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The Savage Mind

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,235 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
An examination of the structure of the thought of primitive' peoples, and has contributed significantly to our understanding of the way the human mind works.
Paperback, 310 pages
Published September 15th 1968 by University of Chicago Press (IL) (first published 1962)
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Jason Williams
Okay, first of all, these French guys have a way of talking about everything-and-nothing at the same time. From Braudel to Saussure to Barthes to Foucault to Mouffe to Derrida to Lacan to Deleuze and Guattari (and yes, Sartre), they have insisted on describing the deep structures (mentalities, langue, semiotics, microphysics of power, overdetermination, differance, etc) that underlie the petty details of history. Levi-Strauss deserves mention as part of this group. Along with Braudel, Levi-Strau ...more
Gary Bruff
OK. The blurbs on the back tell us 'no outline is possible' and 'no précis is possible'. So let's attempt the impossible.

Savage Mind is intended to arrest our sense of time in the macro-historical sense, asking us to see humanity and the culture that humanity presupposes as something nearly eternal at its very depth. The truth which Levi-Strauss (hereafter L-S) develops is intended to destroy our common sense prejudices about how natives think. For L-S we are all natives. There is no Hobbesian h
Linda Robinson
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
A difficult book to get through, as I needed to make sure I understood what he was saying. There are many intriguing thoughts nestled among the scientific reportings. It would be a great adventure to do an in-depth comparison of Levi-Strauss and Mead, but that study will have to wait for a couple lifetimes down the road unfortunately.
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
Passionant mais un peu difficile à digérer complètement. L’intérêt que soulève l'ethnologie est immense mais l'ampleur de la tache de Levy Strauss qui embrasse un sujet particulièrement vaste fait que l'esprit se perd parfois en essayant le suivre. Aurait il pu utiliser un peu moins de jargon philosophique et linguistique, serrer un peu plus ses raisonnements ? Son approche qui consiste à essayer de trouver ce qui unifie la pensée des êtres humains malgré les variations observées est très sympat ...more
Cesar Perez
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una lectura muchas veces enredada, especialmente si no se está al tanto de las disquisiciones disciplinares, y también por la naturaleza del tema, pero en general muy estimulante. Entre las cosas que me sorprendieron fue que, a contramano de las acusaciones contra el estructuralismo de no considerar los aspectos sincrónicos, y si no me equivoco en entenderlo, acá Lévi-Strauss sí lo hace, descentrando la obsesión occidental con la historia y tratando de situar la diacronía dentro de las operacion ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on my blog here in June 2001.

Many books that, like The Savage Mind, go on to become influential on the way that people think, have at their time of writing two purposes, of which one only ensures their survival. The immediate cause of the genesis of such a book is to make a specific point or answer some then current school of thought; in this case, Lévi-Strauss wanted to counter some ideas about totemism in anthropology. This first purpose then suggests a more general thesis
Jan D
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book outlines the concept of (cultural) bricolage. While the term was adapted to other areas, the examples stem from “classic” ethnography studying indigenous cultures in remote settings. If you only want to read a part of the book, I suggest to spend time on the first few chapters which include the bricolage definition.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
I had forgotten just how seminal Levi-Strauss was to literary and critical social theory- which seems to be what's left of Western philosophy- until I read this. Whether or not his systems approach is right in all its details for traditional societies is impossible for me to say. But his major contribution to anthropology- to have basically shredded its colonialist presuppositions by demonstrating that traditional peoples' way of thinking was not "primitive" in its relationship to logic and scie ...more
Nov 22, 2009 rated it liked it
intensely complex and dense. but, once you start to get past the bricoleur and Levi-Strauss's heavy French-ness, its definitely something to think about. Good discussion of classification and the human mind and critique of Sartres.
Apr 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: academic
Instead of reading this long and brutal book, read Rumi's beautiful first poem in Divane Shams. What Rumi said in 10 lines so beautifully and elegantly 800 years ago, this French dude is trying to say in this long and horribly written book: categories are arbitrary.
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Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist, well-known for his development of structural anthropology. He was born in Belgium to French parents who were living in Brussels at the time, but he grew up in Paris. His father was an artist, and a member of an intellectual French Jewish family. Lévi-Strauss studied at the University of Paris. From 1935-9 he was Professor at the University of Sao Pa ...more
More about Claude Lévi-Strauss...