Functionalism is a theoretical perspective that focuses on the functions performed in society by social structures such as institutions, hierarchies, and norms. Within this theory, function refers to the extent to which a given activity promotes or interferes with the maintenance of a system. Functionalism emerged in the early 20th century and is associated with authors such as Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Herbert Spencer, and Robert Merton, who dominated American social theory in the 1950s and 1960s. This entry focuses on the application of functionalist theory to the study of mass communication. After introducing the most relevant scholars and the concepts they proposed within this approach, the entry discusses the relationship between the theory and changes in the ways media are used prompted mainly ...

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