CONVERSATIONS WITH CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS by Claude Levi-Strauss

CONVERSATIONS WITH CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Selected from a series of French radio broadcasts (1959), this is a collection of eleven discussions between the renowned anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and the French radio producer, Georges Charbonnier. Charbonnier's questions revolve about his concern over the divisive grouping of ""economic affairs"" and ""cultural secretion"" in modern technological societies. Over the repeated protests of Levi-Strauss, Charbonnier requests the anthropologist to relate his study of other societies to contemporary Western society. Although Levi-Strauss poses the generalization that ""primitive"" and ""civilized"" societies are too different in kind to be compared (his theory of ""hot"" vs. ""cold"" societies is well known), his examination of their differences defines in the process many of his views on art, language, and the role of the artist in society. According to Levi-Strauss, culture appears in nature, not with man's tool-making as numerous experts believe, but with his use of articulate language. From language, society progresses through writing--preservation of self-knowledge--to a hierachical structure in which one stratum controls and exploits the rest of the society. In such cases, art ceases to be the communal sign-system for the external world; it becomes individualized for the artist and a circumscribed audience, sometimes, so non-communicative as to lose its semantic nature and retain only decorative values. Under pressure from Charbonnier, Levi-Strauss reluctantly advises modern societies to decentralize and allow personal contact among the specialized and isolated segments of society. A provoking and energetic dialogue, despite frequent entanglements in cross-purposes and abrupt endings in thought.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1970
Publisher: Grossman