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Functionalism is one of the key sociological perspectives and is known as a consensus theory as it is characterised by the idea that society requires shared norms and values in order for it function properly.  Institutions in society (such as the family, education, the media, etc.) have clear social functions, which ensure there is a broad consensus about the norms and values of society and which enable organic and orderly social change.

Functionalists use the human body or organic analogy to explain how the different aspects of society are all interconnected and interdependent and problems in one area of society might be symptoms of disfunction elsewhere. Functionalists are greatly influenced by Emile Durkheim, and famous functionalists include Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton.