cover image Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World

Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World

Claude Levi-Strauss, translated from the French by Jane Marie Todd. Harvard/Belknap, $22.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-674-07290-9

At the invitation of Tokyo's Ishizaka Foundation in 1986, the acclaimed Levi-Strauss, chair of Social Anthropology at the College de France (1959-1982), reflected on the past, present, and future of his field in a series of engaging lectures, now newly translated and collected in this pocket-sized edition. Levi-Strauss's anthropological assertions are at turns prescient and antiquated. The admonition that Western Civilization is undermining itself through its addiction to consumption has never rung more true. Similarly applicable is the diversity he touts that is grounded in cultural relativism; now more than ever this is a needed contrast to what Levi-Strauss portrays as Western cultural supremacy and alienation, insights burgeoned by his concise and accessible prose. Yet one can also see evidence of the positive changes in anthropology since 1986. At points his touchstones feel dated, such as his musing on the modern ethnographer not receiving a complimentary concubine, or his slipping into an East-West dichotomy in which each represents a relatively homogenous cultural sphere. Yet overall this new translation provides an accessible gloss on the unique special contributions of a dynamic thinker who forever altered the course of anthropology. (Mar.)