Functionalism is a theoretical paradigm that views society as a complex system with interdependent pieces that provide stability and solidarity. Spencer studied the human body and society, realizing how much the two are related. The human body’s bones, muscles, and internal organs comprise its structural components. Each of these interrelated components helps the organism as a whole survive. This is similar to how different social institutions are linked and work together to sustain society. Thus, the structural-functional viewpoint organizes sociological observations by recognizing diverse social structures and examining each one’s function.
Spencer’s functional viewpoint, which became the predominant theoretical position in mid-twentieth-century sociology and an influential perspective in anthropology, is his most significant intellectual legacy.