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Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1908–2009)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-R010-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Lévi-Strauss is one of the outstanding figures of mid-twentieth century intellectual life, influential far beyond the boundaries of France or the French language, and he has continued to write new work well into his eighties. His name is linked above all to the structuralist movement, of which he has been probably the most single-minded and unwavering exponent, and he was one of the key figures in the experiment of applying the insights of linguistics to the material of the social sciences. Through his work, public recognition of the discipline of anthropology grew dramatically to become an important element in discussion of philosophical issues.

The philosophical environment in France, in which structuralism developed and against which it reacted, was that of Sartrean humanism. In contrast to the existentialist emphasis on individual subjectivity, structuralism expected to find objective solutions to problems in the study of human beings. It was a form of intellectual modernism, a radical break with previous theoretical models and philosophical traditions, symptomatic of post-war optimism for the global applicability of science. It was hostile to metaphysics, bracketed the search for truth and was indifferent to the human subject. And, in contrast to Bergson’s emphasis on continuity and flux, structuralism took discontinuity as its founding principle.

Citing this article:
Harris, Olivia. Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1908–2009), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-R010-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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