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E.R Leach's view on Structural Functionalism

E.R Leach was a British social anthropologist who dealt with change without abandoning the useful notions of structure and function. In his book entitled Political System of Highland Burma he proposed a creative solution by considering conflict itself as a form of structure.

The social system in Highland Burma was such that it presented individuals with inconsistencies in the schemes of values by which they ordered their lives. They were thus faced with alternative mode of actions.

Leach believed that such decisions were usually made in terms of gaining power to acquire access to office or of learning social esteem that would lead to increased power. He presented a wealth of evidence that this was indeed the primary mechanism of change among the Kachin and Shan populations of Burma. They consciously attempted to manipulate their myths and marriage choices in manner that would increase their status. Although cross-cultural validity of Leach's specific explanation has not been proven, his method is very important. He explained change not by preconceived causal factors but from the reality of Kachin and Shan life. For him functionalism became dynamic and diachronic.