As their name suggests cultural institutions, for Functionalists, exist to perform a number of cultural functions. The most significant of these, for our current purpose, is the socialisation function.
Writers within this perspective, therefore, stress the importance of socialisation and the way people learn the already-existing norms (that is, formal and informal rules that govern our behaviour in different situations) of expected behaviour appropriate to both their society and the specific social groups to which they belong. Functionalist writers argue that it is only by learning cultural rules that meaningful social interaction becomes possible.
Cultural rules, therefore, provide a structure for people's behaviour, effectively channeling behaviour in some ways but not others. The stress here, therefore, is on the way our behaviour is constrained by the rules of the society and group into which we are born.
Social structures, according to this way of seeing things, operate at an institutional level in society. We experience structural pressures, for example, whenever we adopt a particular role, since as we have seen, by taking on a role we take on certain norms, give expression to certain values and have a particular status in society.
If we accept the above as plausible, we can then see the basis for this being a consensus theory of social organisation. However, even if we do accept this basic argument this is not to say there are not problems we can identity.