Scientific Theory Of Culture And Other Essays Malinowski

Since such behavior always involves a plurality of persons, an institution in this sense is therefore a social system, which is a subsystem of society.Though functionally differentiated from other institutions, an institution is a segmentary cross-section of culture that involves all the components included in Malinowski’s definition of culture (Firth 19).

Whether we consider a very simple or primitive culture or an extremely complex and developed one, we are confronted by a vast apparatus, partly material, partly human and partly spiritual by which man is able to cope with the concrete specific problems that face him” (Malinowski 19).

Essentially, he treated culture as everything pertaining to human life and action which cannot be regarded as a property of the human organism as a physiological system.

In other words, institutions differ because they are organized to serve different functions.

He argued that institutions function for continuing life and “normality” of an organism, or an aggregate of organisms as a species (Firth 19).

It is transmitted to other individuals along with the physical objects associated with learned patterns and activities (Firth 19).

Malinowski considered institutions to be examples of isolated organized behaviors.Malinowski believed that the central feature of the charter of an institution is “the system of values for the pursuit of which human beings organize, or enter organizations already existing” (Malinowski 19).As for the concept of function, Malinowski believed it is the primary basis of differentiation of institutions within the same culture.His first major step was to set up the classification of basic needs which could be directly related to a classification of cultural responses which could then in turn be brought into relation to institutions.Next, he developed a second category of needs (derived needs) which he inserted between his basic needs and the institutional integrates of collective behavior (Firth 19).Consequently, this led some to interpret functionalism as being opposed to the study of history altogether.Radcliffe-Brown responded to this critique by stating that functionalists did not believe that useful historical information could be obtained with respect to primitive societies; it was not history, but “pseudo-history” to which functionalists objected (Harris 194).Functionalists presented their theoretical and methodological approaches as an attempt to expand sociocultural inquiry beyond the bounds of the evolutionary conception of social history.The evolutionary approach viewed customs or cultural traits as residual artifacts of cultural history.He believed that culture is always instrumental to the satisfaction of organic needs.Therefore, he had to bridge the gap between the concept of biologically basic needs of the organism and the facts of culturally organized behavior.


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