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Structural-Functionalism

Page history last edited by Kaitlyn Clure 9 years, 8 months ago

 

 

Structuralism Table of Contents

 

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Main Points

 

Overview

     Structural functionalism was a theoretical school in Great Britain originally formulated to move away from evolutionism and diffusion. The premier concern with structural functionalism from the viewpoint of Radcliffe-Brown was to focus primarily on social structure rather than biological needs, which is the main concern of Maliowski’s functionalism. Radcliffe-Brown argued that social phenomena had to be constructed within the social level. Pointing to his idea that individuals were irrelevant and replaceable, they were occupants of social roles. [1]The Structural-Functionalist theory was founded by Radcliffe-Brown with E.E. Evans-Pritchard contributing major field work and analysis. Primarily, this theory is based upon social structures and their positive/negative effects upon a culture with customs as the tool used to preserve these social structures.[2]
      Radcliffe-Brown saw social systems almost like an organism where the different parts of a living being do their functions in order to keep the whole working.  This physiological explanation works for structural-functionalist theory because customs, practices, social roles, and behavior are used to work together to help the social systems.[3]      E.E. Evans-Pritchard believed anthropologists should analyze societies based off the local communities view points rather then preexisting ideas. Evans-Pritchard studied primarily in Africa. In 1937 he published his first book called Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande. This book was an analyzed overview on witchcraft within Azande society in East Africa. Evans-Pritchard’s analysis proves that in the culture of the Azande’s witchcraft is rational according to their personal culture. In Cairo Evans-Pritchard became aquatinted with Radcliffe-Brown. Evans-Pritchard used Radcliffe-Brown’s theory on structural functionalism to help him write his trilogy of books called, The Nuer, Nuer Religion, and Kingship and Marriage among the Nuer, which became a primary source among British social anthropologists. Evans-Pritchard fundamentally believed that anthropology was more about studying the history and the actual people rather than about natural science. He believed calling it natural science “dehumanized” the society being studied. [4] 

Key Terms

    Social Systems are the focal point of a society, relating to patterned and relatively stable arrangement of roles and statuses found within societies.     Radcliffe-Brown describes these systems as "...what Come to later be called 'the first law of social statics,' was that in a particular form of social life there are relations of interconnection and interdependence."[5]
    Social Institutions are organized structures and are shaped by cultural values. 
               Typically includes: family, economy, politics, education, health care, and media.
    Social Norms are established rules pertaining to what is appropriate social behavior.
    Social Roles/Statuses are specific behavioral expectations. An individual within a particular status performers their role via normative expectations.
    Social Status is a position in a specific culture that is regulated by norms and typically ranked according to prestige.
                 Status is derived from a persons ethnicity, gender, and is also separated by their level of recognition in the surrounding community.[6]            

 


 

Key Figures:

 

A.R. Radcliffe Brown(1881-1955) [7] 

 

BIOGRAPHY of Radcliffe Brown (1881-1955):Alfred Reginald Brown was a major contributor to structural functionalism. He lived from 1881 to 1955. Brown was born in Birmingham, England. When he was just a boy, he decided to go by the name Radcliffe, because he thought it sounded more sophisticated. Brown first started his anthropological fieldwork in the Andaman Islands in 1906. A short while after in 1922, he published his first book called The Andaman Islanders. Radcliffe taught at many universities around the world including South Africa, from 1920-1925, Australia from 1925-1931, and The University of Chicago from1931-1937. [8]He focused on social structure, also known as Structural functionalism. He believed that a society was a system of relationships. Unlike Bronislaw Malinowski who put focus on individuals, Radcliffe believed that individuals are irrelevant. Along with history he studied moral science, economics, psychology, and philosophy. He completed this degree in 1904.  Augustus Comte inspired Radcliffe, along with E-E Evans Pritchard.[9]  

 

RELATED INFORMATION:E-E Evans Pritchard was a notable British anthropologist, and studied history and anthropology at Oxford. He lived from 1902 to 1973. Pritchard and Brown focused on kinships, and descent, leading into family organizations, economy, politics, and inter-group relations. [10]Radcliffe talks about kinship societies in his book, The Mother’s Brother in South Africa. He states, “In these essays, I have referred to Kinship systems. The idea is that in a given society, we can isolate conceptually, if not in reality, a certain set of actions amongst persons which are determined by the relationships by kinship or marriage, in that in  a particular society these are interconnected in such a way, that we can give a general description of them as constituting a system.” (pg 6)[11]  Here Radcliffe explains his thoughts and perceptions of what a kinship is, and what it is related to. Pritchard also had similar views on kinship, and wrote about them in his book called Interest in Cattle. He articulates, “The network of kinship ties which links members of local communities is brought by the operation of exogamous rules, often stated in terms of cattle. The union of marriage is brought by the payment of cattle, and every phase of the ritual is marked by their transference or slaughter. The legal status of partners and of their children is defined by cattle rights and obligations.”(pg 17) [12]Here Pritchard explains that kinship not only deals with the family, but what the family possesses. With what Radcliffe Brown and Evans Pritchard accomplished on political organization and kinship, it aided in shaping the political theory.    

 

E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973)

 

 

[13]

BIOGRAPHY of E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973): E. E. Evans-Pritchard was bornEdward Evan Evans-Pritchard in Sussex, England on September 21, 1902. He studied at the University of Oxford and later did his post-graduate work at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Most of Evans-Pritchard's work was done along the upper Nile among the Azande people in 1926. After working along the Nile he moved to southern Sudan in the 1930's to study the Nuer people. In 1932 he was offered and appointment at the University of Cairo which he accepted. While in Cairo he met Alfred Radcliffe-Brown and Meyer Fortes, both of whom influenced Evans-Pritchard greatly, his theory on structural-functionalism stemmed from Radcliffe-Brown's previous research. In 1937 he publish his first book: Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande, which came from his experience working with the Azande people. Because of this publication Evan-Pritchard was unable to acquire a teaching position due to Bronislaw Malinowski's disagreement with the contents of the book. It was only after Malinowski died that Evans-Pritchard was able to become a professor. After he began his teaching career at Oxford in 1946 he become well known for thinking against the theory that anthropology was a natural science. Evans-Pritchard argument was the anthropology was more like history and that if anthropology was a natural science the people in the culture being studied were “dehumanized” when they were only studied purely for science. He was knighted in 1971 and and died on September 11, 1973. [14]

RELATED INFORMATION: E.E. Evans-Pritchard primarily believed that cultures should not be looked at in a purely scientific manner. He believed that if cultures were look at only for scientific purposes then the people in that culture were being “dehumanized”. Translation was a subject that Evans-Pritchard focused on, stating that anthropologists needed to find a way to translate their thoughts into another culture and that once they were able to do this they would be able to understand the culture better. This would then allow anthropologists to translate this understanding back so as the be able to explain to the anthropologists own culture. [15]

 


 

Key Texts

 The Nuer: A description of the models of livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people.

 

 

 

      The main text for structural functionalism is The Nuer written by E.E. Evans-Pritchard. After returning to Oxford University, Evans-Pritchard began developing Radcliffe-Brown's program of structural functionalism which influenced his fieldwork on the Nuer. The Nuer pronounced “nü-ər” also known as the Nei Ti Naath, are a confederation of tribes located in Southern Sudan and western Ethiopia. The Government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan supported and financed the study of the Nuer, followed by a strong effort to publicize its results.

            The increased popularity of this book has changed the nature of anthropological inquiry and often brings subsequent anthropologists back to this work. As theorized by Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard provides the perfect example of the Lineage system and displays a clear understanding of the patterns of kinship and marriage that underlie Nuer life. For the first half of the book there is a lively and descriptive account on the way of life and seasonal rhythms of the year in the culture of the Nuer people. The second half of the book deals with the social organization of the Nuer, being the main subject of E-P’s research.

            Critiques believe the Nuer had been bombed when E-P arrived and that this drawback provides false clarity in his research. The Nuer people were under the sway of British authority during E-P’s fieldwork, which may have influenced their behavior. This impact has led many readers to consider the colonial context of the book as suppressed. Although this book refers to research conducted a half-century behind present day studies, it remains a good read and proves its relevance to ethnography and anthropology.

 

Structure and Function in Primitive Society

Written by Radliffe-Brown

 

     In his book Structure and Function in Primitive Society, a framework that describes basic concepts relating to the social structure of primitive civilizations. Radcliffe-Brown was seen as the classic to Bronisław Malinowski's romantic, framing ethnography. Although Malinowski openly advocated functionalism, Radcliffe-Brown denied being a functionalist, and carefully distinguished his concept of function from that of Malinowski’s. Structure and Function in Primitive Society renders an understanding of how some patterns of social practices are repeated and even seem to become fixed. In order to maintain the global social order of a society, Radcliffe-Brown argued that social institutions are crucial for maintaining stability and can be related to the organs of a body. Criticized for his failure to incorporate the effect of historical changes in the societies he studied, Radcliffe- Brown benefitted from the concepts constructed by. Although Émile Durkheim was a great influence on Radcliffe- Brown, he is more frequently considered together with Malinowski as the father of social anthropology.

 

 

Relevant Texts

<span style="color: #002060;" _mce_style="color: #002060;">A History of Anthropological Theory (Third Edition).</span> Toronto: University of Toronto Press “British Social Anthropology”.
Erickson, Paul A. and Liam D. Murphy. &nbsp;2008.
 

 

&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This reading includes a section on Malinowski, providing subsequent information about the different effects of functionalism. A History of Anthropological Theory does a great job at explaining where anthropological theory originates 
and how differing theoretical perspectives interrelate.

 

Moore, Jerry. &nbsp;2009. &nbsp;
<span style="color: #002060;" _mce_style="color: #002060;">Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (Third Edition).</span> &nbsp;
Lanham and New York: Alta Mira Press. “Evans-Pritchard” “Radcliffe-Brown” 

      

     Collecting biographical data and later discussing his theories, Jerry D. Moore provided insights into the development of cultural anthropology. Visions of Culture is a great source for introductory anthropology students with a brief, readable, and balanced treatment of theoretical developments in the field. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R.. 1940.  “Preface,” in African Political Systems, M. Fortes and E.E. Evans-Pritchard, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, pp. xi-xxiii.Fortes, Meyer and E.E. Evans-Pritchard.  1940.  Introduction,” in African Political Systems, M. Fortes and E.E. Evans-Pritchard, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-23.Structuralism

 


 

Critiques

 

Critiques of Structural-Functionalism   

   A common criticism of Radcliff-Brown and Structural-Functionalism is that it is “… conceived of social anthropology as an ahistorical inquiry resulting in a view of societies unconcerned with diachronic change.”[16] For instance, in his work “The Bridge", Max Gluckman argues that not enough attention had been paid by the Structural-Functionalists to the process and effect of colonization in colonial Africa where Radcliff-Brown and E.E. Evans Prichard did most of their work.[17]  Radcliff-Brown acknowledges the colonial presence within the societies in which he worked but does not analyze the changes that occurred within communities as a result of being colonized.”[18] In this way Radcliff-Brown ignores important historical events which may have had a great deal to do with the social structures he was describing.  It has also been argued that the “organismic” analogy to society, which is at the heart of Structural-Functionalism, is not entirely accurate and results in an oversimplification of social structures and their functions.  In viewing societies as a structural whole, with all parts serving to maintain this structure, Structural-Functionalists portray society as harmonious and unchanging.  Such a model does not account for social conflict and change, which is the focus for both Marxist anthropologists and the Boasian school of Historical Particularism.[19] 

      

 A Critique of Structural-Functionalism and Radcliff-Brown by E.E. Evans Prichard            

  Though early in his career E.E. Evans Prichard worked within the school of Structural-Functionalist he later attacked the works of Radcliff-Brown in favor of a more humanistic and historical approach.  He argued that one cannot ignore the individual histories of particular societies when analyzing the systems of their cultures.  He Writes, “It seems to me, that anthropologists (include me if you wish) have, in their writings about African societies, dehumanized the Africans into systems and structures and lost the flesh and blood.”[20] In trying the humanize anthropological studies E.E. Evans-Prichard served to criticize Radcliff-Brown’s conjecture that the individuals within a society have little to do with the structures that they maintain.[21]   

A Critique by Edmund Leach

      A common critique of structural functionalism is that is relies too heavily on the notion that the very structures within a society are the things holding it together. Edmund Leach, a British anthropologist, criticized this in "Political Systems of Highland Burma" (1954). In this he theorizes that the political leaders are actually manipulating the political structures of their communities, not the other way around, as theorized by structural functionalists. Leach's argument states that these leaders have been perpetuating either egalitarian or hierarchical political systems based upon their own interests, "..while confirming Malinowski's old idea that kinship and myth were not morally or jurically binding norms (as structural functionalism claimed), but charters for action, which might be manipulated and reinterpreted by actors in accordance with their interests."[22]   

 

     

 Written by E.E. Evans-Pritchard; Published in 1940            

     The main text for structural functionalism is The Nuer written by E.E. Evans-Pritchard. After returning to Oxford University, Evans-Pritchard began developing Radcliffe-Brown's program of structural functionalism which influenced his fieldwork on the Nuer. The Nuer pronounced “nü-ər” also known as the Nei Ti Naath, are a confederation of tribes located in Southern Sudan and western Ethiopia. The Government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan supported and financed the study of the Nuer, followed by a strong effort to publicize its results.           

     The increased popularity of this book has changed the nature of anthropological inquiry and often brings subsequent anthropologists back to this work. As theorized by Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard provides the perfect example of the Lineage system and displays a clear understanding of the patterns of kinship and marriage that underlie Nuer life. For the first half of the book there is a lively and descriptive account on the way of life and seasonal rhythms of the year in the culture of the Nuer people. The second half of the book deals with the social organization of the Nuer, being the main subject of E-P’s research.                 

     Critiques believe the Nuer had been bombed when E-P arrived and that this drawback provides false clarity in his research. The Nuer people were under the sway of British authority during E-P’s fieldwork, which may have influenced their behavior. This impact has led many readers to consider the colonial context of the book as suppressed. Although this book refers to research conducted a half-century behind present day studies, it remains a good read and proves its relevance to ethnography and anthropology.

 

Structure and Function in PrimitiveSociety. 

Written by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown; 1952[1924]. I

 

In his book 

Footnotes

  1. http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/cultures/cultures.php
  2. Conrad Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011, p. 65
  3. Conrad Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity, New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011, p. 65
  4. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/evanspritchard_ee.html
  5. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. 1952[1924]. “Introduction” and “The Mother’sBrother in South Africa,” in Structure and Function in Primitive Society, New York: Free Press, pp. 5
  6. http://sociologyindex.com/social_structure.htm
  7. The, By. "Appendix A: Pioneers of the British Period." Andaman Association, Lonely Islands - The Andamanese. Web. 15 Oct. 2010. .
  8. "A. R. Radcliffe-Brown." Web. 15 Oct. 2010. .
  9. "Functionalism." Home | College of Arts & Sciences. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. .
  10. "E.E.Evans-Pritchard." Web. 17 Oct. 2010..
  11. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. 1952[1924]. “Introduction” and “The Mother’sBrother in South Africa,” in Structure and Function in Primitive Society, New York: Free Press, pp. 1-31.
  12. Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1940. “Introduction” and “Interest in Cattle,”in The Nuer, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-50.
  13. http://www.greatarchaeology.com/archaeologist/EE-Evans-Pritchard.jpg
  14. Dolentz, Lillian. "E. E. Evans-Pritchard." EMuseum@Minnesota State University, Mankato . Minnesota State University , 2009. Web. 17 Oct 2010.
  15. "Evans-Pritchard, Edward E.." New World Encyclopedia . New World Encyclopedia, 3 April 2008. Web. 16 Oct 2010. .
  16. Moore, Jerry. 2009. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (Third Edition). Lanham and New York: Alta Mira Press. "A. R. Radcliff-Brown" Pg. 149
  17. Gluckman, Max. 1958. “”The Bridge”: Analysis of a Social Situation in Zululand,” in Joan Vincent, ed., The Anthropology of Politics, 2002, Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 53-58.
  18. Moore, Jerry. 2009. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (Third Edition). Lanham and New York: Alta Mira Press. "A. R. Radcliffe-Brown" Pg. 155
  19. Erickson, Paul A. and Liam D. Murphy. 2008. A History of Anthropological Theory (Third Edition). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. “British Social Anthropology” Pg. 123
  20. Moore, Jerry. 2009. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (Third Edition). Lanham and New York: Alta Mira Press. “Edward Evans Prichard” Pg. 171
  21. Moore, Jerry. 2009. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists (Third Edition). Lanham and New York: Alta Mira Press. “A. R. Radcliffe Brown” Pg. 152
  22. "Leach, Edmund - AnthroBase - Dictionary of Anthropology: A Searchable Database of Anthropological Texts." AnthroBase - Social and Cultural Anthropology - A Searchable Database of Anthropological Texts. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. .

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