Explain social institutions from the functionalist perspective.
The functionalist perspective pays special attention to the macro level of social structure. Functionalists believe that social institutions group individuals into certain societal values, leading to a value conclusion that enables members of the community to live and work harmoniously with one another. Due to the existence of social institutions, people can act in a socially acceptable way when faced with various circumstances.
For example, a social institution like religion instills sacred values in people. The sacred values then become morally acceptable behavior, and whoever goes against them is considered immoral or in the wrong.
Functionalists also believe that social institutions create unity. For example, people that belong to the same religion often feel united under a common purpose, and they work together to achieve that goal.
Functionalism is one of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology. Its roots go back to Emile Durkheim, whose work forms the foundation of the theory. Functionalism sees all social institutions as organs of a body. The society is the body and its institutions work to keep it alive and well.
To functionalists, all major aspects of a society have an important role in keeping the society stable. The family, for example, provides an outlet for sexual impulses and a way of bringing children into the world and socializing them. Schools further the work of socialization and also help to ensure that children learn what they need to learn in order to be economically useful members of society.
In these ways, social institutions act (in the functionalist view) to keep society alive and stable.