Written by Dr. Hannes Nel
What do you think will the world look like when the COVID-19 pandemic is over?
How will the world function?
Who will play the key roles in the new system?
Which businesses will survive?
Will new businesses come to the fore?
What will politics look like?
Who will play the leading roles in governments?
Against what criteria will political leaders be elected?
Will the world have learned anything good from the crisis?
Functionalism will be a good paradigm to use if you plan on doing research to find out what the world will look like after the pandemic.
What is Functionalism?
Biological 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.
Airlines, for example, were indispensable in the pre-pandemic world.
But will they still play such a critical role in the post-pandemic reality?
Role differentiation and social solidarity are key elements in the smooth functioning of any organization.
This means that functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole society.
Medical and health systems were always critically important to human beings.
Some might argue that they are currently more important than even governments.
What will it look like once the virus has been brought under control?
Society is more than the sum of its parts because the contributions of all members of a society facilitate the performance of the society as a whole.
It is in times of crisis that the roles of the elements of a system are tested the most.
All around the world people are asking if organizations and bodies on all possible levels were able to deal with the current world crisis.
Small, medium, and large businesses, countries, unions, federations, even families are tested to their absolute limits.
Everyone plays an important part and the absence, or inability of an individual to contribute, detrimentally affects the performance of the community.
According to functionalism, an institution only exists because it serves an important role in the community.
Drive-in theaters all closed their gates when the television and computers, with the internet, took over.
Now it would seem that drive-in theaters might just make a comeback.
An individual or organization that does not play a role in the community will not survive.
How many political and business leaders showed their mettle and will survive the crisis?
This applies to individuals and groupings on all levels in society.
Individual, families, clubs, schools, suburbs, cities, countries, etc. all will only survive if they add value to the community.
Organizations and societies evolve and adjust to changing conditions to ensure the continued, smooth, integrated functioning of all elements of the organization or society.
When new needs evolve or emerge, new organizations 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 entire society.
This often leads to social, political, economic, and technological change.
The mental state rather than the internal constitution of the researcher is important.
This implies that motivation plays an important role in what you would be willing to do to achieve success, that is the purpose of the research project.
The country that is most motivated and has the knowledge and skills to find a vaccine might save the world.
Functionalism includes structuralism because both paradigms investigate the functioning of social phenomena.
Like structuralism, functionalism also reacts against post-structuralism because of the disruptive nature of the latter.
Some researchers feel that functionalism focuses too much on the positive functions of societies while neglecting the impact of negative events.
A second point of criticism against functionalism is that the current nature of functionalism is no longer in line with the original spirit and purpose of the paradigm.
Researchers sometimes try to gain conclusions and findings from the ontology of a society when it might not even be relevant to the current phenomena any longer.
Thirdly, findings gained from a functional philosophical stance are not always generalizable because organizations and societies often differ in terms of their structure and purpose.
Functionalism deals with survival and optimal functioning.
Individuals as well as groups must contribute to the functioning of a society to achieve solidarity.
Organizations and societies evolve and adjust to changes in the environment.
A society can be regarded as a system of independent parts with each part fulfilling a separate role.
The mental state of the researcher, especially his or her motivation, is important to achieve accurate, valid and authentic research result.
Functionalism can be associated with structuralism.
Functionalism is opposed to post-structuralism.
Criticism against functionalism is that it is no longer related to its original ontology, that too much focus is placed on positive functioning and that it is too ideological.