James L. PEACOCK, Durkheim and the Social Anthropology of Culture

Publication Information : Article Title : Durkheim and the Social Anthropology of Culture. Contributors : James L. Peacock – author. Journal Title : Social Forces. Volume : 59. Issue : 4. Publication Year : 1981. Page Number : 996.

Beginning with Durkheim and surveying representative works in social anthropology that reflect the Durkheimian perspective, this paper traces the movement from a sociologistic to a culturalistic emphasis. A classical period of structuralist-functionalist initiated by Malinowski and RadcliffeBrown was followed by two developments : a dynamicist school, which elaborated the processual aspect of the social order in relation to culture, and a social structuralist school, which elaborated the structural aspect. From the second derived the cultural structuralist approach, which treats cultural structure rather independently of society ; Claude Lérauss and his Anglo-American counterparts represent this development.

A concluding section considers possibilities for new paradigms that both synthesize and transcend previous trends.

The objective of this essay is to trace and reflect on the development of that stream of social anthropology which, though grounded in Durkheimian sociologism, endeavors to explicate culture. By « culture » is meant a system of symbols, beliefs, and values — a system analytically distinguishable from society, by which is meant a system of groups, roles, and norms. By « sociologism » is meant the strategy of explaining phenomena, including culture, by demonstrating their relationship to society (cf. Tiryakian). It will be argued that social anthropology has moved toward transcending the Durkheimian sociologism from which it originated.

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