VSI- Impo Concepts

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16 Dec 2010

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social structure- the idea that social relations are patterned and predictable- the formal
rules governing the relationships within society- Bronislaw Malinowski and A.R.
Radcliffe Brown- sought to understand the ways in which groups are for med in society-
relation to one another- the functions- both latent and manifest
Browns joking relationship is where one party is permitted and sometimes required to
tease or make fun of the other who in turn is required to take no offense (crow indians-
sisters and brother in law relationship example) vs. the avoidance relationship
characterized by extreme mutual respect and a limitation of direct personal contact (older
navaho women example)- the function of this behaviour in societies? Brown looked at
joking and avoidance behavior as "standardized social relationships" which are found
pr imarily in "structural situations" in which the potential for conf lict or social
awkwardness is high. This led to his conclusion of the function of such behaviour as not
opposites but alternative way of solving the same problem: providing people with a kind
of social script for getting around difficult "structural situations" either by allowing the
most egregious behavior and requiring them not to take offence or by prohibiting t hem
from interacting at all
Brown's approach was called "structural functionalism" looked at social anthropology
as "comparative anthropology"
Bronislaw Malinowski showed that instituions such as law and complex economics were
possessed by "pr imitive" societies in full measure. His view was that pr imitve man was
no "slave of custom" but a rational actor whose every practice and instituion served a
fuction that contributed to the satisfaction if individual and collective needs- his approach
was known as "functionalism"
relations between individuals and groups explained in terms of their functions-
malinowski says it has to do with what he calls "doctrine of needs"- supplying the basic
wants of individuals members of society (food, shelter etc.)- for others these fuctions are
more concerned with the operation and perpetuation of instituions in society- a kind of
overhead necessary for the maintanenace of social relations
social life and the agency of individuals whose actions are both constrained and enabled
by structure but have consequences- both intended and unintended
institutions- are patterns of behaviours and ideology that are relatively discrete, endur ing
and autonomous (not necessarily shared by the society at large): military pr isons,
boarding schools, communes, cults, psychiatric hospitals (erving goffman called these
"total institutions", the most extreme form of instituions)- these are organizations that
govern virtually al l facets of their members' lives- individuals are stripped of previous
social identities- transfor mative experience as it still continues into their future- the
extreme degree of control and rigid patterning of behavior total institutions create often
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