Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Functionalism refers to the methodological concept of explaining social phenomena by specifying an asymmetrical relationship between two objects under consideration. Functionalism rests on the view that phenomena can be best explained in terms of what they do and what their impact is on other phenomena; thus, it considers systems of interaction among individuals and groups. In political science, functionalism emphasizes the functions of social institutions. After providing a general definition of functional explanation, this entry outlines the ideas of some of the most influential originators of functionalism. Next, it describes the main stages in the development—structural functionalism, equivalence functionalism, and neo-functionalism. The entry ends with a critical summary of the status of functionalism today. A functional explanation can take this general form: Given a system S in a certain state s with a structure T , there is an activity a from the point of view of the observer, E ...