Reductionism and Structural Anthropology

  • Ivan Strenski


Is structural anthropology reductionist? Opinion is divided; and even Lévi-Strauss seems to shift his ground.1 This is not altogether surprising, since both reductionism and structuralism are taxing and elusive subjects to explicate. For one thing, several interpretations of reduction circulate in the literature: Which, if any, is appropriate to the issue of reduction in the human sciences? For another, structural anthropology can be controversial: What does a thorough application of structural methods imply — especially in terms of worldview? Taken together, what are the consequences of such discussions for the wider issue of human nature? A maze of issues thus lies at the centre of territory one might explore with innocent and straightforward intent. To take the reader there I want to begin, at any rate, in a straightforward way with an analysis of the concept of reduction.


Structural Anthropology Human Nature Human Science Privileged Status Logical Positivist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Helmut Spinner, ‘Science without Reduction’, Inquiry 16 (1973): 16–94. See esp. 19 and 63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961), 339.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Peter Oppenheim and Hilary Putnam, ‘The Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis’, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science II, Herbert Feigl, George Maxwell, and Michael Scriven, eds (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1957), 7.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Rom Harré, The Philosophies of Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 257–62;Google Scholar
  5. A. Schlesinger, ‘The Prejudice of Micro-Reduction’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 12 (1962): 215–24.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    David Joravsky, The Lysenko Affair (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 245.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Ervin Laszlo, Introduction to Systems Philosophy (New York: Harper, 1972), 30–2;Google Scholar
  8. Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, Modern Theories of Development (New York: Harper, 1962).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Marjorie Grene, ‘Reductability: Another Side Issue?’, Interpretations of Life and Mind, Marjorie Grene ed. (New York: Humanities Press, 1971), 30.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Ernest Nagel, ‘The Meaning of Reduction in the Natural Sciences’, The Philosophy of Science, Arthur Danto and Sidney Morgenbesser, eds (New York: Macmillan, 1961), 288–312.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Kenneth Schaffner, ‘Approaches to Reduction’, Philosophy of Science 34 (1967): 138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 15.
    Ernest Nagel, ‘Issues in the Logic of Reductive Explanations’, Contemporary Philosophical Thought, H. Kiefer and Michael Munitz, eds. (Albany: State University of New York, 1970), 117–37.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Paul Feyerabend, ‘Explanation, Reduction, and Empiricism’, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science III, Herbert Feigl and George Maxwell, eds. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1962), 29.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Carl Hempel, ‘Reduction: Ontological and Linguistic Facets’, Philosophy, Science and Method, Sidney Morgenbesser et al., eds (New York: St. Martin’s Press: 1969), 197.Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    Paul Feyerabend, ‘Problems of Empiricism, Pt II’, The Nature and Function of Scientific Theories, R. G. Colodney, ed. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1970), 278.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    Ernan McMullin, ‘The Two Faces of Science’, Review of Metaphysics 27 (1974): 655–76.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), 341–61.Google Scholar
  18. 30.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967), 67.Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 8.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    Jean Piaget, Structuralism (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 9f.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    James Boon, From Symbolism to Structuralism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1972), 114.Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    See the fine short note by M. Kaplan, ‘A Note on Nutini’s “The Ideological Bases of Lévi-Strauss’s Structuralism”’, American Anthropologist 76 (1974): 62–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 35.
    Ino Rossi (ed.), The Unconscious in Culture (New York: Dutton, 1974), 461.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (New York: Doubleday, 1967), Chs 1, 4 and 11;Google Scholar
  25. J. Friedman, ‘Structuralism and Marxism’, Man 9 (1974): 453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 39.
    Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology Ch. 1; Miriam Glucksmann, Structuralist Analysis in Contemporary Social Thought (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), 167–74.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, ‘On Manipulated Sociological Models’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde 116 (1960): 52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 53.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Scope of Anthropology (London: Jonathan Cape, 1967), 31.Google Scholar
  29. 54.
    Nathan Rotenstreich, ‘On Lévi-Strauss’s Concept of Structure’, Review of Metaphysics 25 (1972): 490.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ivan Strenski 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Strenski
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

Personalised recommendations