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An approach that explains social phenomena in terms of their integrative relationships and contributions to the maintenance of society, or to the needs of individuals, rather than in terms of causation. Implicit to such thinking is the notion that a social institution within a society has a function in fulfilling some or all of the needs of another part of the social organism. Thus, in a manner analogous to examining the human body, the form of one part can be explained by its functional relationship to other parts.

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