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Functionalism considers a culture as an interrelated whole, not a collection of isolated traits. Like a human being has various organs that are interconnected and necessary for the body to function correctly, so society is a system of interconnected parts that make the whole function efficiently.

The Functionalists examined how a particular cultural phase is interrelated with other aspects of the culture and how it affects the whole system of the society; in other words, cause and effect. The theory of Functionalism emerged in the s and then declined after World War II because of cultural changes caused by the war. Since the theory did not emphasize social transformations, it was replaced by other theories related to cultural changes.

Even so, the basic idea of Functionalism has become part of a common sense for cultural analysis in anthropology. Anthropologists generally consider interconnections of different cultural domains when they analyze cultures, e. The method of functionalism was based on fieldwork and direct observations of societies.

Anthropologists were to describe various cultural institutions that make up a society, explain their social function, and show their contribution to the overall stability of a society.

At the same time, this functionalist approach was criticized for not considering cultural changes of traditional societies. Structural functionalism was a form of functionalism that arose in Great Britain.

British anthropologist, A. R Radcliffe-Brown , was its most prominent advocate. In the structural functionalism approach, society, its institutions and roles, was the appropriate thing to study. Cultural traits supported or helped to preserve social structures. This approach had little interest in the individual, which contrasts with the approach advocated for by Bronislaw Malinowski. Brown, Curtis. Darity, Jr. Buzney, Catherine and Jon Marcoux. Cultural Materialism. Accessed March 5, Cooke, Bill.

James Birx, Graber, Robert Bates. Harrison, Anthony Kwame. Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms, Johnson, Michelle C. Lukas, Scott A. Margolis, Maxine L. Sullivan, Gerald. Tucker, Bram. West, Barbara. Skip to main content. Chapter 3: Anthropological Theory. Search for:. Licenses and Attributions. CC licensed content, Original.


Bronisław Malinowski

In , Bronislaw Malinowski, the father of structural functionalist sociology, released his book called Argonauts of the Western Pacific, introducing a new form of anthropology: Ethnography. Ethnography, as opposed to the basic concept of anthropology or the study of human kind , seeks to identify the sociological aspect of anthropology; and with ethnography comes a different understanding of how to collect field data. Field studies are something anthropologists rely heavily upon, a collaboration of their daily research that further leads to connective patterns. By using Ethnography's as part of their field data, anthropologists can record the emic perspectives of a community. The lifestyle, culture and societal norms of a culture can be drastically different from your own.



In , he was given a chance to travel to New Guinea accompanying anthropologist Robert Ranulph Marett , but as World War I broke out and Malinowski was an Austrian subject, and thereby an enemy of the British commonwealth , he was unable to travel back to England. The Australian government nonetheless provided him with permission and funds to undertake ethnographic work within their territories and Malinowski chose to go to the Trobriand Islands , in Melanesia where he stayed for several years, studying the indigenous culture. Upon his return to England after the war, he published his main work Argonauts of the Western Pacific , which established him as one of the most important anthropologists in Europe of that time. He took posts as lecturer and later as a chair in anthropology at the LSE, attracting large numbers of students and exerting great influence on the development of British social anthropology.


Functionalism in Anthropology: The Works of Durkheim and Malinowski


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