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Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World

Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Translated by Jane Marie Todd

ISBN 9780674072909

Publication date: 03/05/2013

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Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World is the first English translation of a series of lectures Claude Lévi-Strauss delivered in Tokyo in 1986. Written with an eye toward the future as his own distinguished career was drawing to a close, this volume presents a synthesis of the author’s major ideas about structural anthropology, a field he helped establish. Critiquing insights of his earlier writings on the relationship between race, history, and civilization, Lévi-Strauss revisits the social issues that never ceased to fascinate him.

He begins with the observation that the cultural supremacy enjoyed by the West for over two centuries is at an end. Global wars and genocides in the twentieth century have fatally undermined Western faith in humanity’s improvement through scientific progress. Anthropology, however, can be the vehicle of a new “democratic humanism,” broadening traditional frameworks that have restricted cross-cultural understandings of the human condition, and providing a basis for inquiries into what other civilizations, such as those of Asia, can teach.

Surveying a world on the brink of the twenty-first century, Lévi-Strauss assesses some of the dilemmas of cultural and moral relativism a globalized society faces—ethical dimensions of economic inequality, the rise of different forms of religious fundamentalism, the promise and peril of genetic and reproductive engineering. A laboratory of thought opening onto the future, Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World is an important addition to the canon of one of the twentieth-century’s most influential theorists.

Praise

  • Lévi-Strauss was certainly not the only French intellectual to develop a fascination for Japan. Indeed, Japan’s sculptured landscapes, highly stylized rituals and philosophies of self-denial struck a particular chord with his structuralist contemporaries, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. But the impressions gathered here are distinctively his, and indeed sometimes read as if they were lifted straight from the Mythologiques… There is much to admire [here]… Still fizzing with ideas as he approached eighty, Claude Lévi-Strauss never relented on his increasingly lonely structuralist quest. His fascination for Japanese traditions, similar to his lifelong obsession with ethnography in general, stemmed in part from his feeling of alienation from modernity.

    —Patrick Wilcken, Times Literary Supplement

Authors

  • Claude Lévi-Strauss was chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France (1959–1982).
  • Maurice Olender is Maître de Conférences at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Book Details

  • 144 pages
  • 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
  • Belknap Press
  • Foreword by Maurice Olender

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