Race and Ethnicity: Essays in Comparative Sociology

By Pierre L. Van den Berghe | Go to book overview
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Toward a Sociology
of Africa

In borrowing the phrase "Sociology of Africa" from Georges Balandier, 1 I do not imply that Africa, because of its idiosyncracies, requires the development of a special brand of sociology. Rather, like Balandier, Gluckman, Mitchell, Kuper, Godfrey and Monica Wilson, and others, 2 I should like to suggest that African societies, through their pluralism and rapid rate of change, challenge much of conventional structural and functional anthropology and sociology and call for a more adequate approach. Elsewhere, I indicated some limitations of functionalism and the possibility of reaching a more satisfactory synthesis by combining elements of functionalism and of the Hegelian-Marxian dialectic. 3

Here, I shall illustrate some theoretical conclusions and suggestions with special reference to South Africa. Although South Africa is anything but typical of the continent, much of the following analysis is more broadly applicable.

Two sets of problems will be dealt with in turn: first, pluralism, and second, change. The term "plural society" was given currency by Furnivall, who identified it with tropical societies, and is now being used so freely as to cover any group which is not culturally and socially homogeneous. 4 Smith reacts against this

Reprinted from Social Forces 43 ( 1964): 11-18.


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