression of society by reproducing and socialising new members.  Theorist Robert Merton argued that the family and religion isn’t necessarily part of all human societies and can therefore be replaced by ideologies.


Crime: Functionalists believe that a limited amount of crime is necessary and beneficial to society in order to set boundaries, so much so that society couldn’t exist without some form of deviance. Therefore, too much crime is bad for society and can lead to its collapse due to the disappearance of norms and values. Theorist Frederic P Miller argued that delinquent subcultures form as a reaction to a lack of social norms and values. This is because he believes that lower class youths never accept mainstream norms and values in the first place.  He therefore offers an alternative cultural view on crime and deviance. Some lower class youths over conform to lower class values because of a concern to gain status within their peer group.  In this situation, crime and deviance follow.  


Media: It is asserted that one of the main functions of the media is to create a reality.



Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex