Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Claude Lévi-Strauss, arguably the most prestigious cultural anthropologist of the second half of the twentieth century, continues to attract a large readership in both Europe and the United States. His prolific writings assert bold hypotheses and provocative explanations for the diverse ways in which human societies adapt to chaotic and challenging environments. In the tradition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whom he called our master and our brother, he typically praises premodern ways of life and denounces Western civilization as oppressive and destructive.
Influenced by Ferdinand de Saussure’s structural linguistics, Lévi-Strauss considers every human culture as a structured universe composed of rules and logical organization, often operating at an unconscious level. Frequently he has been classified as belonging to the contemporary school of French structuralism, although he denies that he has much in common with most of the other writers and thinkers classified as structuralists.
The Savage Mind is often considered Lévi-Strauss’s most influential and difficult work. The French title, La Pensée sauvage, is a pun not translatable in English. The word pensée can mean either “thought,” “thinking,” or the “pansy flower,” whereas the word sauvage means either “savage,” “primitive,” or “wild.” Thus, the French title could refer to the “wild pansy flower.” In choosing the...
(The entire section is 1488 words.)
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