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Lecture 4

Lecture 4 - British Social Anthropology, Structural Funtionalism and Stuff - January 28.docx

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Holly Wardlow

January 28, 2014. Lecture 4 – British SocialAnthropology: Structural Functionalism and Stuff A. R. Radcliffe-Brown [1881 – 1955] • So anti cultural evolutionism and so influenced by Durkheim that he preferred to call what he did comparative sociology (not anthropology) • Founder of the British school of Structural-Functionalism: how social roles, institutions, and structures function to maintain equilibrium and cohesion in society • Nomothetic (unlike the idiographic approach taken by Franz Boas) o To seek out explanatory generalizations and laws  Whereas idiographic approaches are more particular and in complete avoidance of overarching generalizations o The “right” or “natural” approach for the natural or physical sciences (according to Boas) o Radcliffe-Brown: finding at least small generalizations (e.g., joking relationships) were what made anthropology worthwhile Structural Functionalism • Preoccupied with the question: how do societies exist; that is, how do they cohere and maintain equilibrium as integrated collectives? • Societies are organized through particular kinds of relationships (kinship, economic, political) and particular social groups (families, age-grades, etc.) • Social relations are patterned and predictable • Roles, norms, and statuses shape behaviour and are independent of individual actors o Social structure is focused on more than what specific things people think, say and do • Society is like an organism; the primary function of different social structures is to maintain social equilibrium, to maintain functional integrity of the whole – e.g., patterned joking functions to maintain the stability of structurally challenging relationships • The individual (individual thoughts, desires, etc.) is not relevant; it is the individual’s position and role within a particular relationship or structure that matters • Society is envisioned as an integrated, self-perpetuating system Why so preoccupied with social cohesion and equilibrium? • Perhaps because relatively egalitarian and “acephalous” societies seemed so incomprehensible to researchers coming from highly hierarchical Great Britain o Acephalous: Greek “headless”; not structured hierarchically • Radcliffe-Brown influenced by the anarchist scholar and activist Pyotr Kropotkin, and especially his 1902 book, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, which, contra Darwin, emphasized cooperation, mutuality, etc. o Advocated egalitarian society; people could govern themselves without a central leader/government Max Gluckman [1911 – 1975] • Born and educated in South Africa • Rhodes Scholar and studied under Radcliffe-Brown • Researched Zulu history and politics • Director of the Rhodes-Livingston Institute until given
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