The structuralism of K. Levi-Strauss. - Social anthropology

K.Levi-Strauss's structuralism.

The French ethnologist, culturologist and philosopher K. Levi-Strauss is often referred to as the "father of structuralism". In 2008, Levi-Strauss turned 100 years old. He became the first member of the French Academy to reach this age. In the same year, the Pleiades Library began publishing his works (usually it is not done during the life of the author).

Curriculum Vitae

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 2009) studied law and philosophy at the Sorbonne. Attended seminars of anthropologist M. Moss. His scientific views were formed under the influence of the teachings of E. Durkheim and F. de Saussure. In the years 1935-1939. - Professor of Sociology in São Paulo (Brazil), participated in field research of the Brazilian Indians. In the years 1942-1945. - Professor in New York, since 1946 teaches in France. In 1959 he headed the chair of social anthropology at the College de France. A member of the French and many foreign academies. The main subject of interest is a comparative study of the mythology of backward ethnic groups, as well as totemic and other beliefs. These issues are dealt with in his main works: "Race and History" (1952), The Sad Tropics (1955), Structural Anthropology (1958), The Thinking of Savages (1962), Totemism Today (1962), "The jealous pottery" (1985), History of the Lynx (1991), See, hear, read (1993), etc. His fundamental four-volume "Mythology" (1964-1971) is considered the classic work of all modern cultural studies and cultural anthropology.

Levi-Strauss thoroughly explains the essence of the method used and the main categories used in the process of its application. He distinguishes four conditions necessary to "make models deserve the name of the structure":

1) "the structure is a certain system consisting of such elements that the change of one of these elements entails the change of all the others";

2) each model belongs to the "group of transformations, each of which corresponds to a model of the same type, so that the set of these transformations forms a group of models & quot ;;

3) the marked properties allow us to foresee how the model will react to a change in one of the constituent elements of it & quot ;;

4) The model should be constructed so that "its application covers all observed phenomena" .

Levi-Strauss emphasized the human aspect of his concept and even called it structural anthropology. The modern man, Levi-Strauss believes, lives in a situation of deep divisions between culture and nature, and this makes him unhappy. The French explorer made an attempt to overcome this split.

As the main research task, Levi-Strauss considered the proof of several main theses:

- all the manifold phenomena of human society are modifications of some initial unified model, its disclosure;

- therefore all these phenomena can be systematically classified and classified;

- Between these phenomena, you can establish links and correspondences that show their position relative to each other and to the original model.

A. B. Ostrovsky, a well-known researcher of K.Levi-Strauss, singles out the principles that together constitute the essence of the method of structural anthropology: 1) the phenomenon of culture is viewed in a synchronous section of society, in the unity of its internal and external ties; 2) the phenomenon of culture is analyzed as a multilevel integrated entity, and the links between its levels are interpreted in a semiotic way; 3) the study of the phenomenon is carried out taking into account its variability - within the framework of a specific culture. The final result of the study is the modeling of the "structure", which defines the hidden logic inherent in both individual variants of the phenomenon, and the transitions from one variant to another.

According to Levi-Strauss, in order to understand the essence of culture it is important to know what the surrounding world looks like in perception of people belonging to different cultures; human feelings do not reflect so much as encode the world around a person, and all phenomena and processes are expressed in the form of symbols.

According to Levi-Strauss, the initial connection between the things themselves and the symbols of consciousness that existed back in the Neolithic Age, in the process of the historical development of mankind is forced into the sphere of the unconscious. Therefore, the direct path to the world around the world in the course of history is increasingly cluttered with various kinds of symbolic structures.

Fortunately, in his opinion, traditional societies still survive, which will escape from the principle of change, - "cold" society. Their Levi-Strauss opposes "hot" Societies that have been in the process of constant change since the Neolithic period. In cold societies, the initial connection between the world surrounding the person and the symbols of his consciousness is not yet broken and is not forced into the sphere of the unconscious. Therefore, the researcher opens up unique opportunities: primitive man acts as a special mirror, allowing a modern person to see his sphere of the unconscious and transfer the bridge from nature to culture.

In the four-volume work of "Mythology" (1964) Levi-Strauss used structural analysis for a comparative study of myths, which he viewed as the fundamental content of collective consciousness, the basis of stable social structures. In Mythologies The canvas of the thinking of the collective subject, the creator of myths, is recreated. It is reconstructed with reference not to an individual myth, but to the "meta group" myths. Codes that fasten large semantic subsections in the mythological field, play the role of categories of mythological thinking. Thus, in a large group of South American myths about the origin of the kitchen (fire of the kitchen), the meat of wild pigs, cultivated plants, as well as honey and tobacco (as "neighborhoods of the kitchen"), messages are transmitted through four codes: culinary and related techno-economic, acoustic, sociological and cosmological.

According to Levi-Strauss, people always thought the same, only the objects of their thinking are different. Specific research models , by which the mentality of people of primitive society is explored, Levi-Strauss describes in his work "The untamed thought".

The "specific science" model shows that the attention of the natives to the concrete is combined with their simultaneous desire for symbolization. Thus symbols act as units of thinking. Their status is intermediate between concrete-sensual images and abstract concepts.

One of the models is named "bricolage." This term means everything that an artisan puts together from things that fall under his arm and are necessary for his work. Bricolage in primitive thinking manifests itself in the fact that primitive man unites in one complex chain of associations the most diverse signs. The content of thought is determined by the recombination of symbol images formed as a result of past activities, for nothing else is at hand . Such recombination is similar to the change of pictures in a kaleidoscope.

Model totalizing thinking demonstrates that in the thinking of the natives realizing the classification operations, there are certain forms of their mutual logical conditioning: the transitions of some into others, and additionality.

The researches of K. Levi-Strauss refuted the concept of L. Levy-Bruhl (formulated in 1910-1920), according to which the people of traditional societies allegedly have pre-logical thinking, not capable of discrepancy of phenomena and controlled by mystical experiences. In the works of Levi-Strauss for the first time in the history of sociocultural anthropology on the materials of totemism and myths, the logical rationality of thinking of natives, their ability to perform logical operations analogous to the man's thinking in technically advanced civilization was demonstrated.

The main ideas of structuralism :

- Culture acts as a collection of sign systems (language, science, art, fashion, religion, etc.);

- there are universal principles and ways of cultural organization of human experience, life together and activity; in turn, social experience and social activities act as processes of building symbolic and symbolic systems;

- there are culturally-organizing universals in all spheres of human activity;

- in the process of creating sustainable symbols of culture, the primary principles are the psychic principles;

- the functioning and development of culture is determined by the interaction of external and internal symbolic stimuli of cultural activity, by establishing their hierarchies, by comparing them with other symbolic forms.

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