The Notion of Function

  • Raymond Boudon


In this note, we are proposing neither to perpetuate the lengthy debate which had developed around the notions of structure and function nor even to give a detailed analysis of the notion of structural-functionalism. The reader will be familiar with Hempel’s2 and Davis’s3 famous articles on functionalism which seek to demonstrate the tautological character of the supposed functionalist method. And so much has been written about the notion of structure that we could not possibly review it here.


Scientific Theory Industrial Society Empirical Science Word Function Social Custom 
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  1. 2.
    C. Hempel in L. Gross (ed.), Symposium on Sociological Theory Evanston, Ill. 1959).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Kingsley Davis, “The Myth of Functionalism as a Special Method in Sociology and Anthropology”, American Sociological Review, 24 (1959), pp. 757–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Karl Popper, Logik der Forschung (Vienna: Julius Springer, 1935).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 7.
    A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, “On the Concept of Function in Social Science”, American Anthropologist 37, July–September 1935, p. 394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 8.
    Robert K. Merton Social Theory and Social Structure (Glencoe, Ill. The Free Press, 1949).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Talcott Parsons, The Social system (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1951) p. 177.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond Boudon

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