Structural Functional Theory according to Robert K. Merton
Structural Functional Theory according to Robert K. Merton

Structural Functional Theory according to Robert K. Merton

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As a proponent of structural-functional theory, Robert K Marton only makes more limited demands for this perspective. Merton assumes that this functional structural approach has a major influence on the advancement of sociological knowledge. However, he considered structural functionalism still would not be able to solve all social problems .

Merton himself proposed Merton’s model of functional analysis which he got as a result of the development of a thorough knowledge of classical theories, including the work of Max Weber. Weber himself influenced Merton’s thinking in terms of bureaucracy, thus making Merton more limited in viewing bureaucracy, as was Weber.

As for the modern bureaucratic organization, according to Merton, it contains the following concepts:

  • bureaucracy is a form of social structure that is organized rationally and formally;
  • bureaucracy includes a pattern of activities with clear boundaries;
  • the activities that take place in the system are ideally related to the goals of the organization;
  • positions in the organization are integrated into the overall bureaucratic structure;
  • The existing statuses in the bureaucracy, arranged in a hierarchical arrangement;
  • Obligations and rights in the bureaucracy are limited by detailed rules;
  • authority lies in the position, not in the person;
  • the relationships that exist between people are formally restricted.

The bureaucratic model as described by Merton can be illustrated in the form of large-scale organizations. For example, such as companies, universities or academies.

Merton’s functional analysis theory can be summarized in three postulates as functional analysis which he then refines one by one. In summary, the first postulate, is the postulate of the functional unity of society which shows that the functional unit of society has parts that work together in an adequate level of internal consistency, without producing a prolonged unresolved conflict.

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The second postulate is the postulate of universal functionalism , assuming that all standardized social and cultural forms have their own positive functions, which in the end can establish a balance in the social system.

The third postulate completes the trio of postulates of functionalism, in the form of the postulate of indispensability , namely in every type of civilization, every habit, idea, material object, and belief, all fulfill several important functions and tasks that must be carried out, so that they cannot be separated in the activities of the system as a whole.

Simply put, in this third postulate, all aspects of society’s standards not only have a positive function, but also represent inseparable parts of the whole. This postulate leads to the idea that all structures and functions are functionally necessary for society.


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