Scientific Theory Of Culture And Other Essays Malinowski

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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.

Anthropologists, thinking of their study as a kind of historical study, fall back on conjecture and imagination; they invent “pseudo-historical” or “pseudo-casual” explanations.

We have had innumerable and sometimes conflicting pseudo-historical accounts of the origin and development of the totemic institutions of the Native Australians.

That is, the evolutionist school postulated that “an observed cultural fact was seen not in terms of what it was at the time of observation but in terms of what it must stand for in reference to what had formerly been the case” (Lesser 19).

From the functionalist standpoint these earlier approaches privileged speculative theorizing over the discovery of facts.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.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.However, it is equally important to point out the criticisms of this “pseudo-history” reasoning for synchronic analysis.In light of readily available and abundant historical sources encountered in subsequent studies, it was suggested that this reasoning was a rationalization for avoiding a confrontation with the past.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.Functionalists believed the reality of events was to be found in their manifestations in the present.Hence, if events were to be understood it was their contemporary functioning that should be observed and recorded (Lesser 19–56).


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