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Difference between Structuralism and Functionalism

Difference between Structuralism and Functionalism

There are two dominant theories in the field of sociology: structuralism and functionalism. While both schools of thought have their own strengths, they also have significant weaknesses. In this post, we will explore the key differences between these two theories.

What is Structuralism?

  • Structuralism is a school of thought that emphasizes the underlying structure of a thing rather than its surface appearance. Proponents of Structuralism believe that all things, whether physical or abstract, can be analyzed in terms of their basic components and the relationships between those components.
  • This approach has been used to study everything from language and literature to culture and psychology. Structuralist thinkers argue that understanding the hidden structure of something is key to understanding its true nature.
  • Additionally, they believe that this hidden structure is universal, meaning that all things share the same basic principles. As a result, Structuralism has had a profound impact on numerous fields of study, and its ideas continue to be influential today.

What is Functionalism?

Functionalism is a theory of society that emphasizing the necessary functions of institutions and patterns of behavior. In other words, functionalism looks at how social structures and institutions contribute to the stability and functioning of societies. Functionalism has its roots in the work of French sociologist Émile Durkheim, who argued that all social phenomena served a function, or purpose, in society.

Functionalism was later brought to the United States by Talcott Parsons, who applied Durkheim’s ideas to the study of American society. Functionalism has been influential in a number of fields, including sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, and education. While Functionalism has been critiqued for its overly-optimistic view of society, it remains an important theory for understanding social life.

Difference between Structuralism and Functionalism

Structuralism and Functionalism are two of the most influential theoretical frameworks in sociology. They are both interested in understanding how society is organized, but they take different approaches to this question. Structuralists believe that society is like a machine, with different parts working together in harmony. They focus on analyzing the structure of society and how it shapes people’s lives. Functionalists, on the other hand, see society as a living organism. They emphasize the functions of different parts of society and how they work together to meet the needs of their members. While Structuralism and Functionalism are very different approaches, they both offer valuable insights into how society works.


Structuralism and functionalism are two different schools of thought in psychology. Structuralism focuses on the structures that make up the mind, while functionalism is interested in how the mind works. Each perspective has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to understand both when studying psychology.

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