Merton’s criticism of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown’s postulation as a comparative analyst to the Nigeria social system

Bashir Bello


Structural Functionalism is a broad perspective in sociology and anthropology. It sees society as a structure with interrelated parts. Structural Functionalism assumes the society as a system of interconnected parts (which comprises of constituent elements such as customs, norms, traditions, institutions, etc.) that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole. It emphasizes the interconnectedness of society by focusing on how each part influences and is influenced by other parts. Fundamental assumptions of the Structural Functionalism can be traced to the Organicism of Comte of early 19th century (and subsequently in the work of Spencer and Durkheim). Timeless analysis by Durkheim and emphasis on social taxonomies (ideal types) by Weber also shape Contemporary Structural Functionalism. The analysis and emphasis influenced the Functional Anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955). This paper takes a look at Merton’s criticism of some of the aspects of Structural Functionalism. The criticism has been seen as conceptual insights that helped give Structural Functionalism a continuing usefulness. Merton’s criticism of Structural Functionalism, particularly that of Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown postulates have been used in this paper to proffer explanation to what is obtainable in the Nigeria social structures and institutions.

Keywords: Structural Functionalism, criticism, structure, institution

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