Salient Features of Functionalism: Theory of Needs, Malinowski՚s Contribution

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Salient Features of Functionalism- Theory of Needs, Malinowski՚s Contribution (Anthropology)


  • Functionalism is the theoretical orientation that looks for the function that culture plays in a society. Following the evolutionist approach to culture, Two British Scholars bring forth what is known as the functional and structural approach to the analysis of culture. Malinowski is associated with functional approach, whereas Radcliffe- Brown is the pioneer of structural approach to the analysis of society, though he is also termed as structural – functionalist.
  • Functional approach was first used in anthropology in the writings of Malinowski, first in his book entitled, A Scientific Theory Culture and other Essays (1994) and then in another book entitled, Dynamics of Culture Change (1945) .
  • Malinowski attempts to explain the parts institutions play within the interrelated whole of a culture. Thus, according to functionalism, institutions of a culture operate to satisfy the needs of the individuals and that of the society as a whole.
  • Malinowski was of the view that every aspect of culture has a function. They all are interdependent and interrelated. He opines that man has different kinds of needs such as social, economic, religious, biological, physical and mental, etc.
  • Malinowski՚s chief argument behind the functionalism is that every aspect of culture has a function, i.e.. the satisfaction of need. He distinguishes three levels of needs:
Functionalism՚s Function

Salient Features of Functionalism

  • Culture is a means for the satisfaction of human needs.
  • Each trait or element of culture performs certain function.
  • Social institutions are the means for the satisfaction of needs.
  • Though different elements of culture perform different functions, but they are interdependent and interrelated in culture as a totality.
  • Function is contribution of partial activity to total activity of which it is part.

Malinowski՚s Major Contribution in Anthropology

  • Fieldwork Method and writing ethnography.
  • Concept of Culture
  • Theory of Functionalism
  • Theory of Needs.
  • In the field of Magic and Religion, Myth, Art and Science.
  • Malinowski on Economic Anthropology
  • Malinowski՚s contribution to anthropology as public service


Q1. Which of the following scholars emphasized on the structural approach to study culture?

(A) Julian Steward

(B) Radcliffe Brown

(C) Bronislaw Malinowksi

(D) Leslie White

Answer: B

Q2. According to Malinowski, what are the three levels of needs:

A. Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

B. Basic, Intermediate, Advanced

C. Primary, Intentional, Integrative

D. Primary, Instrumental, Integrative

Answer: D

Q3. Which of the following books was not written by Malinowski?

(A) Argonauts of the Western Pacific

(B) Dynamics of culture change

(C) Sex and Repression in Savage Society

(D) The Nature of Culture

Answer: D

Q4. The method of ‘Participant Observation’ was first emphasized by?

Leslie White

Bronislaw Malinoskwi

A. L. Kroeber

L. H. Morgan

Answer: B


#Theory of Needs

#Salient Features of functionalism.

#Malinowski՚s contribution to anthropology

#Anthropological theories

#Socio-cultural anthropology


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