American Anthropologist

Kinship vis-à-vis Myth Contrasts in Lévi-Strauss' Approaches to Cross-Cultural Comparison



The enormous secondary literature which relates Lévi-Strauss' comparative studies to different schools of thought has failed sufficiently to emphasize the major discontinuity within his own work. This paper characterizes the basic methodological differences in his approaches to “kinship” and to “myth.” It then suggests how, by concentrating on the kinship/myth distinction, we might constructively refine various structuralist concepts, such as distinctive feature analysis and the logical foundations of the “elementary” kinship structures. Only by concentrating on the few inconsistencies in Lévi-Strauss' remarkably coherent corpus of work can an adequate critique of his theories of comparison be commenced.