#2 * A.R. Radcliffe

The dominant theoretical
paradigm of the British
school of social
anthropology, 1930–1955.
Associated with the
theoretical writings of A. R.
Radcliffe-Brown in
Structure and function in
primitive society
A. R. Radcliffe-Brown 1881-1955
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown
• Born: Alfred Reginald Brown
• Birmingham, England, 1881
• Family of modest means
• Last of three children
• Had tuberculosis--left his lungs impaired
• In 1926 he added his mother's maiden name to his
own, becoming famous as A. R. Radcliffe-Brown.
• King Edward’s High School in Birmingham and Trinity
College, Cambridge
• Turn of the century important developments in field
of philosophy and in anthropology
• Radcliffe- Brown spent the years 1906-1908 in
Andaman Islands
• His fellowship for Trinity College was a
reconstruction of Andamanese culture history
Andaman Islanders
Andaman Islands
• French Sociologists:
• Durkheim
• Mauss in particular
• Thereafter was concerned primarily
with the meaning and function of
rites, myths, and institutions
• Most of working life spent outside England.
• He held chairs of social anthropology at:
• Cape Town, 1920-1925
• Sydney, 1925-1931
• Chicago, 1931-1937
• Oxford, 1937-1946
• Visiting professor at Yenching, China in 1935
• Sao Paulo, Brazil from 1942 to 1944.
• After retirement from Oxford:
• Professor of social science and director of
Institute of Social Studies at Farouk
University, Alexandria, Egypt from 1947 to
• Later held special appointment at Rhodes
University, Grahamstown, South Africa, from
1951 to 1954.
• “I conceive of social anthropology as the theoretical
natural science of human society,
• the investigation of social phenomena by methods
essentially similar to those used in the physical &
biological sciences.
• While I have defined social anthropology as the
study of human society, there are some who define
it as the study of culture.
• It might be thought that this difference is of minor
• Actually it leads to two different kinds of study”
• “In a hive of bees there are the relations of
association of the queen, the workers & the drones.
• These are social phenomenon; I do not suppose
that anyone will call them cultural phenomena.
• Let us consider what are the concrete, observable
facts with which the social anthropologist is
• We can observe the acts of behavior of these
• We do not observe a culture since that word is but
an abstraction.
• I use the term “social structure” to denote this
network of actually existing relations”
Biopsychological Functionalism or
“Needs” Functionalism (Malinowski)
Structural Functionalism
Exchange Functionalism (Mauss)
• Biopsychological Functionalism or
“Needs” Functionalism
• Society meets the needs of
Marcel Mauss:
Exchange Functionalism
• Emile Durkheim’s nephew
• Classic work The Gift, Mauss argued
that gifts are never "free".
• Gifts give rise to reciprocal exchange
• "What power resides in the object
given that causes its recipient to pay it
Marcel Mauss
• The answer is simple: The giver does
not merely give an object but also
part of himself, for the object is
indissolubly tied to the giver.
• The objects are never completely
separated from the men who
exchange them.
Marcel Mauss
• Because of this bond between giver and
• The act of giving creates a social bond with
an obligation to reciprocate on part of the
• To not reciprocate means to lose honor
and status,
• But the spiritual implications can be even
• In Polynesia, failure to reciprocate means
to lose mana, one's spiritual source of
authority and wealth.
Structural Functionalism
• Structure – Organized arrangement
of the parts of society
• Function – The contribution of the
parts to the maintenance of the
Structural Functionalism
• People exist to meet the needs of society
• Individuals are cogs in the social system
• Malinowski: Funeral meets psychological
needs of the individual
• Radcliffe-Brown: Funeral creates social
solidarity of the group
Structural Functionalism
• Societies have structure and order
• All phenomena occurring within the
culture are seen to have the
• Underlying goal of maintaining the
overall societal structure and order,
despite individual motivation..
Five Basic Principles
1. Society is seen as an organically
structured whole akin to a biological
2. Society has a social structure - an
ordered arrangement of parts.
3. Structure is ideally integrated, unified,
and exists in equilibrium.
Five Basic Principles
4. This structure is the object of analysis;
the most valued data is the structure you
can abstract.
5. The function of Social activities and
institutions is ultimately interpreted in
terms of maintaining the whole social
structure of the society
Function Of Institutions Is To
Maintain The Structure
• The problem for society is to
survive — to maintain its structure
• But basic human nature is
inherently selfish and
• Is therefore hostile to that survival.
Society’s Survival
• Therefore the behavior of individuals
must be molded to the requirements
society needs to survive
• Conflict must be restrained and
• The conduct of persons in their
interrelations with each other must be
controlled by norms or rules of
• Failure of the individual to follow these
norms results in sanctions
MALINOWSKI: Society seen
as a nurturing, comforting,
cocoon emanating from, and
responding to, human needs
seen as a tyrannical entity,
often at odds with human
nature, which controls humans
by injecting fears and anxieties
into their psyches, and if
necessary sacrificing them for
its own sake

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