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Chapter 3

VSI Chapter 3 Notes

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Maggie Cummings

VSI – Chapter 3:ABrief Encounter: Society [53] People are not purely unique and autonomous individuals, no matter how much we would like to think of ourselves that way. We derive many facets of our identity from the various groups to which we belong. Human behaviour is an aspect of our nature as members of a social species. - We are organized into groups whose internal and external relations are governed by rules, perform a variety of functions, and which endure beyond the lives of their constituent members. We may have a culture, but we belong to a society. [54] Culture helps us understand how individuals themselves understand and interpret the world and others. Society tells the rules and regularities that govern human social behavior. Structure and Function [54] Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942): Founded functionalism Malinowski showed that institutions such as law and complex economics, which many Westerners assumed to be exclusive province of ‘civilized’ societies, were possessed by ‘primitive’ societies in full measure, if in a somewhat different form. In Malinowski’s view primitive man was no ‘slave of custom’but a rational actor whose every practice and institution served a function [hence functionalism] that contributed to the satisfaction of individual and collective needs. [56] A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955): started structural functionalism He was primarily interested in social structure – the formal rules governing the relationships within society. His most brilliant work involved the analysis of structural ‘problems’[e.g., joking/avoidance relations, see below]… [Unlike Malinowski, who took an individualistic approach] For Radcliffe-Brown society was a thing unto itself and his desire was to approach it as a natural scientist approaches any object of study Radcliffe-Brown argued that there were often “structural problems” in society, where relationships would likely be strained, such as between a man and his wife’s sister or mother. Two contrasting solutions to these problems are the joking relation, 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” [example from Robert Lowie’s study of the 1 Crow Indians], and the avoidance relation “characterized by extreme mutual respect and a limitation of direct personal contact” [such as the ‘mother-in-law bells’ of the Navaho] Joking and avoidance are not opposite, but to provide alternative ways of solving the same social problem: providing people with a kind of social script for getting around difficult “structural situations”, either by allowing the most egregious behaviour and requiring them not to take offence, or by prohibiting them from interacting at all. - Functions can be manifest (the educative function of a university) or latent (it is function to facilitate mating). - Functionalists tend to view societies as mutual equilibriums where all elements work together (like a thermostat) to maintain a balance. This makes them ill- suited to explain change.  “Doctrine of needs” – with supplying the basic wants of individual members of society, such as food, shelter, and so on.  “Homeostatic equilibrium” – a state in which all the parts acted to keep the whole in balance, the way a thermostat regulates heat in a house, and viewed social structure as constraining behaviour. Institutions [62] (Tradition and Modernity [67]) “When patterns of behavior and ideology become relatively discrete, enduring, and autonomous, we call these patterns institutions”. Total institutions: where your complete environment is controlled – prisons, military, boarding schools, communes, cults, psychiatric hospitals, et. al. Common distinction between institutions of ‘primitive’and ‘modern’societies: Anthropologist Traditional Modern Emile Durkheim (1858- Mechanical solidarity: Organic solidarity: society 1917) society is held together by is held together by the Major concern: what holds the basic similarity of its interdependence of its parts members and allegiance to common society together? symbols Ferdinand Tönnies (1855- Gemeinschaft (community):Gesellschaft (society): social 1936)
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