What Is Functionalism In Anthropology

Functionalism developed within the British School of Social Anthropology as an alternative direction to evolutionism and diffusionism. The works of H. Spencer and E. Durkheim had a great influence on its formation. The most prominent representatives of functionalism are b. Malinowski and A. Radcliffe-Brown. It is their names that are associated with the formation of two currents within functionalism: 1) the Malinowski School, called Biocultural Functionalism, and 2) the Radcliffe-Brown School, known as the School of Structural Functionalism.

Functionalism views culture as a whole made up of separate elements. The main task of the research is to break down the whole (culture) into integral parts and to reveal the relationship between them. Each part has a certain task, function in the socio-cultural whole. Often, the individual element not only performs its function, but also represents a link without which culture cannot exist as a whole. Functionalists were, in fact, not interested in the historical changes of cultures; What was important to them was how culture works in the “here and now”, what tasks it solves, how it is reproduced. The concept of “function” They are used in two main meanings: 1) the role that this or that element of culture plays in relation to the whole; 2) The relationship between the parts of the culture, the components.

One of the founders of functionalism is the English scholar Bronislav Kasper Malinowski (1884-1942), of Polish descent. Born in Krakow. There, he received his PhD in Mathematics and Physics from Jagiellonian University. He then studied for two years at the University of Leipzig, where his teacher was Wilhelm Wundt (the latter was also the teacher of Franz Boas and Emile Durkheim). Under his influence, Malinowski became interested in anthropology and traveled to England to study at the London School of Economics. Field surveys were conducted in Papua and Trobriand Islands. He earned a doctorate in anthropology.

In A Scientific Theory of Culture (1944) and The Dynamics of Culture Change (published after his death in 1945), he laid the theoretical foundations of functionalism.

The main provisions of the Malinowski concept were formed under the strong influence of H. Spencer. In particular, Malinowski shared Spencer’s view of society as a peculiar biological organism. The basis of Malinowski’s concept became the theory of needs. Basic, basic and secondary, produced needs distinguish man from the animal world; The latter is due to the cultural environment.

Man is a biological being and his primary task is to satisfy simple biological needs. In the process, a person acquires food, fuel, creates clothing, housing, thus transforms the environment and creates a new, secondary, produced environment – culture around him.

In addition to basic (biological) needs, there are also secondary, secondary (food distribution, division of labor, defense, reproductive regulation, social control) and integrative (psychological security, social harmony, cognition system, laws, religion, magic, mythology, art) needs. , Which are served by culture. Each aspect of culture has its function in one of the requirements listed above. For example, magic, according to B. Malinowski, provides psychological protection from danger, myth gives historical authority to the management system and values, and so on.

According to B. Malinowski, culture, in its essence, is a tool through which a person copes with the specific problems posed by the environment in the process of meeting needs. Culture is a system of objects, actions, and provisions, all elements of which are a means to an end. It is a whole, made up of partly autonomous, partly coordinated elements. People organize elements of culture, interacting verbally or through symbolic actions. Cultural elements, groups of people, and systems of symbols are three components of the cultural process.

All cultures, Malinowski believed, in the process of development will develop a certain system of solid “equilibrium” in which each part of the whole performs its function. If we destroy any element of culture (for example, we forbid a ritual we think is harmful), the whole ethnocultural system and, consequently, the people living in it may be in danger of degradation and extinction. The researcher strongly criticized Taylor’s “theory of reminders”, which declared this or that event as a time-consuming reminder instead of a search for its meaning and function.

A major drawback of diffusionism, Malinowski argued, was that he viewed culture not as a living organic whole but as a set of objects, studying the individual features of culture independently of one another.

Malinowski believed that the historical process is unknowable, and attempts to study the long evolution of cultural elements are hopeless. The task of the researcher is to analyze the functions of cultural events, their interrelationships within each individual culture.

Research method. Malinowski is often cited as the first researcher to move anthropology from the veranda to the field. His predecessor anthropologists conducted fieldwork interviews and were not involved in the daily lives of their research objects. Malinowski emphasized the importance of detailed, “involved partisipant observation” and argued that for a more or less long period of time, the researcher should live in the community whose culture he or she is studying in order to integrate as much as possible into that community. To do this, it is necessary for him to master the local language in order to communicate in that language. This method allows you to see the culture “from within”. Anthropologists need to have daily contact with their informants in order to adequately describe the “imponderabilia of everyday life” that are so important to understanding a foreign culture. Malinowski’s assertion that the ethnographer should try to see things and events “through the eyes of the locals” was unusual for his time. To adequately describe the “imponderabilia of everyday life” that are so important to understanding a foreign culture. Malinowski’s assertion that the ethnographer should try to see things and events “through the eyes of the locals” was unusual for his time. To adequately describe the “imponderabilia of everyday life” that are so important to understanding a foreign culture. Malinowski’s assertion that the ethnographer should try to see things and events “through the eyes of the locals” was unusual for his time.

Malinowski was one of the first to show that institutions such as law and the complex economy, which many Westerners considered to be only a “privilege” of “civilized society”, were also fully represented in “primitive” societies, albeit in a somewhat different way. According to Malinowski, primitive man was not a slave to traditions, but rather he was a rational person, whose every activity and institution had the function of satisfying certain, individual and collective needs.

Malinowski argued that customs are “organically related” to the rest of the culture, and that the field researcher should look for invisible facts whose roles determine the interrelationships between different aspects of public organization.

In one of his works (“Argonautus of the Western Pacific”) Malinowski emphasizes the importance of ethnology in creating a tolerant attitude towards foreign customs; In the work of the ethnologist, the reader must see the purpose and purpose of traditions different from their own.

• The Trobriand Islands (1915) • Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) • Crime and Custom in Savage Society (1926) • The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia (1929) • Coral Gardens and Their Magic: A Study of the Methods of Tilling the Soil and of Agricultural Rites in the Trobriand Islands (1935) • The Scientific Theory of Culture (1944) • Magic, Science, and Religion (1948) • The Dynamics of Culture Change (1945) • A Diary In the The second variant of the Strict Sense of the Term (1967) functionalist theory was the so-called Structural functionalism developed by Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, 1881-1955) English ethnologist, from the 1930s – President of the Royal Institute of British Ethnography. His major work was Structure and Function in Primitive Society (1952). Was published.

According to A. Radcliffe-Brown, culture, like a living organism, exists insofar as its constituent elements perform certain functions, and human society is also based on the structure of interconnected and complementary cultural elements.

The social system consists of “structures” and “actions”. Structures are sustainable models through which individuals relate to each other and to the environment. The function of all structural elements is to contribute to the sustainability of the social system. Human coexistence – the functioning of members of a social system within a certain social structure. All kinds of functions of “action” are to solve this or that socially important task and ensure inheritance. Moral customs, rituals, moral norms are considered to be the regulators of human behavior, which play a key role in culture.

Radcliffe-Brown divided the sciences into culture into two parts: ethnology and social (cultural) anthropology. Ethnology, in his view, is a concrete-historical study of individual peoples, their internal development, including cultural ties. Its main method is historical reconstruction. Social anthropology aims to reveal the general patterns of social and cultural functioning. Unlike Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown did not deny the historical study of cultures.

In the 1930s, Radcliffe-Brown abandoned the concept of “culture” and replaced it with “social structure.” The main aspects of his research became the political organization of different cultures, the peculiarities of kinship systems and their role in the social system, the functional analysis of the structure of primary beliefs.

In general, the feature of functionalist theories of culture (especially the Radcliffe-Brown concept) was the practical purpose of research. Representatives of this current tried to create social anthropology as an applied science to solve current political tasks (especially in the British colonies). First, it was a problem of governing areas where traditional cultures dominated. With some influence from functionalists, the concept of “indirect” governance was developed – governance based on traditional institutions of government and an established social structure.

Functionalists did not share the evolutionary assessment of “primitive” cultures (more highly developed – “better”) and did not support their theory of the necessary gradual development of all cultures according to the standard of European civilization. They (first of all – Malinowski) should be credited with posing the problem of the interaction of traditional and modern cultures and showing its complexity.

Another important achievement was the attempt to understand other types of cultures, unusual for Europeans, to study culture “from within”, to understand other cultural values. The issues raised by them were further elaborated by researchers who did not belong to this field.

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