Describe the premises of functionalism.
Durkheim’s functionalism is different from British social anthropologists’ idea of functionalism. He explained what social function is in society and used both diachronic and synchronic approaches in his theory. This means the use of genetic, evolutionary, and historical approaches to society’s present situation. He did a detailed study on Australian Totemism to understand religion. His focus was on the functions of totemism and not on their origin and through their functional understanding, religion’s role in a complex society can be analysed.
It was in the year 1922 when two monographs of functional approach were published along with the disappearance of evolutionary theory. The first one was The Andaman Islanders by Radcliffe-Brown and the second was Argonauts of Western Pacific by Malinowski. Talcott Parson is another functionalist who was impressed by functional anthropologists. There are differences between functionalists’ works. The history of functionalism can be traced back from Comte to Durkheim and then to 20th-century functionalists.
Functionalists have five propositions common for all-
- Society is also a system that has its parts and cultural aspects.
- The parts of society are interrelated and independent of each other and connected as well.
- Each part performs its function and contributes to the development of a larger society and maintains a relationship with other parts as well.
- Since all parts are connected, change in one lead to change in another.
- The whole is more important than the parts and we cannot reduce society to its parts. It has its collective consciousness which assists in their own identity.