Scientific Theory Of Culture And Other Essays Malinowski

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As a new paradigm, functionalism was presented as a reaction against what was believed to be outdated ideologies.

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.

Such speculations have little place in serious anthropological discussion about institutions.

This does not imply the rejection of historical explanation, but quite the contrary (Radcliffe-Brown 1952:3).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.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.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.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.In other words, he treated it as a direct manifestation of biologically inherited patterns of behavior.Culture is that aspect of behavior that is learned by the individual and which may be shared by pluralities of individuals.


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