Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Functionalism (including Structural Functionalism)

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD



Functionalism is one of the major traditions in scientific analysis and explanation. It has its main origins in biology and has been very influential in the development of the social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology, as well as psychology, geography, politics, engineering, architecture, archaeology, and management sciences. The main tenet of functionalism is that scientific analysis and explanation must focus on the functional integration of the differentiated component parts of a given structure or whole. Although functionalism is often represented as a unified school or approach in fact it is home to divergent and even mutually contradictory positions. The divergence concerns in particular the differential emphasis that different strands of functionalism place either on functions or structures. The concept of function itself is the object of continued controversy, as it has often been applied with very different and even contradictory meanings. Functionalism, and specially structural-functionalism, was the prevailing social science paradigm during the 1950s and 1960s, but became the object of sustained criticism since the 1970s in a context of theoretical and methodological diversification. Functionalist principles continue to inspire the development of a rich diversity of theoretical frameworks including systems theory, some strands of Marxist analysis, and neofunctionalist sociological studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Castro JE

Editor(s): Kitchin R; Thrift N

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: International Encyclopedia of Human Geography

Year: 2009

Volume: 4

Pages: 277-282

Number of Volumes: 12

Publisher: Elsevier

Place Published: London


Notes: 4000 words article

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 0080449115