What are the functions of rituals according to Radcliffe Brown?

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Functions of Rituals

1. Expression of affective states of mind

Every ceremony is an expression of affective states of the mind of two or more persons. Thus the weeping ritual expresses feelings of social solidarity.

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2. Consciousness of duty

The ceremonies are however not spontaneous expressions. A sentiment of obligation is attached to them. It is the duty of everyone in a community to participate in a ceremony. Thus again, a ritual expresses the feeling of social solidarity.

3. Connected with laws regulating the affective life

Each ceremony may be explained by reference to fundamental laws regulating the effective life of the community. For example, weeping or embrace are the psychological expressions of the affective life of human beings.

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4. Renewal of social sentiments

Social solidarity requires a constant renewal of social sentiments. This function is performed by the ceremonies towards those taking part in it. For example, the peace making ceremony is a method by which feelings of enemity are substituted by feelings of friendship. Similarly, the different rituals performed in a marriage ceremony renew the bonds of attachment.

5. Fulfilment of social needs

It is clear from the above discussion that the ceremonies and rituals are the means to fulfilment of social needs. These social needs and their fulfilment is as follows:

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(i) For its existence, a society depends on the presence in the minds of its members, of a certain system of sentiments by which the conduct of the individual is regulated in confirmity with the need of society. This is done by means of ceremonies and rituals.

(ii) Sentiments affect social cohesion. Ceremonies and rituals renew social sentiments.

(iii) Though the sentiments are innate but they are developed by the action of society. This development of sentiment is necessary for transition into adulthood. This function is performed by ceremonies.

(iv) Ceremonial customs of society are the means by which sentiments are given collective expression on appropriate occasions. This helps in maintaining collective consciousness and keeping social solidarity in tact.

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(v) The ceremonial expression of any sentiment serves to maintain it in the mind of individuals and also to transfer it from one generation to another.

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