Research Paradigms: Functionalism

COOPERATIONBiological organisms have systems that perform various specialist and survival functions; similarly, social institutions “function” in a systematic and coherent way through their constituent elements to ensure their survival and optimal functioning. The mental state rather than the internal constitution of the researcher is important. This implies that motivation plays an important role in what the researcher would be willing to do to achieve success, i.e. the purpose of the research project.


Role differentiation and social solidarity are key elements in the smooth functioning of any organisation. This means that functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole society. Society is more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, the contributions of all members of a society contribute to the performance of the society as a whole. Each individual plays an important part and the absence, or inability of each individual to contribute, detrimentally affects the performance of the community as a whole.


According to functionalism, an institution only exists because it serves an important role in the community. An individual or organisation that does not play a role in the community will not survive. This applies to individuals and groupings on all levels in society. The individual, families, clubs, schools, suburbs, cities, countries, etc. all will only survive if they add value to the community.


Organisations and societies evolve and adjust to changing conditions in order to ensure the continued, smooth, integrated functioning of all elements of the organisation or society. When new needs evolve or emerge, new organisations will be created to satisfy the new needs. When any part of the society is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates problems for the society as a whole, which leads to social change.

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