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By Bronislaw Malinowski

Malinowski offers during this publication his definitive assertion of the idea of functionalism. because the crucial clue to the certainty of human habit, primitive and civilized, he analyzes the practical precept that tradition is an exam of the basics of anthropology for the aim of making a basic approach to provide an explanation for the evidence of tradition via this principle.

Originally released 1944.

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Perry's Children of the Sun, an erudite and ambitious exposition of extreme diffusionism; Wundt's seven volumes of Volkerpsychologie; Frazer's magnificent comparative corpus, The Golden Bough, Westermarck's The History of Human Marriage—all these command our respect and admiration. In this context, however, we are mostly interested in the foundations of the edifice, that is, in the really scientific quota contained in these various works. And here we would probably have to carry out a piece of work partly inspired by the profession of house-wreckers; certainly one in which a great many fundamental points would have to be questioned and one or two persistent errors of method indicated.

The achievements of each school may and must be largely measured by what they set out to do. Again, and at a later stage, a student interested in the history of anthropological thought will be able to put order into these achievements, to delimit the legitimate claims of diffusionism as against evolutionary interpretation; of the sociological one-sidedness of a Durkheim as against the introspective analyses of a Wundt. For the present, we can afford to take a catholic, even eclectic view, and to admit that partly in following their own more or less ambitious programs, partly in elaborating methods, theories, and principles in order to carry out these programs, the schools and tendencies of anthropology have developed an imposing, albeit not completely harmonious structure.

Since there are, however, as pointed out above, definite advantages in organization, while lack of organization is impossible, because it would leave a whole set of burning questions unsolved, it is always possible to determine the institution which we might call municipality in the widest sense of the term, or the local group. The principle of propinquity, like that of kinship, can be extended several removes. Here a much greater latitude prevails, and according to the situation, we might speak of areas, districts, provinces, all or one of them, always bearing in mind that we can list them as institutions only insofar as they are definitely organized.

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A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays by Bronislaw Malinowski

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