The functionalist perspective is a very important part of sociology. Founded by Emile Durkheim, functionalism is thought of as, "society as a living organism in which each part of the organism contributes to its survival" (Schaefer, pg. 10). Another way to understand functionalism is to look at some of the simple ways and ideas of the theory. One of the ways to see functionalism is to understand that this theory of sociology looks at facts overtime or certain things in society like crime, sports, race, etc. and examines what the world would be like if one of these aspects were to disappear. Functionalism deals with slow change, progress, and the social equilibrium. .
Emile Durkheim, the founder of functionalism, was born in 1858 and was the son of a rabbi. Durkheim studied in both France and Germany, in which later in his life became the first French professor of sociology. The most well known work of Durkheim was done around 1897 and dealt with suicide and society, which resulted in his book Suicide. The book looked at suicide in society and stated that society was the main factor of people committing suicide. Some of Durkheim's research involved looking at facts like why men were more likely to commit suicide, why soldiers were more likely then citizens, or single people more likely then married people. Durkheim asked questions like, why do some people kill themselves and others don't? Durkheim came up with two different types of suicide, altrustic and anomic. Altrustic is giving up your life for something that you believe in. An example would be a soldier fighting for his country or the way that Jesus gave up his life for mankind. Another example would be a cult. Altrustic suicide is any suicide that a person would commit out of the act of love. Anomic is different from altrustic because these people that commit suicide feel disconnected with society and feel that killing themselves is the only way out.