VSI – Chapter 3:ABrief Encounter: Society 
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. 
Culture helps us understand how individuals themselves understand and interpret the
world and others. Society tells the rules and regularities that govern human social
Structure and Function 
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. 
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
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  (Tradition and Modernity )
“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