Difference Between Structuralism and Functionalism

It can be said that both structuralism and functionalism are different methodological approaches that occupy a prominent place in various scientific branches such as modern psychology, anthropology, linguistics, economics, computer science and sociology, among others.

Although both have very different origins and functions, they converge on significant points in terms of the approach that, in both currents, is given to the object of study and the scientific processes immersed in said object.

Consequently, to talk about the differences between structuralism and functionalism, it is important to first highlight both definitions so that the reader knows and understands what the objective, purposes and functions of these two currents are.

Definition of Structuralism

We can define structuralism as a science that deals with the study of data in the real context in which they are found and the relationships between them . From this point of view, structuralism seeks to study the structures through which meaning is produced within a culture. This means that it is based mainly on the study of the rules and ordering norms (structures) existing in any phenomenon, field or event.

For example:

An example within the structuralist model is a company, which is made up of various parts such as: people, machinery, products, raw materials, among others, which together make up a whole, -the company-.

Definition of  Functionalism

In contrast to structuralism, functionalism is a science that deals with the study of the purpose of things , that is, the functions that they fulfill. In other words, it is a science that seeks to study the usefulness of actions, phenomena or events, without downplaying the structures that make up a society.

For example:

An example within the functionalist model is a company that, as mentioned in the previous example, is made up of people, machinery, etc., studying the functions that each of these parts performs within it, so that people can being operators of the machinery to produce a product, for which, they will use the raw material and so on, everything fulfills a function.

For all the above, it can be affirmed that both structuralism and functionalism are currents of thought of radical importance for various areas of study.

Although they are closely related to each other, because the study of structures (structuralism) leads to consider the functions or utilities that these parts have and on the other hand, the study of functionality (functionalism) cannot fail to consider to the parts (structures) that fulfill a function within a whole, there are evident differences between these concepts which are indicated below in the following table:

Differences between Structuralism and Functionalism

Structuralism functionalism
As a concept it encompasses the study of the whole and its parts and the relationship between each of them. As a concept, it covers the study of the functions that they fulfill -the whole- and its parts and the usefulness of the relationships that exist between those parts.
Analyze what the studied object is like. Analyze the function fulfilled by the studied object.
It is based on structures or models that are related to each other. It is based on the why or what for of things
It is a model characterized by the study of things. It is a model characterized by the usefulness of things.

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