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  Transactionalism (from Latin transigere, ‘to drive through’, ‘to accomplish’), in anthropology, was a theory first advanced by Frederick Barth in 1959 to consider social processes and interactions. Barth was critical of earlier functionalist models that portrayed an overly cohesive and collective picture of society without paying due attention to the roles, relationships, decisions and innovatons of the individual. Using the examples of the Swat Pathan people in Pakistan and, later, in 1966, organization among Norwegian fishermen, Barth set out to demonstrate that social forms like kinship groups, economic institutions and political alliances are generated by the actions and strategies of the individuals deployed against a context of social constraints. By observing how people interact with each other, an insight could be gained into the nature of the competition, values and principles that govern individuals\' choices, and also the way resources are allocated in society.

Barth acknowledged that transactionalist models could not be used to explain all kinds of human behaviour. Even so, criticism has been levelled at his over-reliance on economic principles, a Western perspective in which individuals are viewed as self-interested actors wishing to get the best value in exchange relationships. Individuals are thereby characterized as autonomous, independent and essentially non-social beings. This model of individualism may be incompatible with other ideas about the person and social practices. For instance, in Japanese society, it is the corporate group model that is conventionally stressed rather than individualism. It is also important to acknowledge the symbolic, cultural and religious ideas that might govern peoples\' choices and decisions in their social interactions. Other anthropologists point out that Barth\'s transactionalist models ignore long-term historical processes while some have criticized transactionalist theories for paying insufficient attention to the structures of class and property relations in society.

However, supporters of transactionalism claim it to be a productive tool in social analyses and have adopted transactionalist models to consider the interactions between individuals as manipulations to gain power. This acts to weaken transactionalism\'s dependence on economic models, and allows for the investigation into how power is conceived, systematized and gained in particular communities. RK

See also economic anthropology; exchange; functionalism; personhood; power; social conflict; symbols.Further reading Frederick Barth, Models of Social Organisation; , Richard Fardon (ed.), Power and Knowledge; , Brian Kapferer (ed.), Transaction and Meaning.



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