Claude Lévi-Strauss

The elementary structures of kinship

Tr. by J. Bell and J. von Sturmer. Boston: Beacon Press1969 [1949].


Man is a biological being as well as a social individual. Among the responses which he gives to external stimuli, some are the full product of his nature, and others of his condition... But it is not always easy to distinguish between the two... Culture is neither simply juxtaposed to nor simply superposed over life. In a way, culture substitutes itself to life, in another way culture uses and transforms life to realise a synthesis of a higher order. (p. 4 )

While the above is very succinct and has often been criticized and dismissed, what Lévi-Strauss is trying to capture is a common experience of most human beings, starting in the early 20th century: driving a car and in the midst of other human beings driving cars (1966 [1962]: 222)


June 7, 2008