Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

 Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. Anthropological approaches to study societies and cultures during the late nineteenth century have been named after ‘evolution’ which was a major concept in explaining how societies and cultures ‘evolved’ during the course of history. The functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. Evolutionary schools of thought gave way to ‘diffusion’ or ‘culture-historic’ schools of thought during the early 20th century that uphold the view that culture is a product of historical process.

The concepts of ‘structure’ and ‘function’ first appeared in the writings of Herbert Spencer in his book, Principles of Sociology (1885, vol.1), where he has dealt with fundamental similarities between ‘organism’ and ‘society’. He has treated society as an integrated order of parts like an organism. As an organism is a composition of different parts, society also is a composition of different parts that are interrelated and integrated to provide the ‘structure’ of that society. As different parts of the organism perform different functions to make the existence of a body of the organism possible, in the same way, different parts of a society contribute indispensable functions for the existence of the society as an integrated whole.

During the previous piece of 20th century two English researchers spearheaded what has came to be known as 'Practical and Underlying' way to deal with the examination of culture. Malinowski is related with the utilitarian methodology, and Radcliffe-Brown is the trailblazer of underlying useful methodology. The two of them were incredulous of developmental and diffusionists sees on culture. In their view, the evolutionists and diffusionists examinations of societies, about which set up accounts were missing, was not authentic however pseudo-verifiable. Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

Comparative social characteristics are by and large acknowledged as showing authentic associations. They maintained the point of view that the motivation behind correlation in Friendly Human studies is to investigate socio-social organizations of present day social orders with regards to their primary utilitarian angles. Near examinations could consequently be completed both synchronically (ahistorically) and diachronically (by and large). Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

    Synchronic examinations manage the portrayals of public activity in a place of time without reference to change in its general highlights, and diachronic investigations manage depictions thinking about two marks of time to concentrate on changes. Appropriately, defaming the prior evolutionists and diffusionists, they fostered the idea of synchronic useful examination of culture which manages the 'present', or in the expressions of Radcliffe-Brown 'at this very moment'. The 'relative strategy' for the evolutionists which included remaking of the past by extrapolating from contemporary crude social orders additionally came into sharp analysis by them.

Bronislaw Kaspar Malinowski (1884-1942) was born in Cracow, Poland. He got his Ph.D. degree in Physics and Mathematics from the University at Cracow in 1908. Soon after, when he was recuperating from an illness, he read Frazer’s magnum opus Golden Bough and immediately after reading it, he thought of taking up the career of an anthropologist. He moved to England in 1910, where he met C.G. Seligman and expressed his desire to become an anthropologist. On the advice of Seligman he enrolled himself as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics.

In 1914, he was awarded Robert Mond Travelling Studentship and during his six years period at the AustralianNational University he made three extensive field trips to New Guinea, one to Mailu (1914-15) and two to Trobriand Islands (1915-16 and 1917-18). He obtained his D.Sc. degree in 1916 on the basis of his works on Australian aborigines and on Mailu. Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. Later, at the London School of Economics in the Department of Sociology, he taught on Primitive Religion, Social Differentiation and Social Psychology. In 1924 he was appointed Reader in Anthropology at the University of London, and in 1927 he occupied the first Chair in Anthropology in the University of London. He received an honorary D.Sc. from Harvard University in 1936. From September 1940 he was Bishop Museum Visiting Professor of Yale till his death in 1942.

Malinowski’s Functionalism

The functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. It was only in Malinowski’s writings, A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays (1944) and Dynamics of Culture Change (1945), a full-blown ‘functional approach’ in the analysis of culture appeared. 

According to him, functionalism attempts to explain the part institutions play within the interrelated whole of culture. Malinowski defines functional method as: “The functional view of culture lays down the principle that in every type of civilization, every custom, material object, idea and belief, fulfills some vital function, has some task to accomplish, represents an indispensable part within a working whole”. The functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. His emphasis is mainly on the role the institutions of a culture play in satisfying the needs of the individuals and that of society as a whole as every aspect of culture has a function. All aspects of culture are interdependent and interrelated as there is a functional unity among them. Malinowski notes that human beings have different kinds of needs such as social, economic, biological, religious, etc., and in order to get these needs satisfied they have developed material and non-material aspects of culture.

Accordingly social, economic, political, and religious institutions have originated. The purpose of inventing language, literature, art, technology, etc., is to satisfy the human needs. Again all human needs are interrelated to one another because they are related to man as a whole. In the same way, culture traits appear externally as different but they are integrated and united internally and the basis of this integration and unity is the satisfaction of human needs. Malinowski maintains that change in one aspect of culture results in change in culture as a whole.

As indicated by him 'capability' is a particular approach to grasping establishments and customs of crude life. In his book, Wizardry, Science and Religion (1929), he saw capability as to a great extent satisfying the mental need. Enchantment was the normalization of hopefulness effectively furnishing people with important certainty to do his errands, to keep up with his balance and his psychological respectability in the midst of outrage and nervousness. Religion likewise gives outlets to close to home pressure and furthermore in keeping up with moral rule of peace and law and pursues the recognizable proof of the entire clan as a unit.

Ultimately, Malinowski related mental and social capabilities to natural ones. Good faith and certainty empowered Trobrianders to turn out to be better food suppliers and wizardry, subsequently, likewise added to actual endurance. This thought of capability as serving organic requirements turned into the center of Malinowski's practical hypothesis. In his book, A Logical Hypothesis of Culture (1944), he repeated his conviction that the utilitarian technique for examination is the most ideal to give a precise image of the real factors of culture. Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

Radcliffe-Brown’s Structural-Functional Approach

Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown was born in 1881. He started his career as a student of W.H.R. Rivers, a British diffusionist, who was strongly interested in history. Rivers sent Radcliffe-Brown to Andaman Islands (of India) in 1906 with the task of reconstructing the cultural history of these non-literate Andaman Islanders. Averse to making conjectural and hypothetical reconstructions, he dutifully recorded Andamanese myths, ceremonies, and customs. Much delayed his book on the Andaman Islanders appeared in 1922. In the mean time he got acquainted with the writings of Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, and realised that it was much more important to study meanings and function. The functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

The structure of an organism consists of an ordered arrangement of parts. The function of the parts is to interrelate in the structure of an organism. Similarly, social structure is an ordered arrangement of persons and groups whose function is to inter-relate the structure of society. Social function is the interconnection between social structure and social life. Like an organism, the social life of a community may be defined as the functioning of its social structure. Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski.

    The function of any recurrent activity (such as punishment of a crime or a funeral ceremony) is the part it plays in social life as a whole and therefore, the contribution it makes to the maintenance of the structural continuity. The importance of the differentiation between structure and function is that it can be applied to the study of both continuity in the forms of social life and the processes of change. An institution is an established norm of conduct recognized as such by a distinguishable social group. Social institutions, in the sense of standardised modes of behaviour, constitute the machinery by which a social structure maintains its existence and continuity.

Radcliffe-Brown defines the social function of a socially standardised mode of activity (or mode of thought) as its relation to the social structure, to the existence and continuity of which it makes some contribution. Thus, the social structure consists of the ordered arrangement of parts and the function of the parts is to inter-relate the components of the structure, and to maintain its integrity. Social function is the interconnection between social structure and social life. He applied his structural-functional principles mainly to the analysis of kinship systems in his work Structure and Function in Primitive Societies.

Avunculate refers to the privileged relationship that exists between mother’s brother and sister’s son. He explains this relationship from the structural-functional point of view by focusing on the relatives in the kinship structure and their roles (or functions) performed by them. In order to explain avunculate, Radcliffe-Brown considers the relationships on the father’s side and then sees how these are balanced by the relationships on the mother’s side. Compare and contrast the functional approaches of Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski. He demonstrated that as in a patrilineal system, authority over a man is vested in his father’s lineage, he seeks indulgence from his mother’s lineage, and by extension from the men of his mother’s lineage. Thus, while deference characterises the relationship on the father’s side, it is structurally balanced by the indulgence in the relationship with the mother’s side. The reverse occurs in matrilineal systems. To explain avunculate, he made use of the functional extension of sentiments and the structural equivalence of siblings.

More Sample Questions

1) Discuss functionalism.

2) What is the structural-functional approach?

3) Discuss structuralism.


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