Essay on Function (Sociology) – The term ‘function’ has different meanings in different contexts. Its ordinary dictionary mean¬ing is-“doing a thing”, or ‘activity’ or ‘performance’. In mathematics, physiology and also in soci¬ology the term is used in different ways.
In mathematics, the term ‘function’ refers to “a quantity so connected with another that any change in the one produces a corresponding change in the other”. In physiology, it is used as a technical term to refer to “the vital activity of organ, tissue, or cell”.
In physiology, the concept of organic function is one that is used to refer to the physiology; the concept of organic function is one that is used to refer to the connection between the structure of an organism and the life process of that organism.
The concept of ‘function’ applied to human societies is based on an analogy between social life and organic life. The recognition of this analogy is quite old. Even during the 19th century, the analogy and the concept of and the word ‘function’ were used very commonly in social philosophy and sociology.
But the systematic formulation of the concept of ‘function’ in the study of society can be said to have been made by Emile Durkheim in 1895 in his ‘ Rules of Sociological Method’.
Definitions of Function:
1. Durkheim’s definition of function is that “the ‘function’ of a social institution is the corre-spondence between it and the needs of the social organism”. (It may be noted that Radcliffe-Brown prefers to substitute for the term ‘needs’ the term-“necessary conditions of existence”.)
2. R.K. Merton defines function as “those observed consequences which make for the adapta¬tion and adjustment of a given system”.
Radcliffe-Brown’s Views Regarding ‘Function':
The concept of ‘function’ has become quite popular in modern sociology due to the contribu¬tions of Malinowski, A.R. Brown, Talcot Parsons, Robert K. Merton, and Kingsley Davis.
Durkheim’s views of ‘function’ have deeply influenced...