CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS: TOWARD THE STRUCTURES OF ART
THE CONTRAST, an irresistible one, has been cleverly caricatured by David Levine. On the one side is the highly educated French savant Claude Lé?vi-Strauss, knowledgeable about classical philosophical traditions and deeply steeped in anthropological lore about numerous cultures in the world; on the other, a rendering of Rousseau's noble savage, plucked directly from the state of nature--humanity in untrammeled form. The two are sipping from their respective martini glasses while perhaps engaged in deep discussion in an elegant French salon. The caricature suggests Claude Lévi-Strauss's principal contribution to the social-science conversation of our time: his assertion that the human mind, be it in civilized or savage garb, is everywhere the same, reflecting the same principles, operating on the same kinds of content.
Indeed, Lévi-Strauss has devoted the better part of a long and distinguished scholarly career to defending the proposition that all members of our species think in the same way and fashion comparable products. Whether it be myth or science, kinship exchange or input-output models, paleolithic cave art or realistic academic masterpieces, each involves similar degrees of subtlety and comparable forms of complexity. The savage mind is the mind of us all.