One of France's foremost 20th-century thinkers, he revolutionized the study of anthropology, changing the Western world's understanding of civilization and culture. Influenced by developments in linguistics (see structuralism), he founded structural anthropology, a theory that views culture as a system united by reason in which common structures underlie the activities of all societies despite their apparent differences. Analyzing the structure of myths in various cultures, he found universal patterns of thought, behavior, motifs, and structures across the spectrum of human societies. Lévi-Strauss also revealed the intelligence, subtlety, and sophistication of so-called
primitive societies while refusing to romanticize tribal culture. He noted the disappearance of many of the world's tribal cultures and languages, and warned of the dangers of a modern Western
monoculture. His views greatly influenced such French thinkers as Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault.
His memoir, Tristes Tropiques (1955, tr. 1961), was both a critical and popular success. His other works include his first book, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949, tr. 1969), which established his scholarly reputation, and such volumes as Race and History (1952), The Savage Mind (1962, tr. 1966), Totemism (1962, tr. 1964), Structural Anthropology, (2 vol., 1958–73, tr. 1963–76), The View from Afar (1983, tr. 1985), The Jealous Potter (1985, tr. 1988), and The Story of Lynx (1991, tr. 1995). Mythologiques, often hailed as his masterpiece, is a structural analysis of native mythology in the Americas and consists of The Raw and the Cooked (1964, tr. 1969), From Honey to Ashes (1967, tr. 1973), The Origin of Table Manners (1968, tr. 1978), and The Naked Man (1971, tr. 1981).
See D. Eribon, Conversations with Claude Lévi-Strauss (1991); intellectual biography by P. Wilcken (2010); studies by E. N. Hayes, ed. (1970), E. R. Leach (1970), O. Paz (tr. 1970), H. Gardner (1972), C. Geertz (1988), and B. Wiseman (2007); B. Wiseman, ed., Cambridge Companion to Lévi-Strauss (2009).
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