In sociological research, functional prerequisites are the basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, and money) that an individual requires to live above the poverty line. Functional prerequisites may also refer to the factors that allow a society to maintain social order.
On the other hand, Parsons argued any successful social system has four functional prerequisites – adaptation; goal attainment; integration and pattern maintenance.
Adaptation – in order to survive any society needs the basics of food and shelter. Having these gives any society control over its environment. A society needs a functioning economy to provide this.
Goal attainment – all societies need to provide some sort of collective goals for its members to aspire to. Governments set goals such as New Labour setting a target of 50% of school leavers would attend university. To do deliver such goals governments provide the resources, laws and other institutional mechanisms so such goals can be met.
Integration – all societies need a legal system in order to mediate any conflict and therefore protect the social system from breaking down.
Pattern maintenance – this prerequisite is provided by institutions like education and the family. These institutions exist to reaffirm the essential values needed for society to function. For Parsons the key institution in passing on such basic values is religion.
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