Aleksejs Šņitņikovs


The purpose of the paper is to assess the arguments of the critique of functionalism by Anthony Giddens and Norbert Elias. After being subject to severe criticism, terminology of functionalism is still a part of the lexicon of social scientists nowadays. Functionalist reasoning and concepts of functionalism are used in sociology, political science and economics, even though often without full awareness of its theoretical implications. Recent revival of interest in the works by Elias is connected with the search for a new theoretical and methodological foundation of sociology but his views on functionalism have remained largely unexplored. For the analysis presented in this paper, main theoretical works by Giddens and major works by Elias have been used. Positions of the authors have been analysed with respect to main concepts and principles of functionalism, such as function, needs, internalization of values, consensus, equilibrium, and the notions of power and individual. The study shows that while Giddens strived to reject functionalism and the concept of social function altogether, in the figurational approach developed by Elias it is possible to use some of the concepts of functionalism without necessarily accepting its controversial tenets.


equilibrium; function; functionalism; individual; interdependence; needs; power; society; values

Full Text:



Dunning, E. & Hughes, J. (2013). Norbert Elias and Modern Sociology. London: Bloomsbury.

Elias, N. (1950). Studies in the Genesis of the Naval Profession. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 1, No. 4, 291-309.

Elias, N. (1978). What is Sociology? New York: Columbia University Press.

Elias, N. (1991). The Society of Individuals. Oxford: Blackwell.

Elias, N. (2001). The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.

Elias, N. (2009a). A diagnosis of present-day sociology. In: Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities. Collected Works, Vol. 16 (pp. 99-106). Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

Elias, N. (2009b). The changing balance of power between the sexes – a process-sociological study: the example of the ancient Roman state. In: Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities, Collected Works, Vol. 16 (pp. 240-265). Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

Elias, N. (2009c). The retreat of sociologists into the present. In: Essays III. On Sociology and the Humanities. Collected Works, Vol. 16 (pp. 107-126). Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

Gabriel, N. & Mennell, S. (Eds.) (2011). Norbert Elias and Figurational Research: Processual Thinking in Sociology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Giddens, A. (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Giddens, A. (1986). The Constitution of Society. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Giddens, A. (1993). New Rules of Sociological Method. Second Edition. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Giddens, A. (2015). Studies in Social and Political Theory. Abingdon: Routledge.

Parsons, T. & Shils, E. (1962). Values, Motives and Systems of Action. In: Parsons, T., Shils, E. (Eds.) Toward a General Theory of Action (pp. 47-247). New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Perulli, A. (2011). Beyond Dichotomous Thinking. The Society of Individuals. Cambio. 1, 6-22.

Stinchcombe, A. (1968). Constructing Social Theories. New York: Harcourt, Bruce & World, Inc.

Thelen, K. (2009). How Institutions Evolve: Insights from Comparative Historical Analysis. In: Mahoney, J., Rueschemeyer, D. (Eds.) Comparative Historical Analysis in Social Sciences (pp. 208-240). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.