Les structures d'une pensée d'exil

La formation du structuralisme de Claude Lévi-Strauss

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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Lévi-Strauss considered that the birth of structuralism was mainly caused by his chance encounter with Roman Jakobson: the experience of war and exile had nothing to do with it. This article contends the opposite. It analyzes, from a sociological perspective, the articles Lévi-Strauss produced in New York in the 1940s. Focusing on political and cultural anthropology through the prism of primitive societies, these texts express in sociological terms Lévi-Strauss's self-representation, his hopes and strategies. He regards war as a moment in a cycle of reciprocal exchanges between groups. He sees power as the product of an ability to serve as an intermediary between groups and group members, and anthropological knowledge as the product of the social distance to groups necessary to compare their cultural models. Levi-Strauss's theories in exile are in affinity with his social position of a broker and intermediary between distant social groups among the French émigrés and between them and the Americans. Between the lines, all these formative texts show the efforts of Lévi-Strauss's consciousness to reverse the negative signs of his condition of exile. They played a role in the birth of structuralism even as they represent Lévi-Strauss's first auto-analysis (before Tristes Tropiques).

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