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malinowski functionalism: ? culture=functionalism malinowski was one of the founding fathers of british social. MALINOWSKI, MARX AND FUNCTIONALISM by Al Szymanski. University of Oregon. Few ideas in sociology have caused more confusion than &dquo. A theoretical orientation in anthropology, developed by Bronislaw Malinowski. Functionalism is similar to Radcliffe-Brown’s structural functionalism, in that it is.

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InBronislaw Malinowski, the father of structural functionalist sociology, released his book called Argonauts of the Western Pacific, introducing a new form of anthropology: Ethnography, as opposed to the basic concept of anthropology or the study of human kindseeks 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 fuctionalism can be drastically different from your own. Enculturation proves to be a critical element to functionalixm anthropologists path in understanding the bigger picture. Functionalism is a complex subtopic of cultural anthropology encompassing many broad terms and definitions. Bronislaw Malinowski, the founder of functionalism coined the basic strand of functionalism opposing evolutionism and historical particularism.

Malinowski also proposed the method of fieldwork which is the retrieving of data usually by first-hand observation in the social and cultural context which is being studied. In further study of the Trobriand Islanders, Malinowski theorized the kula ringwhich was a form of economic exchange between the islanders. In this exchange necklaces were exchanged clockwise and armshells counter-clockwise. Functionalism studies societies at one time which is known as synchronicrather than diachronicor across time.

The main method for functionalism is fieldwork. Malinowski’s systematic approach to field work seeks to bring the method of hard science to ethnography.

The method Malinowski proposes has three basic tenets, which he describes in anatomical terms. The first ideal for mallinowski ethnographer is to learn as much as possible, from many different viewpoints, about how a culture stuctures itself as a whole.

The second standard of functionalism is seeking tunctionalism a clear picture of the individual reality of living within a given cultural skeleton. His theories and methods showed how a true researcher cannot hope to understand a culture and its individuals without learning the language and living the life of the subjects.

By immersing himself in another culture, Malinowski was able to conceive the interconnectedness of a society. Two British social anthropologists, Bronislaw Malinowski and Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown championed Functionalist theory in the first half of runctionalism 20th century. Even though the two argued about theoretical particularities of functionalist thought, their work grounded British anthropology in the practice of empirical research and the active formulation of theory using fieldwork.

Bronislaw Malinowski is considered the creator of the school of functionalist thought, as well as one of the first anthropologists to encourage personal contact and highly detailed field work. Born into an upper-class family in Krakow, Poland on April 7,Malinowski was encouraged to follow scholarly pursuits by both of his well-educated and cultured parents, Lucyan and Jezefa.

InMalinowski began his post graduate studies at the London School of Economics where he studied under C.

Seligman, a member of the Cambridge University expediation to Torres Straits in that first introduced structured field research techniques to British fubctionalism, his influence further encouraged an interest in social anthropology.

Malinowski got his first opportunity to do fieldwork when he was hired as a secretary under anthropologist R. Marett and traveled to Australia.

BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski – Wikipedia

Personal circumstances with onset of World War I led him to Papua. As a citizen of the Austrian Empire, he was considered an enemy to Australia and given the choice to become imprisoned or spend the duration of the war in Papua. It was betweenwhen Malinowski spent more than two years working with the Trobriand Islanders, that he would gather the bulk of his research for his developing theories and ethnographic reports.

The most famous of his writings, based on his work with the Trobriand people, is Argonauts of the Western Pacificpublished in He moved back to London in where he served as a reader of social anthropology and later as a professor at the University of London. After the death of his first wife inMalinowski married Anna Valetta Swan in June ofthey were married until he died on May 16, at the age of The importance of Malinowski’s work is immense and heavily influenced by his broad experiences with other cultures.


Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, also a functionalist, was born in Britain in Each of these worked to incorporate the basic notions of functionalist theory into changing discourses about the aspects of cultural systems to come to more innovative notions about how societies operate.

Argonauts of the Western Pacific was written by Bronislaw Malinowski inthe book chronicles his work with the Trobriand people of the Kiriwina Islands northeast of Papua New Guinea. The book provides ethnographic studies of the indigenous peoples during the beginning of the development of his functionalist theories. It is the first book published in a trilogy of ethnographic field studies on the Trobriand people by Malinowski. The book mainly focuses on exchange systems of the Trobriand Islands, including observations on social organization, folklore, magic and general ways of life of the Trobriand people.

In Chapter One, Bronislaw Malinowski provides the reader with a detailed account of his ethnographic study of the native population who inhabit the Trobriand islands. This introduction provides the audience with a frame of reference to follow, which includes the subject, the methodology and an overall conceptualization of his inquiry. A detailed description is provided of the methods applied for generating his qualitative data.

Malinowski stresses the importance for science to provide a detailed account for the reasoning behind each step, the tools utilized, the precise procedures applied for observation and how measurements are derived. His thoughts moved on only two levels, that of the islanders and the abstract, general case of Man and Society, which he tied very closely to be the same as the Trobrianders. It details the social organization of sexuality among the Trobriand people, social rites, partners, etc, tracing Trobriand life cycles from birth through puberty, marriage, and death.

It focuses mainly on the cultivation practices that the Trobrianders use to grow yams, taro, bananas, and palms, detailing the gardens and the religious aspects of growing food. Functionalism, while very influential in the world of anthropology, is not seen as an entirely credible theory. There are many points within functionalism that have come under critique since the introduction of the theory. Functionalism is a synchronic theory, meaning it focuses on one point in time within a given society, but most societies are shaped by their history.

Flying both intra- and internationally required much stricter forms of security that have become engrained into our society. The focus is mainly on those parts of society that stay relatively stable, however, it is often changes within a society that largely define what a society is becoming and where it is going.

Societies are not always in a state of equilibrium, as functionalism suggests. When China instated the one-child policy it drastically changed Chinese culture and created many problems that were not present prior to the political decision. Since the policy has been instated percentages of males amongst the population has increased dramatically because of Chinese parents desire to birth a son. Chinese culture has much family influence and puts great preference towards the oldest son.

Now that Chinese couples can only have one child drastic measures are taken, including abortions and abandonment, to assure the bringing of a son to the family. Functionalism can also be critiqued for its overly harmonious view on society; it completely disregards cultural differences within single societies. In his works, Malinowski talks about the negative opinion “the white men” had with the “natives” in the South Sea Islands; while they live in virtually the same area and interact with one another regularly, there is a vast difference between the way both parties live their lives.

How would functionalism account for foreign aide? In the past quarter century small loan systems in Bangladesh have created a small business sector that did not exist half a century ago. Economic changes and changes in lifestyle such as Bangladeshi woman running small businesses opposed to performing rural practices are both factors that help shape culture. Functionalism does not recognize the changes only the present situations.



It is like the classic question: Functionalism states that society functions for the sake of meeting individual needs. Malinowski’s theory centers around a strict set of needs which include physical, psychological, and social needs.

This particular point is never clearly addressed in the works of Malinowski and other functionalists. In society institutions exist to help humans meet their needs.

Functionalism does not ask how, when or why these institutions came to be. Functionalism only malinoeski these institutions as a way for humans to meet their needs. Looking at the United States we see an already large and growing number of women in the workforce.

Church attendance has also declined along with a rising in divorce rate. A functionalist would observe these trends and figure that they are normal for the society and their culture.

Functionalism is criticized because it does not ask how or why these trends came to be. In many cases political influence can create change that does not represent cultural preferences.

Functionalist theory suggests that society is formed to specifically meet the needs of the individuals participating in that society. This would mean that cultures would never crossover or affect one another.

It is well known that it is nearly impossible to have a completely isolated society, so culture sharing is quite common. In Malinowski’s work, he goes into great depth in particular about the trading pattern of the people of the South Sea Islands. As globalization has and continues to reshape the way the world works, functionalism becomes less and less legitimate.

How can functionalism describe specialization or comparative advantage? To turn text into a link, highlight the text, then click on a page or file from the list above.

Culture is essentially an instrumental apparatus by which man is put in a position to better cope with the concrete, specific problems that face him in his environment in the course of the satisfaction of his needs. It is a system of objects, activities, and attitudes in which every part exists as a means to an end.

It is an integral in which the various elements are interdependent. Such activities, attitudes and objects are organized around important and vital tasks into institutions such as family, the clan, the local community, the tribe, and the organized teams of economic cooperation, political, legal, and educational activity. From the dynamic point of view, that is, as regards the type of activity, culture can be analyzed into a number of aspects such as education, social control, economics, systems of knowledge, belief, and morality, and also modes of creative and artistic expression” Critiques of Functionalism There are many criticisms of functionalism and their theories: Functionalist ideas almost portray humans as being autonomous and that only socialization determines our lives.

Bronisław Malinowski

They do not really see humans as the unpredictable creatures they are, not possible to stray away from the predictable ideas functionaljsm functionalists have of people. Too much stress is placed on harmony and the potential for conflict and its affects are generally ignored. There is no recognition of difference by class, region or ethnic group. The functionalist picture is simply reflective of happy middle-class American families.

In particular with Durkheim’s work, it is too optimistic and maintains the idea of social solidarity as the main theme, and simply believes pathologies can be solved through simple social reform, ignoring any problems or conflict and the affects. Functionalism became dominant in American theory in the s and s.

With time, criticism of this approach has escalated, resulting in its decline in the early s. Interactions theorists criticized functionalism for failing to conceptualize adequately the complex nature of actors and the process of interaction. Marxist theory argued against functionalism’s conservatives and the static nature of analysis that emphasized the contribution of social phenomena to the maintenance of the status quo. Advocates fujctionalism theory construction questioned the utility of excessively classificatory or typological theories that pigeonholed phenomena in terms of their functions Turner and Maryanski

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