Functionalism is a system used by cultures which concentrates on and emphasises the functional interactions of cultures and societies, i. e. why and how certain rituals, daily chores etc. are performed within societies. It makes «law-like» generalisations which are employed to explain and predict social phenomena. The first main idea is that each culture or society can be viewed as a system that consists of many similar elements that function either separately or together.

It is also believed that if one of these elements was altered or removed, then this would ffect the other elements and the system as a whole. The other main idea, the Malinowskian view, is that all of the aspects, such as rituals, ceremonies etc. of a society or culture are performed because they are required to fulfil the biological and/or psychological needs of the individuals of that society. For example, hunting and gathering is performed in some cultures to fulfil the biological need of eating for the individuals of that society.

The theory of cultural relativism can be used to explain why he functionalist theory is applied to certain societies- the activities that they perform are done so because they are regarded as important and necessary according to the different values of each society. If we combine these two ideas, we are able to see that both the Functionalist and cultural relativist theories centred around the fact that the people of societies perform their activities and behave in the ways that they do because these actions and thoughts correspond and are considered to be right and acceptable in terms of the values of the society.

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