chapter  4
26 Pages

Functionalism

Of all the philosophical viewpoints that have both directly and indirectly impacted upon geography, functionalism is one of the few that has largely evolved as a result of persistent theoretical, philosophical and empirical debates among social scientists — especially sociologists, anthropologists and, more recently, political scientists. In spite of its ‘social scienceness’, functionalism as a research and pedagogical vehicle has not significantly influenced geography. Implicitly, however, many geographic studies have followed a functionalist mode. It is this author’s contention that many geographic problems can be understood and studied in the framework of functionalism. Furthermore, functionalism may provide a philosophical and methodological umbrella for many diverse topics in our discipline. This chapter begins with a brief historical expose of the changing meaning of functionalism. In subsequent sections, the advantages and disadvantages of functionalism are discussed and the links between aspects of functionalism and geography are explored.