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Bronislaw Malinowski “A Scientific Theory of Culture”

Malinowski, Bronislaw 1969 [1944]. A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays. London; Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Thus, not merely antrhopology, but the Study of Man in general, comprising all the social sciences, all the new psychologically or sociologically oriented disciplines, may and must cooperate in the building of a common scientific basis, which perforce will have to be identical for all the diverse pursuits of humanism. (6)

There is no such thing as description completely devoid of theory. (7)

Science really begins when general principles have to be put to the test of fact, and when practical problems and theoretical relations of relevant factors are used to manipulate reality in human action. The minimum definition of science, therefore, implies invariably the existence of general laws, a field for experiment or observation, and last, but not least, a control of academic discourse by practical application. (11)

To observe means to select, to classify, to isolate on the basis of theory. To construct a theory is to sum up the relevancy of past observation and to anticipate empirical confirmation or rebuttal of theoretical problems posed. (12)

[…] the theory of culture must take its stand on biological fact. Human beings are an animal species. They are subject to elemental conditions which have to be fulfilled so that individuals may survive, the race continue and organisms one and all be maintained in working order. (36)

We shall attempt to show that a theory can be developed in which the basic needs and their cultural satisfaction can be linked up with the derivation of new cultural needs; that these new needs impose upon man and society a secondary type of determinism. (38)

The scientific analysis of culture, however, can point to another system of realities that also conforms to general laws, and can thus be used as a guide for field-work, as a means of identification of cultural realities, and as the basis of social engineering. The analysis just outlined, in which we attempt to define the relation between a cultural performance and a human need, basic or derived, may be termed functional. For function can not be defined in any other way than the satisfaction of a need by an activity in which human beings cooperate, use artifacts, and consume goods. Yet this very definition implies another principle with which we can concretely integrate any phase of cultural behavior. The essential concept here is that of organization. In order to achieve any purpose, reach any end, human beings have to

organize. As we shall show, organization implies a very definite scheme or structure, the main factors of which are universal in that they are applicable to all organized groups, which again, in their typical form, are universal throughout mankind. (38-39)

Our two types of analysis, functional and institutional, will allow us to define culture more concretely, precisely and exhaustively. Culture is an integral composed of partly autonomous, partly coordinated institutions. It is integrated on a series of principles such as the community

of blood through procreation; the contiguity in space related to cooperation; the specialization in activities; and last but not least, the use of power in political organi-zation. Each culture owes its completeness and self-sufficiency to the fact that it satisfies the whole range of basic, instrumental and integrative needs. (40)

Again, in terms of our functional analysis, we will show that no invention, no revolution, no social or intellectual change, ever occurs except when new needs are created; and thus new devices in technique, in knowledge, or in belief are fitted into the cultural process or an institution. (41)

This brief outline, which is really a blueprint for our following fuller analysis, indicates that scientific anthro-pology consists in a theory of institutions, that is, a concrete analysis of the type units of an organization. As a theory of basic needs, and a derivation of instrumental and integrative imperatives, scientific anthropology gives us the functional analysis, which allows us to define the form, as well as the meaning, of a customary idea or contrivance. (41-42)

TH E ESSENTIAL FACT of culture as we live it and experience it, as we can observe it scientifically, is the organization of human beings into permanent groups. Such groups are related by some agreement, some traditional law or cus-tom, something which corresponds to Rousseau’s contrat social. (43)

We can define the term “human nature” by the fact that all men have to eat, they have to breathe, to sleep, to procreate, and to eliminate waste matter from their organisms wherever they live and whatever type of civilization they practice. (75)

Function,  in  this  simplest  and  most  basic  aspect  of human  behavior,  can  be  defined  as  the  satisfaction  of  an organic  impulse  by  the  appropriate  act. (83)

In  all  this,  we  are  showing  how  the  very  act, that  is,  the  core  of  avital  sequence,  is  also  regulated, defined,  and  thus  modified  by  culture. (88)

The concept of drive is  better  omitted  from  any  analysis  of  human  behavior, unIess,  that is,  we  understand  that we  have  to  use  it differently  from  the  animal  psychologists  or  physiologists.  Since a  conceptuaI differentiation  is  always  best terminologically differentiated,  we  shall  speak  heneeforth  of  motive,  meaning  by  this  the  urge  as  it actually  is  found  in  operatian within  a  given  culture. (89)

We  have,  however,  to  reformulate our  concept  of  that  physiologicaI  minimum,  the  limits within which  physiologicaI  motivations  ean  be  refashioned so  that  they  stiIl  donot  force  organic  degeneration  or depopulation  upon  the  members  of  a  culture.  As  opposed

to  motive,  therefore,  we  speak  of  needs.  This  term  we shall  predicate  not with reference  to  an  individual  organism,  but  rather  for  the  communityand  its  culture  as  a

whole.  By  need,  then,  I  understand  the  system  of  conditions  in  the  human organism,  in  the  culturaI  setting,  and in  the  relation  of  both  to  the  natural  environment,  which are  sufficient  and  necessary  for  the  survival  of  group  and organism.  A  need,  therefore,  is  the  limiting  set  of  facts. Habits  and  their  motivations,  the  learned  responses  and the  foundations  of  organization,  must  be  so  arranged  as to  allow  the  basic  needs  to  be  satisfied. (89-90)

Clifford Geertz “Interpretation of Cultures”

Geertz, Clifford 1973. Interpretation of Cultures. Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books

Thick  Description:  Toward  an  Interpretive  Theory  of  Culture

[…] ethnography is thick description. What the ethnographer is in fact faced with […] is a multiplicity of complex conceptual structures, many of them superimposed upon or knotted into one another, which are at once strange, irregular, and inexplicit, and which he must contrive somehow first to grasp and then to render. (9-10)

Semiootiliselt kõneldes: tihe kirjeldus kui märgisüsteemi ja märgisüsteemide vaheliste suhete väljajoonistus konkreetses ühiskondlikus kronotoobis. Küsimus ei ole žestis, vaid selle tähenduses (vrd Agamben, kes soovib vastupidist žesti sooritada)

As interworked system of construable signs (what, ignoring provincial usages, I would call symbols), culture is not a power, something to which social events, behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed; it is a context, someting within which they can be intelligibly – that is, thickly – described. (14)

[…] one cannot  write a “General  Theory  of  Cultural  Interpretation.”  Or,  rather,  one  can,  but there appears to be little profit in it, because the essential task of theory building here is not to  codify abstract regularities but to make thick description possible, not to generalize across cases but to generalize within them. (26)

Kultuurilise tõlgenduse üldteooria ei ütle midagi konkreetse kultuuri kohta; teooria meetodite rakendamine ütleb? Geertz loob ju üldteooriat, kuid kultuuri uurimise, mitte kultuuri kohta.

The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man

Whatever else modern  anthropology  asserts-and  it  seems to  have  asserted  almost  everything  at  one time or another-it is firm  in the  conviction that  men unmodified  by the customs of particular  places  do  not  in fact  exist,  have never  existed,  and  most important,  could  not  in  the  very  nature  of the case  exist. (35)

[…] if one  discards  the  notion that  Man  with  a  capital “M,”  is  to  be  looked  for  “behind,”  “under,”  or  “beyond”  his  customs and  replaces  it  with  the  notion that  man, uncapitalized,  is  to  be  looked for “in” them, one is in some danger of losing sight of him altogether. (37)

Vajadus otsida inimest kommunikatsioonist, tema välisest, väljaspoolsusest, kuid samal ajal mitte kinnitada, et väljaspool teksti inimest ei eksisteeri. Inimene ei võrdu tekstiga, süsteemiga, kuid sellest eraldatult ei ole inimene võimalik.

Attempts  to  locate  man  amid  the  body  of  his customs  have  taken  several  directions,  adopted  diverse  tactics;  but  they  have  all,  or  virtually all,  proceeded  in  terms  of  a  single overall  intellectual  strategy:  what  I will  call,  so  as  to  have  a  stick to beat it with,  the  “stratigraphic”  conception  of  the  relations  between  biological,  psychological,  social,  and cultural factors  in  human life.  In  this conception, man is a composite of “levels,”  each  superimposed  upon  those  beneath  it  and  underpinning those  above  it. (37)

Cultural facts  could  be  interpreted  against  the  background  of noncultural  facts without  dissolving them  into  that  background  or  dissolving  that  background  into them.  Man was a  hierarchically  stratified  animal,  a  sort of evolutionary  deposit,  in  whose  definition  each  level-organic,  psychological,  social,  and  cultural-had  an  assigned  and  incontestable  place. (38)

Stratigraafiline vaade inimesele: bioloogiline tingib kultuurilise: kultuuri alt on võimalik leida universaalid, mis kehtestavad inimese olemuse.

My  point  is that such generalizations are not to  be  discovered  through  a  Baconian  search  for  cultural  universals,  a  kind  of public-opinion  polling  of the  world’s  peoples  in  search  of a  consensus gentium that  does  not  in  fact  exist,  and,  further,  that  the  attempt  to  do so  leads  to  precisely  the  sort of  relativism  the  whole  approach  was  expressly  designed  to  avoid. (40)

Once  culture,  psyche,  society, and organism have been converted into separate scientific “levels,” complete  and  autonomous  in themselves,  it is very  hard to  bring them back together again. (41)

Tänapäevane tunnistus: katsed seletada kultuurilist-ühiskondlikku käitumist bioloogiliselt tasandilt lähtuvalt hülgavad kultuuri: kultuur on ajukeemia tulem. Tähenduse hülgamine või, õigemini, tähenduse seletamine semiootikaväliste nähtuste kaudu.

The  tack  is  to  look  at  underlying  human  requirements  of some  sort  or  other  and  then to try to show  that  those  aspects of culture  that  are  universal  are,  to use  Kluckhohn’s figure again, “tailored” by these requirements. (42)

Despite first appearances, there  is no  serious  attempt  here  to  apply  the  concepts  and  theories  of biology, psychology,  or  even sociology to the  analysis of culture  (and, of course, not  even  a  suggestion of the  reverse  exchange)  but  merely  a  placing of supposed  facts  from  the  cultural  and  subcultural  levels  side  by  side  so as  to  induce a vague sense that some kind  of relationship between them -an obscure sort of “tailoring” – obtains. (42)

[…] we  need to look for  systematic relationships  among diverse phenomena,  not  for  substantive  identities  among  similar  ones.  And  to do  that  with  any  effectiveness,  we  need  to  replace  the  “stratigraphic” conception of the  relations  between  the various aspects of human existence with  a synthetic one;  that is, one  in which  biological,  psychological,  sociological,  and  cultural  factors  can  be treated  as  variables within unitary systems of analysis. (44)

In  attempting to  launch  such  an  integration  from  the  anthropological side  and  to  reach,  thereby,  a  more  exact  image of man,  I  want to  propose two  ideas.  The first of these  is that culture  is best seen  not as complexes of concrete behavior patterns-customs,  usages,  traditions,  habit clusters-as  has,  by  and  large,  been the case up to  now,  but as  a set  of control  mechanisms-plans,  recipes,  rules,  instructions (what  computer engineers  call  “programs”)-for  the  governing of behavior.  The second idea  is  that  man  is  precisely  the  animal  most  desperately  dependent upon  such  extragenetic,  outside-the-skin  control  mechanisms,  such  cultural programs, for ordering his behavior. (44)

Kultuur kui kontroll-mehhanism, aga mitte vaid käitumise reguleerija, vaid üleüldse käitumise, kommunikatsiooni, keele jne võimaldaja: Kultuur inimese olemusena.

One  of the  most  significant  facts  about  us  may  finally  be  that  we  all  begin  with  the  natural equipment  to  live  a  thousand  kinds  of  life  but  end  in  the  end  having lived only one. The  “control  mechanism” view  of culture begins with the  assumption that human thought  is basically both social  and  public-that  its  natural habitat  is the house yard, the marketplace, and the town square.  Thinking consists  not of “happenings  in the  head”  (though  happenings  there and  elsewhere are necessary for  it to occur) but of a traffic  in what have been called,  by  G. H. Mead  and others, significant symbols-words  for the  most  part  but  also  gestures,  drawings,  musical  sounds,  mechanical devices  like  clocks,  or  natural  objects  like jewels-anything,  in  fact, that  is  disengaged  from  its  mere  actuality  and  used  to  impose  meaning upon  experience. (45)

This,  then,  is  the  second face  of our  argument:  Undirected  by  culture  patterns-organized  systems  of significant symbols-man’s behavior would  be  virtually  ungovernable,  a  mere chaos of pointless  acts  and  exploding  emotions,  his  experience  virtually  shapeless. (46)

[…] culture,  rather  than  being  added  on,  so  to speak,  to  a  finished  or  virtually  finished  animal,  was  ingredient,  and centrally  ingredient,  in  the  production  of that  animal  itself.  The  slow, steady, almost glacial growth  of culture through the  Ice Age altered the balance  of selection  pressures for the  evolving  Homo in  such  a  way  as to  play  a  major directive  role  in  his  evolution. (47)

Between  the  basic  ground plans  for  our  life  that  our  genes  lay  down-the  capacity  to  speak  or  to smile-and  the  precise  behavior  we  in  fact  execute-speaking  English in  a  certain  tone  of  voice,  smiling  enigmatically  in  a  del icate  social situation-lies  a complex  set  of  significant  symbols  under  whose  direction  we  transform  the  first  into  the  second,  the  ground  plans  into  the  activity. (50)

Man  is  to  be  defined  neither  by  his  innate  capacities  alone,  as the  Enlightenment  sought  to  do,  nor  by  his  actual  behaviors  alone,  as much  of  contemporary  social  science  seeks  to  do,  but  rather  by  the  link between  them,  by  the  way  in  which  the first  is  transformed  into  the  second,  his  generic  potentialities  focused  into  his  specific  performances.  It is  in  man’s  career,  in  its  characteristic  course,  that  we  can  discern, however  dimly,  his  nature,  and  though  culture  is  but  one  element  in  determining  that  course,  it  is  hardly  the  least  important.  As  culture  shaped us  as  a  single  species-and  is  no  doubt  still  shaping  us-so  too  it shapes  us  as  separate  individuals.  This,  neither  an  unchanging  subcultural  self  nor  an  established  cross-cultural  consensus,  is  what  we  really have  in common. (52)

To  be  human  here  is thus not to be  Everyman ;  it  is to be  a  particular kind  of man […] (53)

Inimeseks saadakse tähendussüsteemides käitudes; tähtsaks muututakse alles kommunikeerudes, omandades teatav positsioon: identiteet diferentsiatsiooni kaudu.