Functionalism and how it can be used to Solve Poverty

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Functionalism and how it can be used to solve poverty

Functionalism is a theory which proposes that all the aspects of a society have a function in that society and that they are useful for the functioning and survival of that society. This approach looks at society from a broad perspective. This perspective focuses on the ways in which different parts of the society produce what is known as the society. It is usually seen to be in a way such that they resemble the ways in which different cells make up an organ, then an animal in biology (Rice, 2013). Each of these parts is necessary for the society to function properly. This theory can be used to explain poverty in the modern world and can be used to craft possible solutions to the issue.

According to functionalists, poverty plays a role in society. One of the main roles is that it helps motivate the individuals who are poor to work harder in society so as to reach the level of those who are not so poor. Society has some systems that can be used as stepping stones for poor people to evade poverty. For example, education can help one gain a place in the employment sector (rice, 2013). Having a secure job thus reduces the chances of poverty. In order for this to work, however, the society has to come up as a whole and decide that education should be affordable and accessible to the poor. This is one way in which the theory of functionalism can help in eradicating poverty. 

Aside from that, it is important to realize that often, the people who are trapped in poverty often do poorly when compared to those from well off backgrounds. The reasons for this include the fact that those from poor backgrounds are often in search of more resources and hence spend less time studying. In extreme cases, it could also be because they lack the necessary nutrients and hence a slowed down brain development. Understanding this within the functionalist system is one of the ways through which solutions can be created (Rice, 2013). Some of the solutions include well defined social programs to help the poor, public reading spaces and books that make sure that poor people do not necessarily have to lack the knowledge (Lloys-Jones & Rakodi, 2014). These solutions are compatible with the theory of functionalism. Provision of some of these resources often makes it easier for the poor people in the said society to work harder and gain more resources, thereby escaping poverty. With this, the function of poverty in the said society is fulfilled. At the same time, solutions can be sought out within the same society.

Another function of poverty is that, often, it helps in shaping the culture of the people. By definition, culture includes all the activity that a society carries out. One of the ways in which poverty seems to shape the culture is in the fact that the spending habits of the poor in any culture are monitored. In the capitalist system, the culture of consumerism spreads as well. It affects poor people in different ways. One of the most obvious things is that they are stigmatized for not being able to afford certain things. These things are seen as essential in such a society. Unfortunately for the poor, the only way to get them is through buying. This kind of stigma often has no remedy. At other times, they are stigmatized for buying some things. These things are usually considered by the society as luxurious. Poor people are seen to be overspending if they decide to buy these things (rice, 2013). Sometimes, these things may be essential for the people, but due to the stigma, poor people abandon them.

With the understanding of how poverty shapes the culture, solutions can be arrived at. These solutions should focus on the culture that comes up as a result of poverty, and ways to remove stigma from poverty. Social programs that make sure that even poor people have the most basic needs can be a part of the solution. Another possible solution is campaign to remove the stigma that is associated with poverty (Lloys-Jones & Rakodi, 2014). This will help people feel more confident and hence purchase the things they need. Some of these can then be used as an escape from poverty.

In conclusion, it is clear that the theory of functionalism can explain poverty n many societies perfectly. The main functions of poverty and how to address them have been discussed. From these, it is clear that poverty can and should be avoided through collective social effort, alongside individual effort.


Lloys-Jones, T., & Rakodi, C. (2014) Urban Livelihoods: A people-centered approach to reducing poverty. Routledge

Rice, K. E. (2013). Structural Functionalism. Integrated SocioPhyscjology, viewed, 17, 06, 13. 

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