In a successful or ‘healthy’ society, for example, social life is organised so that the family socialises the young and meets emotional needs, school teaches us broader life skills, the workplace is where we contribute the economy.
Functionalists generally believe institutions perform positive functions (they do good things for the individual and society).
Functionalist theorists adopted a ‘top-down’ approach to analysing the role which institutions, such as schools play in relation to other institutions, such as work, and generally believe that schools form an important part of a society’s structure.
Functionalism is also a consensus theory: functionalists generally emphasise the positive functions which schools perform for individuals and society, arguing that schools tend to promote social harmony and social order, which they see as a good thing.
If all goes well, the parts of society produce order, stability, and productivity.
If all does not go well, the parts of society then must adapt to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity. And a new social order, stability, and productivity occur.
Evaluation: To evaluate this point, there do seem to be examples of where schools attempt to promote a sense of social solidarity.
Writing in the 1950s, Talcott Parsons pointed to how, in American schools, children pledge allegiance to the flag; while today British schools and colleges are obliged to promote ‘British Values’ (woohoo!
According to the functionalist perspective of sociology, each aspect of society is interdependent and contributes to society's stability and functioning as a whole.
For example, the government provides education for the children of the family, which in turn pays taxes on which the state depends to keep itself running.