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New Left Review I/34, November-December 1965


Edmund Leach

Claude Lévi-Strauss—Anthropologist and Philosopher

As with Darwin and Freud and many other famous men Claude Lévi-Strauss, Professor of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France, needs to be judged on two quite different levels. First we may ask: ‘What has he contributed to the particular scientific discipline in which he is a professional expert?’ and secondly: ‘What is the basis of his public celebrity?’ The treatment which is now being accorded to Lévi-Strauss’ work in French intellectual journals suggests that he should be looked upon as an original thinker of the first rank. He is beginning to be spoken of as a philosopher, the founder of ‘structuralism’, on a par with Sartre, the founder of existentialism. [1] For a list of recent commentaries on the work of Lévi-Strauss see L’Arc (Aix-en-Provence) Issue No. 26, 1955, pp. 85–87. This issue of L’Arc is itself wholly concerned with Lévi-Strauss and includes at pp. 77–84 a comprehensive bibliography of his writings. How should we judge him in this role?

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