• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Functionalism in the Social Sciences

Extracts from this document...


Functionalism in the Social Sciences Functionalism is the logic that everything has a use, or quite bluntly, a function. Just because something seems foreign or primitive, one mustn't just disregard it as just "something that culture does". The idea is very simple if looked upon shallowly, such as a knife is used to cut, but the deeper one dives into it the more complex it becomes. Functionalism has two meanings, or rather two different ways of looking at it. You can decide to concentrate on that everything MUST have a purpose or that it has a function but not a direct purpose, in the form of social organization. For example the North-American Indian "rain dance". Scientifically it doesn't actually cause nature to change and thus rain, but rather it brings the group together when they are all suffering as one in the "drought". ...read more.


The fathers or the basic concepts of functionalism are Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) and Alfred R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955). Although their views are different, they are still very much the same. Malinowski was a pioneer in the 20th century for participant observation, and spent two years studying the Trobriand and believed that to properly study a culture, one must spend the absolute minimum of one year living amongst the people, Learning the language is a very important tool which enabled him to learn more about the people, more so than if he remained just an observer. He concluded, while studying the Trobriand society that no matter how it may look to an outsider, all customs and traditions has its function and purpose. His ideas include how culture functioning also has roots in the basic drives, such as eating and reproduction. ...read more.


Radcliffe-Brown was regarded as one not well suited for ethnographic work and participant observation, but rather relied more on surveys. A reason for this could be that he was very reserved and quiet, or so go the opinions of him from his colleagues and students. His main aim was to formulate laws on how social behaviour crossed different cultures and his approach was what coined the phrase structural functionalism, where as Malinowski was considered just a functionalist. The main difference between the two is that Radcliffe-Brown concluded that it was impossible to study culture as it was too abstract but rather to focus on the social structure of a society. Studying the social structure is observing people in a society and determining things such as what social rank they have or what their job/function is and the relationship between all the people in the society. It is because of these two that functionalism has two real meanings, considering which side of the coin you look at. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Main features of Functionalism.

    Action theory originates in the work of Max Weber. He distinguishes 4 types of actions. (a) Traditional actions are those performed simply because they have been performed in the past. (b) Affectual actions are those performed simply to express an emotion. (Weber is most concerned with the remaining 2 types.)

  2. Marxism and Functionalism and their contribution to sport.

    Further factors that can form and shape society like gender, ethnicity, age, culture etc. are not taken into consideration and neglected. Hence the Marxist perspective focuses on 'having' versus 'not having', 'earning' versus 'not earning' and 'powerful' versus 'powerless'. As the Functionalist's view of society is based on value consensus,

  1. Epistemology of Social Sciences and International Relations.

    An analyst, in order to explain a situation in social sciences has to base it on the known factors that affected it. The problem here lies to the fact that not all the aspects of an issue are known for several reasons.

  2. Max Weber: Basic Terms (The Fundamental Concepts of Sociology)

    3) organization of offices follows principle of hierarchy. 4) rules which regulate conduct of an office can be either technical rules or norms. when their application is fully rational, specialized training is necessary. 5) office holder separated from ownership of means of production and administration (first of all, separation of house from workplace)

  1. Environmental Lessons From History.

    It also represented a victory for society; the social anomaly in the Atlantic that had been an embarrassment to progress elsewhere in Scotland had at last been eradicated. For her work in 'helping' the inhabitants of St. Kilda Nurse Williamina Barclay was awarded the CBE.

  2. The problems of knowledge as it applies to the natural and social sciences. Can ...

    For example, dating methods used in natural sciences; they cannot be verified and there fore we already have a problem of knowledge. When looking at social sciences it is also easy to find an example of a problem of knowledge.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work