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Functional prerequisites

In sociological research, functional prerequisites are the basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, and money) that an individual requires to live above the poverty line.[1] 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
  • Pattern maintenance

Adaptation – 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 must provide collective goals of some sort for its members to aspire to. Governments set goals such as New Labour setting a target of 50% of school graduates to attend university. To facilitate meeting such goals, governments provide resources, laws, and other institutional mechanisms.

Integration – all societies need a legal system that mediates conflict and protects the social system from breaking down.

Pattern maintenance – Institutions like education and the family reaffirm essential values needed for society to function. (For Parsons the key institution in passing on such basic values is religion.)


  1. ^ Talcott Parsons, Bryan S. Turner. The Social System page 26-27. Routledge & Keagan Paul Ltd. 1951