Functionalists see shared norms and values as being fundamental to society. They focus on social order based on understood agreements and view social change as occurring in a slow and orderly fashion. Their primary concern is with large-scale social structures and institutions of society, their interrelationships and their constraining effects on actors. .
Functionalism assumes that society is a system whose various sections work together to encourage balance. It assumes that all aspects of society have a certain function. Under functionalism, it would be hard for society to operate if any one of the parts failed to function properly. A functionalist views society as being like a machine and sees society as a group of institutions. A social institution is any place where there is a set of rules for behavior. Well-known examples include churches, colleges, and marriage. To the functionalist, each institution has it's own place in sustaining society. .
Talcott Parsons clearly illustrates this functionalist way of looking at society with his AGIL system. In this system, functions are complex activities that are aimed at meeting a need or the needs of a system. Parsons uses this definition to say that there are four functional imperatives that can be attributed to all systems: A is for adaptation; G is for goal attainment; I is for integration; and L is for latency pattern maintenance. .
Parsons AGIL model represents the four basic functions that all social systems must perform if they are to persist:.
1. Adaptation: the problem of acquiring sufficient resources.
2. Goal attainment: the problem of setting and implementing goals.
3. Integration: the problem of maintaining solidarity or coordination among the subunits of a system.
4. Latency: the problem of creating, preserving, and transmitting the system's distinctive culture and values. .
In terms of the larger society, the organizational type that served each function (plus some examples) is:.