The structural functionalism of AR Radcliff-Brown. - Social anthropology

AR Radcliffe-Brown's structural functionalism.

One of the largest representatives of functionalism in sociocultural anthropology is AR Radcliffe-Brown, who created a scientific direction called "English structuralism" or structural functionalism & quot ;.

Curriculum Vitae

Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (1881 - 1955) was educated at the University of Cambridge at the Department of Social Anthropology. In 1906-1908 years. conducted field research on the Andaman Islands, then studied the life of the aborigines of Australia, traveled to Africa, China and other countries. Since 1938 he is head of the Department of Social Anthropology at Oxford University. Hired by the President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. I read university courses in ethnology, anthropology, social anthropology in South Africa, Australia, USA, England, Egypt. For him, the inseparable link between field and cabinet work was the cornerstone of the scientific method. Major works: Andaman Islands. Studies on social anthropology (1922), "Structure and function in primitive society" (1952), "The Method in Social Anthropology" (1958).

An important scientific merit of Radcliffe-Brown was the institutionalization of social anthropology as an independent discipline. He defined it as "the science of man and human life in all its aspects". In the structure of anthropology, the English researcher identifies three areas: biological anthropology, archeology, ethnography. Ethnography, in turn, is divided into ethnology and social anthropology, each of which uses a specific method of scientific research.

Etiology Radcliffe-Brown proposed to name a science that deals with the concrete historical study of individual peoples, their internal development, cultural ties between them. The main method of this science is historical reconstruction of human culture. Social anthropology , in his opinion, is engaged in the search for general laws of social and cultural development.

The difference in methods is the basis for distinguishing ethnology and social anthropology. "I would suggest," wrote Radcliffe-Brown, "to limit the use of the term" ethnology "to cultural studies conducted using the method of historical reconstruction described above, and to use the term" social anthropology "to refer to the discipline that attempts to formulate general laws lying in the basis of cultural phenomena . Thus, social anthropology searches and explores the general laws of the development of mankind and its culture, applying the method that Radcliffe-Brown first defined as "generalizing" and then as "functional", subsequently as "comparative."

The methodological basis of the general theoretical concept of Radcliffe Brown is the thesis that all types of objective reality represent different classes of natural systems. As such systems can be represented, for example, an atom, a molecule, an organism, a society of people. The social system includes: the social structure, the totality of social customs, the specific image of thoughts and feelings associated with social practices.

The Radcliffe-Brown approach can be expressed as follows: a limited number of structural principles are applied to a comparative study of different systems in order to show the underlying diversity of social and cultural phenomena. Therefore, there is no need to appeal to phenomena or causes beyond the clear boundaries of his own domain - society.

In the early works of Radcliffe-Brawill, the term "culture" was widely used. However, in the 1930s. he came to a narrower understanding of the subject of social anthropology and the main term of his theory was the term "social structure." He regards the social structure as a network of social relations that include stable social groups, social categories, classes and social roles . He proceeds from the premise that every social structural system is a self-sustaining, homeostatic, harmonious functional unit.

According to Radcliffe-Brown, the structure includes three interrelated aspects.

First, it's a "structure in itself", which can be detected in social roles. The real structure consists of invisible relationships and stays in a static state.

Secondly, it is a "function" that demonstrates the structure in action, a socially standardized way of acting or thinking, aimed at maintaining the existence of a social structure.

Thirdly, it's "changes" or social evolution & quot ;. He proposed to distinguish between radical changes affecting the structure itself and current changes, for example, the demographic processes of birth and death.

Thus, the social structure is the main methodological concept in the Radcliffe-Brown concept. As Tokarev points out, "for all the difference in terminology and accents, both researchers [Malinovsky and Radcliffe-Brown] sought to understand the general laws of the development of human society, relying primarily on the ethnography data of modern backward peoples, specifically on the study of their present, a modern, now observable state, and not a hypothetically reconstructed story " .

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