It’s a fair bet that most teachers introduce “the Functionalist perspective” at the start of a course by using an organismic / organic analogy and as a way of introducing the perspective there’s nothing particularly wrong with this; on the contrary, it can be a useful way to help students understand the basic principles underpinning this general approach.

However, just because something’s useful at the start of a course doesn’t necessarily mean it retains its usefulness throughout the course, particularly when students are exposed to rather more sophisticated treatments of alternative perspectives – interactionism in particular. 

This set of Teaching Notes, therefore, attempts to redress the balance a little by introducing a contemporary Structural Functionalist approach, Luhmann’s System Theory.  

The Notes attempt to distil Luhmann’s complex arguments into a relatively simple form that should be comprehensible to A2 students through the use of simple, familiar, examples that can be used to help students grasp the fundamental ideas (such as using something like Facebook or Twitter as a practical example).  

The Notes also include an overview of Interactionist Network Theory, both by way of contrast and to reinforce an idea that frequently gets lost through an organismic analogy:  the structure of social action.

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