ERIC Number: ED362933
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1993-Aug
Reference Count: N/A
The Functionalist Tradition and Communication Theory.
Burrowes, Carl Patrick
This paper traces the development of the functionalist position chronologically through its major permutations, from the defining contributions of Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski, and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown in its anthropological phase through its development in American sociology by Talcott Parsons and Robert K. Merton to its explicit formulation in communication studies by Charles R. Wright. Although necessarily cursory, this historical review highlights significant philosophical and conceptual differences within the tradition that have been effaced from recent discussions in the communication context, including an initial theoretical coupling of culture and praxis, as located by Durkheim in the collective moral code, as well as an aborted culturalist orientation in the works of Malinowski. A concluding section identifies the distinguishing characteristics of the tradition and points to the emergence of functionalist assumptions in cultural studies and cultural indicators research as the possible harbinger of a new cultural functionalism that synthesizes the strengths of various earlier functionalisms while addressing major weaknesses of the tradition, notably problems of logic (i. e., tautology and an inappropriate appeal to teleological explanations), political conservatism, and a tendency to impose psychological and sociological analyses upon specifically cultural materials. (Contains 83 references.) (Author)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Cultural Indicators Research; Cultural Studies; Functionalism; Historical Background
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (76th, Kansas City, MO, August 11-14, 1993).