In social theory, functionalism is an approach in social theory that explains behaviors and institutions in terms of their role in fulfilling various needs. Early functionalists saw such needs as individual and biological or psychological, later functionalists saw such needs as social and collective. Alternative approaches include structuralism and historical materialism, although some scholars have identified examples of functionalism within these competing approaches, and other scholars have actively sought to synthesize these different approaches.
Famous functionalists include:
Structural-functionalism is a view that society consists of parts (e.g. police, hospitals, schools, and farms), each of which has its own function. Structural-functionalism has been the dominant perspective of rural sociologists, although its dominance is waning.
In philosophy of mind, functionalism is the idea that, although the mind has internal mental states, these can be accounted for without taking into account the underlying physical substrate, i.e. the neurons. Instead, one can speak of higher-level representations of functions such as beliefs, desires, and emotions. This position is rather popular today. Proponents of this position include Jerry Fodor[?].