Short Essay on Levi-Strauss Structuralism

The real structure is the model, or perhaps the mind.

Claude Levi-Strauss (b. 1908) is the father of structuralism. His variety of structuralism is based on how the mind works. He is the expounder of the concept of binary oppositions. The mind of man works in such a way that he thinks about binary oppositions. Strauss argues that there are abstract models of thought or formats in the mind of man.

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He has been criticized for taking such a position in defining social structure in terms of models of thought or formats of thought. De­spite this criticism Levi-Strauss comes out as the most influential anthropologist from the period after Malinowski and Radcliffe- Brown, especially in France and other American countries. He has contributed immensely to the explanation of the structures of kin­ship.

Strauss’ definition of structure is simple. He argues that a social structure is not a reality which can directly be seen. But it is a reality that exists beyond the visible reality. The function of the structure constitutes the underlying logic of the system which can be explained by the apparent reality.

Strauss has developed binary oppositions out of the data which he gathered from the field. He asserts that the “man organizes the world in contrasting pairs and develops coherent systems of relationship from such a starting point”.

The central element in Levi-Strauss’ per­spective is the idea that “all kinship systems are elaborations on four fundamental kin relationships: brother-sister, husband-wife, father- son and mother’s brother-sister’s son”. He regards this as the elementary social structure.

Structuralism, other than linguistic structuralism, is associated with Levi-Strauss. He is credited to have made an original attempt at theoretical synthesis in the 20th century anthropology.

His work in elementary and complex structures in kinship is unparalleled. Finally, it must also be said that Strauss was greatly influenced by Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown.