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Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (1881 Birmingham -1955 London). His Understanding and Views of Social Anthropology: - Social anthropology is the theoretical natural science of human society. - One may call it ’comparative sociology’.

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alfred reginald radcliffe brown 1881 birmingham 1955 london

Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown (1881 Birmingham -1955 London)

His Understanding and Views of

Social Anthropology:

- Social anthropology is the theoretical natural science of human society.

- One may call it ’comparative sociology’.

- from 1910 onwards, sociological approach (Durkheim, Steinmetz, Westermarck)

- The task of the anthropologist is simply to provide scientific appraisal of the situation which the administrator faces, not to advocate policies.

- sudden move a way from Rivers and Hadon ( regarded genealogies of native by Rivers as failure)

-devotion to natural sciences, basically humanitarian and French

- Cultures (societies) are like organisms and should be studied by the methods of natural sciences (biology, zoology). Also: “ Societies are not organisms;they do not experience parturition nor death” ( Kuper 1996:47)

- Social structure is a reality ( Kuper 1996:50), not deducted but observed.

- social structures are in flux, social forms are comparatively stable (Kuper 1996:52)

Coaptaion = mutual adjustment of the interests of the members of a society - common set of ways of feeling and thinking

- Laws of social change are deduced from laws of continuity and thus secondary in importance

- Law of the necessity of functional consistency

his life
His Life
  • 1904: became River’s first pupil in anthropology
  • at Cambridge
  • 1906-08: Andaman Islands
  • 1909-10: Lectures at Cambridge, advocating Durkheim’s views
  • 1910-12: Australian aborigines: ‘survey and slavage ethnography’, research of traditional marriage systems (Rivers, Seligmann) with Grant Watson, Mrs Daisy Bates, Olsen.
  • 1914: school-master in Sydney
  • 1916-19: Director of Education in the Kingdom of Tonga
  • 1921: Established Dept. of Anthropology and a School of African Studies at the University of Cape Town: beginning of important publications.
  • 1926-31: Established Dept. Of Anthropology in Sydney (unsuccessfully)
  • 1930-31: “The Social Organisation of Australian Tribes”
  • 1931: Chicago
  • 1937-46: appointed to the first chair of social anthropology at Oxford
  • By Durkheim (before Wold War I): The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, meanings and purpose of customs should be analysed in their contemporary context. Theories of function of ceremonial customs were applied mechanically by RB.
  • Durkheim insisted that social facts should be treated as objective phenomena.
  • Année-School: French school of sociology by Durkheim before WWI
  • 1931, Chicago, American school of Ant.:trends: diffusionist approach of Boas; movement towards ‘culture and personality’ studies, influenced by psychology, psychoanalysis and gestalt theory. RB influenced Eggan, Tax and Warner
  • RB was influenced by the evoluntionism of Spencer
rb methods
RB Methods
  • Abstract the social form in a number of societies is followed by comparison and classification
  • One should compare societies that are culturally and ethnically related and uncover the general characteristics
  • understand peculiarities by comparison with better-known examples (Kuper 1996:51)
  • Ultimate goal: to formulate generalisations about common features in all human societies. These generalisations would constitute social laws. (Kuper 1996:51)
the contributions of radcliffe brown
The contributions of Radcliffe-Brown
  • introduced the intellectual discipline of French sociology
  • constructed new concepts to order ethnographic material
  • focus on the formal situation, rules and ritual (in opposition to Malinowski’s interest in individual motivation and strategy)
  • set an example of analytic method with his first monograph in 1922.
  • divided customs into three types: 1. Techniques, 2. Rules of behaviour, 3. Ceremonial customs (formal weeping in Andamanese ceremonies)
  • presented a remarkable synthesis of Australian social organisation, though his models have been recast
  • after WWI, RB and Mauss developed Durkheim’s sociology
  • Mauss’ theory was joined by RB to the theory of Malinowskian tradition of fieldwork. (Kuper 1996:49)
  • direct and personal impact on British anthropology, particularly after 1937.
rb publications
RB Publications
  • A Natural Science of History: transcript of a seminar, Chicago 1937
  • 1935:
  • 1940:
  • 1952: Structure and Function in Primitive Society