chapter  7
Functionalism: legitimate and illegitimate forms
Pages 22

As I have been arguing throughout this book, the way to assess new concepts or conceptual frameworks is to demonstrate their utility by either tackling successfully persistent theoretical puzzles and misconceptions that sociologists have been unable to solve so far; or by applying them directly to empiricallyoriented research. Since in a previous book1 I have mainly followed the latter criterion, here I will put greater emphasis on the ‘puzzle-resolving’ one. More precisely, I think that the various conceptual tools I have developed in the foregoing chapters can throw some light on the ongoing debates on the status of functionalism. These debates seem to drag on endlessly because social theorists do not bother to give a clear definition of their basic terms (such as social structure, social whole, functional requirements, etc.). As a result they keep talking at cross-purposes, or take refuge in ontological/epistemological arguments that often get in the way of the sociological dimension of the problem, displacing or occluding it.