What is structural functionalism? And how do it relate to society? According to Talcott Parsons, structural functionalism is a structure based on rules and guidance that explain the interactions among a society. These rules help society function properly, by properly I refer to the proper way norms set society to be and each individual in the society has to follow these norms in order for the society to function as a whole. If the rules are broken or not followed it breaks down the structure of every function of the society. Not only do the individuals have to follow these set of regulations, but they become socialized with the rules that the rules become a norm. This is where adaptation occurs because now the rules become an internal function. Socialization is the process of how society carries the behavior individuals are supposed to follow (norms). For example, society has sets of rules for boys and girls to follow and those rules are different for each gender; if they break the gender norms then society does not function as it should and does not accept the changes.
A broader example of structural functionalism is the human brain and the heart’s function to the human body. The brain in terms of structural functionalism is the “society” and every organ in the body is the parts that contribute to the function for the human body. Hence, that makes the people, organizations, and norms all the organs in the human body. In order for the human body to functions properly the organs need to follow certain functions and processes (rules and regulations) that contribute to the brain that make the body work. If something goes wrong with the function or process of an organ then it affects the brain. For example, if a human gets into a car accident and completely damages their spinal cord then the nerves cannot send signal to the brain, which affects the movement and behavior of the human body. Like mentioned by Parsons, the role of the institutions give purpose to society, so the role of the organs in the body give the brain purpose to make the human work like it is supposed to work. Another example that relates to structural functionalism is an assembly line. As we all may know, in an assembly line workers work on a production with every person having a different part to add to the product. And like in structural functionalism, the parts need to be assembled on to the product in order to have an overall functioning product. If an individual working in an assembly line forgets or puts a part wrong on the product it messes up the whole productivity. For example, I worked at a factory when I was younger because I wanted to make my own money and not depend on my parents; I was put in an assembly line that packed Kraft products. The person next to me was in charge of putting the products in the boxes, I was in charge of closing the boxes, and the other person next to me was in charge of labeling the boxes, but we had to work quickly because the machine providing us with the items moved quickly. There was a time where I had become tired and was not moving fast enough that I had boxes being passed and not closed. It caused a lot of the products to be unfinished and were thrown out, which caused loss of productivity. The assembly line has to do its part in everything in order to have a successful product like in a society, the rules work as a structure for the society’s function. If one rule is broken or not followed it affect the society as a whole, alike the assembly line if one person messes up their part the person next to them can’t do their and this is how structural functionalism works.