Garry Gillard > writing > Supertext > 4

Chapter 4: Lévi-Strauss and the structuralist project

This Chapter sets out to deal, in Freudian terms, with the key Lévi-Straussian question: is culture - the set of systems of behaviour in social life - a projection from the unconscious mind of systems which inhere there? That is: are the structures which cultural analysis reveals as the essential basis of social phenomena like language, kinship rules and so on - are these structures homologous with mental structures? Or, to put it in different terms again: are the rules of which we are conscious in social life projections from a collective unconscious?

Lévi-Strauss is a structuralist in the sense that he is less interested in functions than in what they reveal about underlying structures. He therefore tends to proceed deductively, deriving content from form, deriving his hypotheses about culture from what he perceives as the most profound structures of the human mind. Although, being an anthropologist, he appears to proceed by induction, establishing his structural hypotheses from a great deal of observation, closer examination reveals that relatively little of his observation is from first hand, much being gathered from the fieldwork of others. Study of the autobiographical material of Tristes Tropiques show to what extent Lévi-Strauss went out into the field already equipped with assumptions about the meaning of what he expected to find there. [1]

The structuralist project, reduced to its most essential, is characterised by its approach in regarding culture, the entire field of social behaviour, as being capable of interpretation on the basis of its structure as if it had been encoded in terms of the forms revealed by structural analysis. The basic model for the kind of structural analysis carried out by Lévi-Strauss is the model of language. In fact, he suggests that culture might itself be a language. [2]

Lévi-Strauss's debt to Freud

In a famous chapter of Tristes Tropiques, 'The making of an anthropologist.' Lévi-Strauss makes explicit the precise nature of his debt to Freud. He tells us there that during the 1920s he and his peers became aware for the first time of psychoanalytical theories. And for Lévi-Strauss they represented, more than anything else, a challenge to the kind of philosophy he was being taught, which emphasised the artificial nature of 'static oppositions' such as 'the rational and the irrational, the intellectual and the emotional, the logical and the illogical.' Under the influence of Freud, Lévi-Strauss finds two faults in this epistemology: firstly, that there is higher mode of being than the rational, namely, 'the meaningful;' and secondly that it is the least rational manifestations that are the most meaningful.3 It is clear that there is a debt to an early Freud here, although I think it is less clear from Lévi-Strauss 's account in just what way this new mode of thinking swept away the despised dualism he sets up. After all, the old dualisms as characterised in this passage did suggest the importance of the existence of the irrational and the emotional - even though there is an implied negative valuation of these terms. And, secondly, the existence of an intellectual framework like the one described suggests that the whole thing belongs in an over-arching system which must be inherently meaningful. I shall return to this question of binarist and dialectical logics when considering Lévi-Strauss as analyst.

It will be fruitful to differentiate three distinct ways in which Freudian thought may be seen as having had an influence on that of Lévi-Strauss - three important relationships between Lévi-Straussian structuralism and psychoanalysis. To begin with, both are intensely interested in the power of language and the talking cure. This is of course everywhere demonstrable in Freud, and in Lévi-Strauss nowhere more so perhaps, than in his paper on 'The effectiveness of symbols.'4 This examines a shamanistic cure for difficult childbirth, seeing it as being purely psychological. In its conclusion, Lévi-Strauss quite explicitly compares shamanistic and psychoanalytic techniques in using language to promote the conditions for bringing about a cure. In Lévi-Strauss's account, the shaman uses language to change the structure of the universe of experience in which the sick woman experiences pain which for her is incomprehensible - meaningless. There is very little difference, essentially, between his description and what Freud describes in his earliest case studies. In both cases it is in the emergence - through the medium of language - into the conscious mind of what had been repressed that makes the difference. Both the shaman and the psychoanalyst offer the patient a language which provides a structure in which the illness becomes meaningful for the patient - or, into which the illness is inserted.

Once the sick woman understands, however, she does more than resign herself; she gets well. And it is the transition to this verbal expression - at the same time making it possible to undergo in an ordered and intelligible form a real experience that would otherwise be chaotic and inexpressible - which induces the release of the physiological process, that is, the reorganization, in a favourable direction, of the process to which the sick woman is subjected. ... The shaman provides the sick woman with a language, by means of which unexpressed, and otherwise inexpressible, psychic states can be immediately expressed. [5]

To map the homology between Freud and Lévi-Strauss: for 'inexpressible' read 'repressed'; for 'inexpressible psychic state' read 'the unconscious', or 'the id.'

My second point of comparison is to do with dreams and free association on the one hand and, on the other, the production of myths. Specifically, I want to draw attention to points of similarity between the operations of the dreamwork in Freud and bricolage in Lévi-Strauss. The dreamwork is absolutely not creative, and merely uses the material presented by the dream-thoughts, and seems to be obliged to combine into a single unity all the sources which have acted as stimuli for the dream.6 It is restricted to the transformation of the material, but does nevertheless constitute the essence of the dream The mechanisms used in these processes of combination and transformation are the familiar operations of the id: condensation, displacement, considerations of representability, and secondary revision. And it is the process of the dreamwork that is important, rather than either the latent dream-thoughts in a 'mysterious unconscious'7 or the manifest content: the day's residues and other 'found' material.8

Myths, in Lévi-Strauss, are explanatory mechanisms. Not just ¾tiological myths, myths of origin, but all myths have as one of their main functions the explanation of why certain things get to be the way they are. The myths in the set examined in The Raw and the Cooked, for example, are said to explain the origin of cooking.9 The mythology believed in by the sick woman cured by the shaman explains for her the nature of the universe in which she lives: once she comes to understand how her pains have meaning in this context they are no longer 'incoherent and arbitrary' and she gets better. The shaman uses the myths for the purpose of this re-integration. And the Œdipus myth, as discussed in 'The structural study of myth,' deals with the question of human origin, and the problem created by the fact that the original tellers held two incompatible beliefs about it at the same time: that it was a result of human sexual procreation, and also by non-human creation - that it was autochthonous.

To create myths, the human mind, 'la pensée sauvage', uses any materials which are readily to hand and tinkers with them ('tinkering' is about as close as an English translation can get to the French 'bricolage') until their structure is appropriate to the message to be conveyed. Thus mythical stories seem 'arbitrary, meaningless, absurd'10 - as dreams often do. Dreams too are made of any handy mental material: memories, the day's residues - and they are also made, by the dreamwork, to correspond to the latent dream-thoughts, so that the message is unconsciously available, and can be recovered by analysis. The dreamwork is a bricoleur; la pensée sauvage is unconscious.

Freud himself made the connection between myths and the dreamwork kind of construction which brings them into existence, in this passage from the paper on 'Creative writers and day-dreaming.'

The study of constructions of folk-psychology such as these [myths, legends and fairy tales] is far from being complete, but it is extremely probable that myths, for instance, are distorted vestiges of the wishful phantasies of whole nations, the secular dreams of youthful humanity.11

Correspondingly, Lévi-Strauss's description of myth sounds like Freud's description of the unconscious.

It would seem that in the course of a myth anything is likely to happen. There is no logic, no continuity. Any characteristic can be attributed to any subject; every conceivable relation can be found. With myth, everything becomes possible.12

And all of the characteristics of a dream as theorised by Freud can be seen in this discussion by Lévi-Strauss of the relationship between the different aspects of a myth.

There must be, and there is, a correspondence between the unconscious meaning of a myth - the problem it tries to solve - and the conscious content it makes use of to reach that end, i.e. the plot. However, this correspondence is not necessarily an exact reproduction, it can also appear as a logical transformation.13

The unconscious meaning of a myth corresponds to the latent meaning of the dream - the problem it tries to solve; the conscious content, or 'plot', corresponds to the manifest dream; while the transformation is carried out by what one would be justified in calling the 'mythwork', in the same way that the dreamwork transforms the 'found' mental material in the dream.

The third important relationship I want to suggest has to do with the notion of sublimation. Though I am not aware that Lévi-Strauss uses the term himself, he does suggest that the point of the creation of cultural artefacts such as myths is to to communicate for the sake of communication and to create meaningfulness in itself - something of inherent value. In an important passage in 'The making of an anthropologist,' Lévi-Strauss gives a detailed description of what geology does, in an extended metaphor which he will then apply to psychoanalysis. He begins with the chaotic landscape, capable of sustaining any meaning which could be assigned to it, and then slowly identifies the characteristics which betray the fact that the previous existence of two long-gone oceans can be seen in the rock strata. In doing so, he sees that the aim of the endeavour is to establish 'the most majestic meaning of all [which] is surely that which precedes, commands and, to a large extent, explains the others.'14 The aim of structural anthropology, as of psychoanalysis, is

to recapture the master-meaning, which may be obscure but of which each of the others is a partial or distorted transposition ... to achieve a kind of superrationialism.15

The fascination for Lévi-Strauss of myth is that it is not only expressed in language - it is language, a second-order or meta-language, 'functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at "taking off" from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling.'16 And his methodology for its understanding - the kind of structural anthropology that he practises (has invented) - is the ultimate code-breaking science. It affords him intellectual satisfaction:

In proposing the study of mankind, anthropology frees me from doubt, since it examines those differences and changes in mankind which have a meaning for all men [sic], and excludes those peculiar to a single civilization, which dissolve into nothingness under the gaze of the outside observer.17

There is a less explicit debt to Freud, which I foreshadowed earlier, which has to do with the development of dualist or binarist models. What we learn from a consideration of the origins of binarism in Lévi-Strauss's thought is that his binarism stems from his fundamental view of the position that human beings find themselves in - between their biological givens and their cultural determinants. A consideration of this conclusion enables a synthesis of Freud's and Lévi-Strauss's views of cultural determinism.

We come into the world, in Freud's view, as bundles of drives which are mainly concerned with sexuality. Lévi-Strauss is less concerned with the nature of any such drives: as a social anthropologist he is more concerned with what are the nature of the channels into which these drives have to go in order for there to be a viable society organisation. But because he believes there are a biological and a social animal and a huge gulf fixed between the two, he will tend to find binarisms or dualities which are homologous to that original divide. So in the paper on 'Split representation in the art of Asia and America,' he is delighted to find he can map the splitting in the art onto this gap between natural and cultural.18

For Freud it is to some extent reversed. As he is much more interested in the natural animal which has to be transformed into the cultural, he derives his model of the cultural from the sexual, from the originary appetitive libidinal drives - which results in him having a complicated model, with part of the cultural aspect of mind, the superego, being found in the unconscious mingling with the id.

Lévi-Strauss is initially untroubled by a need to find a model of mind. Being more concerned with the function of the 'savage mind,' he is not searching for its structure as such. He is not seeking a model of the mental apparatus, as Freud was. What he discovers are the constructs that the mind uses to think with, rather than those that form the apparatus itself. The model that he does establish is a simple binary model, or a model which is based on a set of binaries, dualities, with mediating terms between the pairs: rather, a dialectical model. It is a developmental model of mind - in the tradition of German Idealism - and the closest he ever gets to it having a topology is its basic dualism.

Arguably, Lévi-Strauss's greatest debt to Freud is that he did not have to develop the particular kind of binarist universe that Freud does, with the division with which Freud begins: that between conscious and unconscious aspects of mental functioning. As Freud had already established the existence of an unconscious, Lévi-Strauss could take it for granted and move on to make his own discoveries, which were about other dualities, but which take for granted, explicitly or implicitly, the duality that Freud had established. He could take for granted the duality in mental functioning as being partly self-aware and partly unconscious, and move on to refine particular aspects of the nature of that duality, and also demonstrate in what particular ways that duality plays itself out in certain aspects of social organisation that Lévi-Strauss, as an anthropologist, is inevitably interested in.

The problem for Freud was that once he had created his version of the unconscious, das Unbewusste, he had a concept of a system which must have seemed to him to be somewhat thing-like in having some of the characteristics that things have, such as dimensions, and contents. The reason that Freud invented his unconscious in the first place anyway was that he had some contents which he needed to see as being somewhere. They were drives (or 'instincts'), Trieben, and he decided that they were in this 'place', the unconscious. However, as he continued to think about the concept as an independent entity - and the product of that thinking was the 1915 paper on 'The unconscious' - the characteristics that it came to have were negative characteristics. So instead of it existing in time, it was atemporal; rather than rationality there was nonsense, logic was absent; there was an absence of what we normally think of as the usual link between cause and effect. Not only did he have to come to envisage this world of the unconscious as a kind of anti-world, characterised by anti-logic, anti-rationality, but he also came to see that it had to have other contents as well as the original drives, contents which began as antithetical to those drives: the moral function in human beings, which he later named the superego. This he came to see as having unconscious dimensions also, and therefore also belonging 'in' this unconscious. Freud did not draw a picture of the mind showing the unconscious in the form of a diagram until quite late, until 1923, in The Ego and the Id, and that picture did not show the superego at all.19 It was only finally in 1933, when he was aged about 67, that he published a full graphic representation of his view of mental structure.20 So we can see that it was with extreme unwillingness that he finally tried to come to terms with his view of the unconscious as being a place or a container with contents, and the picture that he finally draws is rather an amorphous, organic-looking thing lacking clear boundaries and differentiations between the parts.

For Lévi-Strauss, as the inheritor of this intellectual gift, this idea of the unconscious, the problem was much simpler. He could take the image of the unconscious in its refined form as an anti-world, as a place without characteristics, and move on from there. All that the unconscious is, in Lévi-Strauss, is a set of organising principles, as he says, an empty stomach through which food passes, which it modifies.21 But the stomach as such has no contents; it only has a modifying function. Lévi-Strauss would therefore see his unconscious as containing not only biology but also culture, an ontogenetic view of history, of development. In the same way that Freud sees moral determinants as being part of the unconscious, Lévi-Strauss sees cultural determinants as being very largely unconscious; that is, his hypothesis is that we are led into certain forms of social organisation by things that we do not readily rationally understand or cannot readily call to our conscious minds, in other minds, by organising principles of which we are unconscious.

While Freud had only a very limited view of the kinds of cultural texts which were introjected into the unconscious through the 'no' of the Father, what Lévi-Strauss adds is a much more comprehensive and more detailed exposition of the manifold texts which may become so inscribed. This new set of cultural texts is, in a sense, the contribution made by Lévi-Strauss to the extension of the exploration begun by Freud in the movement towards the notion of a single system containing both mind and culture.

So, what is the nature of culture for Lévi-Strauss in this sense of it being an unconsciously determining influence in human lives? It becomes clear from an examination of case studies like that in the 'split representation' paper that his notion of culture is a collective one, it is phylogenetic, it is shared across boundaries of geography and history, across time and space, it is to some extent at least - and the extent remains to be discovered - it is to some extent timeless and spaceless, being found everywhere. Lévi-Strauss sees an inherent tendency in the human mind to make the kinds of division in its cultural expression that he examines in this paper. So, for example, in split representation in particular artistic and cultural forms, he sees a basic determining influence to divide the world into natural and cultural, or to see the world as given as dualistically natural and cultural. As these aspects of existence are incommensurable, inexorably divided, this means that there is a difficulty for the human mind which it tries to come to terms with in various kinds of cultural expression. They are seen not only in works of art - although it is particularly useful to consider them, because there such things may be very clearly seen, being explicit forms of cultural expression - they are intended to be, they exist, as such - but also in things like the spatial organisation of habitation, of villages, of dwellings. These are also expressions of this kind of cultural determinism, which show a desire to come to terms with the problem of the imbrication of natural and cultural. And they are also the new set of cultural texts contributed by Lévi-Strauss to the present argument.

For Freud, as a psychologist, nature is on the scene first, and the cultural is therefore understood in terms of the natural, as that which curtails and channels natural drives - which may very well be asocial - into socially acceptable forms. For Lévi-Strauss, on the other hand, as an anthropologist, nature does not pre-exist culture. The latter needs to be understood in itself, in opposition to nature, in terms of a comparison with the natural. Culture for the younger man does not come into existence out of the natural, as it does for Freud. It already exists, it is a given. As an anthropologist, Lévi-Strauss cannot contemplate any sense of the human which precedes social organisation. What he is interested in is the nature of the relationship between the two, in their mutual existence.

The Lévi-Straussian unconscious

When considering the concept of the unconscious in Lévi-Strauss, the obvious distinction with which to begin is that between the personal unconscious of Freud and the collective or cultural unconscious more relevant to the thought of Lévi-Strauss. Not that Freud was not aware of the imbrication of the personal and the collective (or cultural), but in his analysis he placed the emphasis on what was happening in the individual, on the way that culture constructs itself in individual members of societies as they develop, and on the way that this process may cause conflicts (or double binds) in those individuals, which in turn may cause mental instability. With Lévi-Strauss, however, the interest is less within the individual member of the group than in the structures which are the basis of the relationships which individuals form with each other. For Lévi-Strauss these structures are 'laws', the 'universal laws which regulate the unconscious activities of the mind.'22 This is in fact his definition of the 'collective consciousness:' 'the expression, on the level of individual thought and behavior, of certain time and space modalities' of these universal laws. These 'time and space modalities' take the form of structures which inhere in varied and different human constructs, and Lévi-Strauss mentions 'the kinship system, political ideology, mythology, ritual, art, code of etiquette, and - why not? - cooking.'23

It is quite clear, however, that in some respects Lévi-Strauss's concept of 'the unconscious' is actually quite different from Freud's. For Freud, the id is full (assuming that we can equate the two - the 'unconscious' and the id - in the sense that 'the characteristics attributed to the system Ucs. in the first topography fall grosso modo to the id in the second.')24 We approach the id with analogies,' writes Freud in 1933,

we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. ... It is filled with energy from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.25

Lévi-Strauss's 'unconscious' is empty. He writes: 'The unconscious ... is always empty - or, more accurately, it is as alien to mental images as is the stomach to the foods which pass through it.'26

There are at least two characteristics of the digestive process of which this image is not able to take account. Firstly, there is the modification of the digestive apparatus itself as a result of the different kinds of material with which it is required to deal: the incidence of duodenal ulcers and colonic cancer being common and very serious such results. This of course allows one to draw the conclusion that mind is itself modified by the social forms in which it must participate: both at the level of the individual and that of the cultural.

Secondly, there is the incidence of various kinds of psychosomatic disorders which influence digestion and the digestive apparatus, including anorexia and bulimia. This particular filling-in of the image tends to work in the opposite direction to the previous one, drawing attention to the influence of the individual on the social group.

Both together emphasise the need to consider the stomach as part of the whole mind-body system - in the same way that it has been found necessary to consider mind and culture as involved with each other in the system MC.

For both thinkers this is a topographical concept, but whereas for Freud it is finally merely descriptive, for the later man it remains capable of sustaining an organic metaphor, being still a dynamic concept. While the Freudian id ends up being not much more than a container, the Lévi-Straussian unconscious is an agency of change. Lévi-Strauss defines it in this way, in what is tantamount to a structuralist revision of the Freudian concept.

The unconscious ceases to be the ultimate haven of individual peculiarities - the repository of a unique history which make each of us an irreplaceable being. It is reducible to a function - the symbolic function, which no doubt is specifically human, and which is carried out according to the same laws among all men [sic], and actually corresponds to the aggregate of these laws.'27

Although the universality that he wishes to claim for structural anthropology is ultimately, I suggest, a limitation, in the sense that it requires him to fit any new data whatsoever into the theoretical structures already prepared for it, this new, broader concept of the unconscious proposed by Lévi-Strauss is a step in the right direction, onwards from Freud and towards the larger evolutionist model to be proposed by Bateson. The Lévi-Straussian concept of the unconscious is, although homeostatic, more progressive than the Freudian unconscious where 'nothing ends, nothing happens, nothing is forgotten'.28 The Lévi-Straussian unconscious is at least (of course) structured, even if not capable of evolving. It is, however, capable of embodying meaning.

To be clear about how this symbolic function is performed and the way in which these structural laws present themselves in our minds, Lévi-Strauss has recourse in the second part of his own comparison with Freud to the concept of myth - a topic which I shall take up shortly.

Levels of culture

Beginning with language, on the Saussurean model, Lévi-Strauss moves on to these other areas of human life, and then proposes a move back to language again, in the form of what he calls a 'general language', a méta-langue, capable of general application. Finding that linguistics has been the most successful of the human sciences in attaining 'fundamental and objective realities consisting of systems of relations which are the products of unconscious thought processes,'29 he proposes an experiment in which anthropologists would construct models of kinship systems from different regions to compare with linguists' models of language systems to test the hypothesis that both communication systems (kinship and language) would exhibit identical unconscious structures. He then proposes to map the discovered structures onto other phenomena, such as culinary systems. This in turn will permit the construction of a grid which

can be superimposed on other contrasts of a sociological, economic, aesthetic or religious nature: men and women, family and society, village and bush, economy and prodigality, nobility and commonalty, sacred and profane, etc.30

The next stage in the process is to compare the analysis of the different features of social life at a high enough level of generality to make it possible to create a system of homologies, the 'general language' mentioned before, which will be 'valid for each system separately and for all of them taken together.'31 From language to other social formations, and back to language again. It will then be possible to perceive basic similarities between apparently radically different social phenomena, such as language, art, law, and religion.

And, if we find these structures to be common to several spheres, we have the right to conclude that we have reached a significant knowledge of the unconscious attitudes of the society or societies under consideration.32

Let us see how this works in practice.

The paper called 'The effectiveness of symbols' is explicitly a study of a written text, or rather a series of them.33 Its own story is as follows. The original text in question is a song, which has the function of assisting with problematic parturition. A fieldworker (in linguistics?) Nordenskiöld studied the Cuna (of Panama), and 'even succeeded in training collaborators;'34 one of these, Haya, collected this song and sent the original language text with a Spanish translation to Nordenskiöld's successor Wassén, another researcher, who got his colleague Holmer to revise the translation. Lévi-Strauss read their article, apparently published in English, wrote about it in French (as 'L'efficacité symbolique'35); it is translated into English by Claire Jacobson & Brooke Grundfest Schoepf, read by me in that form, and is now written about again here. The gaps between each of the transfers or translations between the 'original' text (however it may be considered to exist) and the present discussion and its readership might, on the one hand, give one pause; it is, however, in such interstitial spaces in which we may expect to find various functions of a cultural unconscious to betray their existence.

The song tells of a quest: the quest for the lost 'purba, or "soul."' It relates how Muu, understood to be both the physical uterus and the power which forms the fœtus, has captured the purba of the patient. And the nele, or shaman, together with tutelary spirits, has to go on this quest to recover it and to bring it into functional harmony with the rest of the body, so that the labour can continue successfully. The battle is not with Muu herself, who is necessary for procreation, but only against the misuse of her power.36

The analogy to be drawn with the quest of the psychoanalyst is that the soul is not exactly 'lost', but is disturbed, or 'neurotic', or sick. The word that Freud used, which Strachey usually preferred to translate as 'mind' and 'mental apparatus,' was 'Seele', which translates more literally as 'soul'. In Freud, the developing mind, like the fœtus in the Cuna song, is formed by a combination of natural and cultural factors (including the Œdipus complex, for example). When this development goes wrong, and causes a dysfunction of the mind or soul, the midwife requests the assistance of the shaman (as the referring physician requests the assistance of the analyst), and he uses language to bring about a successful delivery.

Although Lévi-Strauss uses the term 'shaman' for the nele, he points out that, although he has the required training, and does need to make specific preparations to be equal to the task, the man does not enter a hypnotic state. The nele is one of three 'medicine men' in this society, and is the one whose ability is seen to be innate, rather than consisting of the kind of knowledge of songs and cures which can be acquired by the other two. His special gift is supernatural sight, which can see through to the cause of the illness - rather in the way that the psychoanalyst sees through to the ¾tiology of the neurosis in the unconscious. Though I am not aware of any reference in Freud to any reference to midwifery or maieutics as such, there is still an obvious analogy to be drawn with the process of psychoanalysis, especially if one bears in mind that this is a conventional way to speak of the Socratic method of drawing out, educing, what is to be established.

The illness which the nele is able to treat is caused by the vital forces having been carried off by evil spirits - or, to speak in psychoanalytic terms, by an inappropriate cathexis (or investment of psychical energy). The nele can bring these evil spirits onto his side, getting them to protect or assist him - or he can bring about an appropriate recathexis of vital forces onto the task at hand: the labour. To do this, he uses figurines which he has carved, and which become the embodiment of these spirits.

The major discovery made by the other scholars, and pointed out by Lévi-Strauss, is that the region to which the quest has to be made is not thought merely - or not only - to be mythical: it is also in the body of the pregnant woman. In the same way, as I have said earlier, that symptoms in neurosis are written on bodies, so here the patient's affliction is seen as being simultaneously physical and metaphysical, or, in psychoanalytic terms, somatic and psychical. It is in the woman's body that the doctor enters into combat with the spirits responsible for her condition, and his success in the struggle will be measured by the disappearance of the bodily problem, just as Freud's was measured by the changes in behaviour of his clients, by the way in which their bodies came once again under 'their' control.

Lévi-Strauss engages in a lengthy discussion of the translation of some of the key words in the Cuna text, a discussion of what amounts to the metapsychological topology understood by the Cuna people as obtaining in human beings. This is presumably relatively speculative on the part of Lévi-Strauss, who, I assume, does not have first-hand knowledge of this society and its language and is therefore dependent on the Scandinavian commentators. (He says, for example, that 'it would perhaps be bold to suggest that the niga, an attribute of the living being, results from the existence of not one but several purba, which are functionally interrelated.'37 But he does suggest it.) This will therefore be a moment at which we can expect to find a revelation of some of the Lévi-Straussian assumptions, of a prioris which form part of his ideology. And what we find of course is structuration. Firstly, there is a division between physical and mental, between the niga, which is, we are told, vital or physical strength, and the purba, which is the soul or essence or double - and here Lévi-Strauss himself refers to Plato and to the idea of the self to convey what he sees as the meaning of the Cuna term. He points out that this is not a distinction between animate and inanimate, but it is, nevertheless, not far from a distinction between natural and cultural. There is then a further distinction between different purba for each major bodily organ (heart, bones, teeth, hair, nails and feet are the examples given). And the health of the whole, the niga, vital strength, requires a healthy balance between all the parts of the body, the 'integrity of the "chief body,"' writes Lévi-Strauss, quoting the cuerpo jefe of the Spanish text here.

'Muu, therefore is not a fundamentally evil force: she is a force gone awry,'38 he concludes. She has led astray and captured all the other purba, the other souls of the other parts of the body. Once these other 'souls' are liberated, the Muu purba, the 'soul' of the uterus, must again cooperate with the body as a whole. In the same way, once the drive that has taken over the body affected by neurosis has been separated from it by successful psychoanalysis, once it has ceased to be obsessive or paranoid or otherwise deviant, the body as a whole can proceed to function integrally and healthily.

The point of the whole exercise for Lévi-Strauss is to 'explain how specific psychological representations are invoked to combat equally specific physiological disturbances,'39 because in other shamanistic cures (he identifies three types) this coincidence does not occur. This kind of interest suggests the same kind of profound interest that for Freud is essential to the psychoanalytic cure: where mere suggestion or the technique of hypnosis will no longer do, and where the treatment can only be successful if there is an intense comprehension brought into existence in the patient of the relationship between the somatic and the psychical, where the inarticulate body, the mental apparatus and language all agree in their understanding of the cause of the problem.

The second half of the paper is devoted to setting out the comparison between shamanism and psychoanalysis, which involves Lévi-Strauss not only in an evaluation of the latter, but also a redefinition - at least to the extent of some of its key terms. Discussion of this comparison will also serve as an exemplary demonstration of Lévi-Strauss's structuralism, as it will show his frequent use of pairing, binaries, analogies, crossings, and exchanges. And it will also reveal, at the end of the analysis, some aspects of the ideology of Lévi-Straussian structural anthropology.

It is the similarities between the two - shamanism and psychoanalysis - which are more important for Lévi-Strauss than the differences, which are based mainly in his idea that the shaman is working in the context of social myth, while the psychoanalyst helps create an individual myth for the client. This distinction depends, however, on Lévi-Strauss's rather unusual use of the concept 'myth'. He attempts to counter any objections to his use by drawing attention at the outset to its unconventionality in the psychoanalytic context: '...Êmany psychoanalysts would refuse to admit that the psychic constellations which reappear in the patient's conscious could constitute a myth.'40 He deals with the proposed objection (the objector suggested in the footnote is Marie Bonaparte41) by suggesting that there is something called 'living myth', the overtly organic name of which seems to be require to be defined in mystical or Jungian terms. Lévi-Strauss, however, describes this in reliably structuralist fashion:

By this we mean that the dramatizing power of any situation cannot result from its intrinsic features but must, rather, result from the capacity of certain events, appearing within an appropriate psychological, historical, and social context, to induce an emotional crystallization which is molded by a pre-existing structure.42

These structures, he says, would more accurately be called 'structural laws.' And such laws, of course, apply to us all: primitive or civilized, normal or neurotic. So by the force of this line of argument not only do the two categories of myth collapse into one, but the two kinds of therapy also are revealed to be essentially the same: 'The last difference between the theory of shamanism and psychoanalytic theory would then vanish.' This is, finally, because they both operate with the same unconscious - not Freud's unconscious, as I have suggested above, but a structuralist unconscious, which is 'reducible to ... the symbolic function.'

Having carried off the Freudian unconscious, Lévi-Strauss then proceeds to have his way with the preconscious as well. Rather than being descriptive of a sort of buffer area between what is conscious and what is unrecoverably unconscious, the structuralist preconscious is transformed into a treasure trove: 'a reservoir of recollections and images amassed in the course of a lifetime...'43 It is 'the individual lexicon where each of us accumulates the vocabulary of his personal history...'44, but which can only become significant when the unconscious structures it. This is of course nothing less than a major modification of the Freudian apparatus. Given that Lévi-Strauss has written only one page before that he wants to 'elucidate obscure points of Freudian theory,'45 he has a responsibility to be more accurate in his use of what he appropriates. Writing in 1949, long after Freud's death and his publication of the works of the 1920s and 1930s which clarified his final position on the relationship between mental structure and the notional un/conscious, Lévi-Strauss has little right to say that the concept of the unconscious is an obscure point of Freudian theory. He can of course redefine terms for his own particular use, based on observations which produce different data from Freud's, but that is a different enterprise from his stated one of 'elucidation'. This may be in the nature of a quibble, however, if the structural laws which Lévi-Strauss seeks to establish turn out to be valuable concepts with which to work. It is the general application that is important, and the 'unconsciousness' of the processes involved, rather than the specific model of mental structure that is in use.

Proceeding then to the similarities between shamanism and psychoanalysis: Lévi-Strauss concludes that what we call psychoanalysis is precisely 'the modern version of shamanistic technique.'46 Both techniques posit the existence in the patient of unconscious resistance; both employ a version of transference to create an experiential process which tends towards cure or improvement: a process that psychoanalysis calls abreaction. The analyst through his intervention in the transference mechanism and the shaman through the role that he creates for himself in the therapeutic song - both offer, by this psychical construct, a means through which the patient can realign her understanding of her relationship with physical and social reality. Although the psychoanalyst listens, whereas the shaman speaks, both use language as the primary tool with which they work. While the psychoanalyst's patient 'puts words into his mouth' in the transference, the shaman literally 'speaks for his patient,' in that the song he sings attributes a good deal of speech to her.

Despite this, however, he attributes a good deal of the action to himself: he is the real hero of the song that he sings. And, although he records this, it is significant that Lévi-Strauss does not comment on the way that, although the whole process may be beneficial to her, this aspect of it actually takes power away from the woman, in reducing her from the central actor in the struggle to a secondary position as the receiver of the results of the central action, like those princesses in fairytales who have to wait passively until the prince comes to rescue them. This is an aspect of this cultural artefact about which Lévi-Strauss will not - or cannot - speak.

Not so much interested in the literal level of language, but more in the level of the symbolic, because he is working his way in the argument to the discussion of structural laws and symbolic function, Lévi-Strauss turns to a particular psychotherapeutic practice. Taking the work of Sechehaye as his site for exemplification, he discusses techniques in which the therapist goes beyond speech and uses physical behaviour in order to 'reach deeply buried complexes.' Such a therapy might include, for example, 'putting the cheek of the patient in contact with the breast of the analyst.'47 The risks run in establishing such practices could not have been as clear in 1949 as they later became - as recorded, for example, by Jeffrey Masson, in 1988, in Against Therapy.48 It is arguably not necessary, however, for the therapist to engage in such dangerous practices in order to be able to argue for the symbolic function and value of transference. In fact this is really the point that Lévi-Strauss is going on to make himself, that the transference, the facilitation of change 'must be carried out through symbols, that is, through meaningful equivalents of things meant which belong to another order of reality.' And Lévi-Strauss conveys the parallelism between the two therapies in one of those wonderful sentences containing a figure of speech which is echt Lévi-Strauss.

The gestures of Sechehaye reverberate in the unconscious mind of the schizophrenic just as the representations evoked by the shaman bring about a modification in the organic functions of the woman in childbirth.49

This analogical trope, the parallel construction, is one of the essential modes of thought in Lévi-Straussian structural anthropology, both in the sense that this is how Lévi-Strauss thinks and also in that it is how he sees the human mind (or at least the 'savage mind') as thinking. Be that as it may: the point at issue here is in the relationship of representations and functions: the symbolic relationship. It is what permits Lévi-Strauss to conclude that this production of myth which occurs in both therapies is an instance of language - although not essentially verbal - and structured by the unconscious according to its laws.

In relation to the notion of levels of culture, Lévi-Strauss provides his own very effective summary near the end of the paper, drawing together both the hypothesis of formal homologies in culture and also the effectiveness of symbols - the subject of the paper - when he writes:

The effectiveness of symbols would consist precisely in this 'inductive property,' by which formally homologous structures, built out of different materials at different levels of life - organic processes, unconscious mind, rational thought - are related to one another.50

Not that the process by which the structural anthropologist discovers these 'homologous structures' is inductive: the reverse is the case, as he writes four years later, when dealing with a similar problem.

From the structuralist point of view which one has to adopt if only to give the problem [of social structure] its meaning, it would be hopeless to try to reach a valid definition of social structure on an inductive basis ... 51

It is, rather, the human mind which works thus inductively, moving from one level of culture at which it perceives a hypothetical logic, a sense, to another where there is a contradiction requiring, if not resolution, at least mediation.

Lévi-Strauss as analyst

It remains to be seen to what extent it is useful to see Lévi-Strauss as an analyst, in the sense that has been developed earlier when dealing with Freud, that is, in his capacity to show how symptoms indicate the force of powerful divisions in the personality, divisions which provoke these inadvertent slips, obsessive rituals, and other neurotic behaviours. Both are engaged in psychoanalysis, it will be shown, in the sense that both show how aberrant or apparently illogical uses of the body betray the existence of an inward struggle between drives which, although unconscious, are powerful determinants of habitual (or 'primitive') thought. The only difference is that the one will normally, at at least initially, concentrate on the individual human subject, whereas the other begins at the level of the social, of the group.

I turn firstly to a consideration of what is perhaps Lévi-Strauss's best-known paper, 'The structural study of myth.'52 This is not only his most succinct discussion of the way in which myths are unconsciously engaged in the attempted solution of problems, and therefore his clearest demonstration of his conception of the unconscious activities of the mind, but it also works over territory which Freud also found crucial for the discovery of perhaps the most important psychoanalytic hypothesis.

Before beginning to deal with the Œdipus myth, Lévi-Strauss makes several points about the nature of myths: their meaning resides in the combination of elements, of what he calls 'mythemes' or 'gross constituents units;' they have 'a two-dimensional time referent which is simultaneously diachronic and synchronic.' Unlike time in both (structural) langue, which is reversible and in (statistical) parole, which is non-reversible - time in myth combines both the first two and is both historical (non-reversible) and timeless.53 And myths are always recognisable as such, even through the 'worst' translation: the translator cannot betray them: 'Myth is the part of language where the formula traduttore, tradittore reaches its lowest truth value.'54 Myths are always felt to be so because of the stories they tell, he writes; and then proceeds to an uncharacteristically vague (and 'unscientific') characterisation of the reason for this, in a formulation I have already drawn attention to above, though in a less sceptical context: 'Myth is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at "taking off" from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling.'55 Why the vague metaphor: 'taking off' [décoller]? Why the qualifier 'practically' [si l'on peut dire]? Does it or does it not succeed? Why is it 'rolling' [rouler], rather than something more precise, such as 'being retold,' or 'transmitted'?

I suggest that an answer may be found in two striking self-contradictions to be at the beginning of the Œdipus study. The first is to be found in a comparison he makes between himself and a pedlar attempting to sell toys in the street.

We simply wish to illustrate ... a certain technique, whose use is probably not legitimate in this particular instance, owing to the problematic elements indicated above. The 'demonstration' should therefore be conceived, not in terms of what the scientist means by this term, but at best in terms of what is meant by the street peddler, whose aim is not to achieve a concrete result, but to explain, as succinctly as possible, the functioning of the mechanical toy which he is trying to sell to the onlookers.56

The first self-contradiction is inherent in this last metaphor. That the street pedlar does aim to achieve a concrete result is of course indicated at the end of the same sentence: he is in fact hoping for a sale: what concrete result could be more desired by a pedlar? Explaining the toy is actually secondary, merely a means to an end. The idealistic philosopher may assume that salesmen have the best of intentions: they only want buyers to gain an understanding of what they are buying; but anyone who has ever bought a used car will know that the aim of the salesman is somewhat at variance with this ideal. It is a delightfully unselfconscious passage in Lévi-Strauss: that he should use an image drawn from the world of commerce, but show a momentary blindness to its essential nature. Why does Lévi-Strauss take the risk of exposing himself as a mere pedlar who is not only more concerned with selling something apparently trivial than with explaining how it works - a procedure which is 'probably not legitimate' anyway - but also wishes to conceal his real motives?

The second self-contradiction is exposed in when one inquires what are the 'problematic elements indicated above?' They consist in the fact that

the Œdipus myth has only reached us under late forms and through literary transmutations concerned more with esthetic and moral preoccupations than with religious or ritual ones ...

But why is this a problem on page 213 when the author has only just told us quite adamantly on page 210 that 'the mythical value of the myth is preserved ... even through the worst translation'?

Part of the answer to both questions is perhaps suggested by Lévi-Strauss's reference to his readership in the same paragraph as the street pedlar figure. He confesses to an inability to be able to offer 'an explanation acceptable to the specialist' - perhaps even a fear that he cannot come up to the expectations of the 'scientist' who also appears in this paragraph. I suggest that what Lévi-Strauss is deferring to is the ideal of the intellectual discipline: he is afraid that he is crossing disciplinary boundaries - an enterprise perhaps less acceptable in 1955 than it was to become later, and especially in relation to the present inquiry where interdisciplinarity is explicitly one of the matters under investigation.

What would be the alternative for Lévi-Strauss to this awkward fence-sitting? It would be better perhaps to be a respectable 'specialist' or 'scientist'. But he would then lose precisely the originality of these forays between linguistics and anthropology, literature and narratology, and also precisely the ability to construct these hypotheses about mind, so complex a phenomenon as to require a multidisciplinary approach, a multiplicity of different ways of approaching the problem of its nature. It is intriguing to wonder, if he were writing the same paper today, in the period of the postmodern, Lévi-Strauss might have allowed himself to enjoy the incongruity of imagining himself standing on a street corner 'selling' the explanation of the functioning of that mechanical toy: the human mind.

Lévi-Strauss proceeds to carry out his 'demonstration'. The game he suggests playing is to assume that the myth has somehow got itself into the wrong pattern: 'The myth will be treated as an orchestra score would be if it were unwittingly considered as a unilinear series; our task is to re-establish the correct arrangement.'57 And he arranges the mythemes in what is now the familiar pattern: the four columns. But this is apparently both 'the correct arrangement' and at the same time the merest hypothesis: 'Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the best arrangement is the followingÊ...Ê'58 Having put the elements into this pattern, it now becomes the task of the analyst to work out why they are so arranged. 'All the relations belonging to the same column exhibit one common feature which it is our task to discover.'59

The artificiality of this procedure - or of the rhetoric surrounding it at least - must remind anyone who has read 'The making of an anthropologist' of the intellectual training described there, the principle technique of which, in an 'always identical method,' was to set up categories which are contrasting views of a question, both of which come to be seen as inadequate when a third view is introduced which 'reveals the incomplete character of the first two.' The first two are now seen as being 'complementary aspects of one and the same reality.'60 This is, I suggest, quite an accurate description of the analysis employed in the structural study of the Œdipus myth. Lévi-Strauss comments on the skills he acquired in this 'form of mental gymnastics' in his five years of study at the Sorbonne:

Not only does this method provide a key to open any lock; it also leads one to suppose that the rich possibilities of thought can be reduced to a single, always identical pattern, at the cost of a few rudimentary adjustments.61

If, however, the technique turns out to be productive in the present case, Lévi-Strauss's negative judgement on how he was taught to think may come to require meliorative qualification.

Much depends on just what he sees as being a mytheme, the fundamental meaningful unit in a myth. And again, for anyone familiar with his work up to 1955 there would have been little surprise in discovering what he identified then as the common feature in the first two columns he establishes, because their chief characteristic derives directly from his major work up to that date: the Elementary Structures of Kinship of 1949, having to do with under- and over-rating of kinship.62

It also has much to do with Freud, and it is also no surprise to find Freud mentioned, strikingly, as not only a user of the Œdipus myth, but as himself the contributor of one of the versions thereof. It follows, of course, by his own logic, that Lévi-Strauss has in his turn continued the series of 'versions'. One might however not agree with his account of what Freud's version consists in: '... the problem of understanding how one can be born from two: How is it that we do not have only one procreator, but a mother plus a father?'63 I must say I read Freud's use of Œdipus rather differently, as having to do with another question: What is an appropriate object with which to cathect? Or, less technically: Whom, within cultural constraints, may I desire? My reading, of course, is a literal one, and there is no doubt that the child dealing with the Œdipus complex is dealing with the problem of relating to each of the parents; but it is a leap to suggest that the problem it is dealing with is one of origin. The curious thing is that Freud's analysis was already in fact dealing with under- and over-rating of kinship - just as Lévi-Strauss now suggests is the concern of the Greek myth. Perhaps what we have here is a denial on the author's part of his own origins, in the sense of the origin of his line of thought on the question, a denial of its paternity. If what Freud calls the Œdipus complex has been seen, since the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams, as the primary meaning of this myth, it is difficult to transcend that hypothesis, and easier to incorporate it in one's own.

I quoted Lévi-Strauss a moment ago referring to the doubtful benefit of reducing complex phenomena to a unitary form, to the dangerous assumption that 'the rich possibilities of thought can be reduced to a single, always identical pattern.' Despite this danger, however, he desires to discover, through a structural analysis of the myth content 'rules of transformation which enable us to shift from one variant to another by means of operations similar to those of algebra.'64 And this is exactly what he attempts to do in setting out the famous formula to which every myth, it is proposed, corresponds:

Fx (a) : Fy (b) :: Fx (b) : Fa-1 (y) [65]

Apart from the reductionism of the formula, it is extremely difficult to understand, partly because of precisely the two characteristics that Lévi-Strauss points out himself: that a term is replaced by its opposite (confusingly designated by a and a-1); and that function value and term value are inverted in their position in the expression: and at least two commentators have gone on record as having found it at least unhelpful, if not incomprehensible.66 I must consider it, however, if only because it is immediately and consequentially followed by the second reference to Freud in this paper: a reference to the claim that 'Freud considered that two traumas (and not one, as is so commonly said) are necessary in order to generate the individual myth in which a neurosis consists.'67 Unfortunately, Lévi-Strauss does not say whether a trauma is a term or a function (nor give a footnote to the reference)68 and so in the context provided one can only confront with dismay the proposal that 'we would find ourselves in the much desired position of developing side by side the anthropological and the psychological aspects of the theory.'69

When he is being more expatiatory, however, one can envisage the kind of parallel endeavour he proposes here, as in the conclusion to the paper, which is in three parts. Firstly, Lévi-Strauss approaches the question of redundancy in myths and oral literature and concludes that 'The function of repetition is to render the structure of the myth apparent.'70 This reverberates interestingly in the psychoanalytic context when one thinks of such psychic phenomena as recurrent anxiety dreams and obsessive-compulsive behaviour: indeed of any neurosis which derives from a trauma or series of similar traumatic events, and which consists essentially in a repetition of them. Cultural phenomena too may be repetitions in this communication theory sense: Freud suggests that the totemic meal is such a one, which therefore carries a message in its structure.

His second conclusion is that each of these repetitions will be slightly different from each other, and therefore theoretically infinite in number. This is because each one is generated with the intention of providing 'a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction,' which as he points out is 'an impossible achievement if, as it happens, the contradiction is real.' There will therefore have to be a potentially infinite number of attempts, limited only by the amount of energy in the 'intellectual impulse.' Once again this may have great relevance not only to behaviour of a neurotic tendency which is characterised by an eternal recurrence, but also to 'normal' everyday behaviour which is repetitious and meaningless in itself, but which can be seen to have meaning by the very fact of its repetition. The kind of behaviour which is dictated by etiquette, for example, has a sense which it is often very difficult to discover, and may have much more to do, say, with the maintenance of structural inequities in society than with what it superficially seems to be concerned with - which may well appear to be the opposite of the deeper impulse. Having suggested that the myth 'grows spiral-wise,' Lévi-Strauss is drawn to the image of a crystal, as 'its growth is a continuous process, whereas its structure remains discontinuous.'71 This gives us an insight into a particular quality of his mind, especially when one remembers that, of the three non-human things that he is contemplating as Tristes Tropiques draws to a close, one of them is 'a mineral more beautiful than all our creations' (the others being the scent of a lily and the glance of a cat).72 We will later see that the functionalist Bateson prefers more vegetative organic metaphors, while our present, structuralist writer tends to like his more geological.

The third of the conclusions to the myth paper concerns the nature of what is called elsewhere 'la pensée sauvage,' which is usually translated - with unfortunate connotations - into English as 'the savage mind.'73 (One writer suggests that 'multi-conscious mind' would indicate better the positive aspects of the concept.74) Here Lévi-Strauss refers to it (in this translation) as the 'so-called primitive mind,' and then as 'mythical thought' - clearly equating the two. In fact he equates not only these, but also 'scientific thought' and 'modern science,' at least with regard to the logic of both these and the 'primitive mind.' The intellectual process is identical: according to him, it is only the 'the nature of the things to which it is applied' which is different, as stone is from steel in the material for an axe. This overlooks the difference that the steel, unlike the stone, had to be created by human agency before it could be fashioned into an axe - but perhaps this is merely the kind of minor flaw that can usually be found in analogies. To say, though, that 'they are equally well made' does rather seem to beg the question.

As a way of coming to our own conclusion, a conclusion of another sort about this paper, we might consider together with it Lévi-Strauss's own views on the intellectual tradition that he received: the 'form of mental gymnastics' discussed above, in order to consider whether the conclusions that he comes to about myth might in a sense have been anticipated, given his background. It is arguable that the repetition which was functional in rendering apparent the structure of the myth was similarly apparent in the training at the Sorbonne, where, according to his account, Lévi-Strauss learnt to perform the same intellectual exercises over and over again for five years. And again, each of these repetitions will have been slightly different from each other, in order to generate sufficient novelty for the exercise to be carried out at all, in order not to exhaust the amount of energy in the 'intellectual impulse.' And finally, the nature of the 'method', that employed by la pensée sauvage, is identical, according to this analysis, tending to reduce 'the rich possibilities of thought ... to a single, always identical pattern' - if not necessarily the strict algebraic formula quoted above, at least the reduction to pairs of opposed categories, which is what the essential Lévi-Straussian method reveals at this time. If this conclusion is applicable, as I argue it is, it provides yet another example of the functioning of the mind-culture system that constrains the thinking of even those striving to be most revolutionary in their intellectual endeavours.

Lévi-Strauss's papers on art included in the first volume of Structural Anthropology are of particular interest, if only because they are among the earliest in the volume, and therefore suggest the hypothesis that his reflections on the subject may have been inspirational in his 'discoveries'. 'Split representation in the art of Asia and America' was first published in 1944-5, and 'The serpent with fish inside his body' in 1948.75 They will also be of great interest here because both Freud and Bateson have also claimed to have found insights into the nature of mind in works of art about which they have written.

The 'split representation' paper is indeed a rich source of material for the understanding of a number of themes in Lévi-Strauss's work. It shows how he is prepared to transcend the disciplines of history and ethnology to bring about his own structural synthesis, in that he is prepared to continue to pose a question although it appears to be unanswerable within existing paradigms. When history, and specifically, diffusionist theories, cannot be relied on for an explanation, he suggests,

then let us appeal to psychology, or the structural analysis of forms; let us ask ourselves if internal connections, whether of a psychological or logical nature, will allow us to understand parallel recurrences whose frequency and cohesion cannot possibly be the result of chance.76

And, importantly, it shows how powerful a tool the notion of dualism (or binarism) can be as an analytic instrument, when used by him.

The argument in the paper is that a particular mode of artistic representation called 'split representation,' although found in cultures widely diverse in both time and space, should still be considered as a unitary phenomenon. The splitting - which principally consists in viewing a face simultaneously from the front and in both profiles, as in some Cubist painting (to which our author does not refer) - is discovered finally to have to do with a profound split between nature and culture, biology and society, actor and role

Split representation of the face, considered as a graphic device, thus expresses a deeper and more fundamental splitting, namely that between the 'dumb' biological individual and the social person whom he must embody.77

All of the cultures concerned (ancient China, Northwest [American] Coast, {New Zealand] Maori, and Caduveo [Southern Brazil]) are 'mask cultures,' and all have structurally similar forms of social organization and religion. All stress 'rank differences, nobility privileges, and degrees of prestige,' and are 'organized along similar hierarchical lines and their decorative art function[s] to interpret and validate the ranks in the hierarchy.'78

Probably many writers could see and have seen the link between particular kinds of decoration and hierarchical social structures, but perhaps only Lévi-Strauss could at the time have had the insight that the particular kind of decoration was in itself emblematic of what it symbolised: that form and content were profoundly linked with each other. What is so striking is the perception that the phenomena simultaneously display both the separation of 'face and decoration, person and impersonation,' and at the same time the inexorable connexion between them. The expression of this perception allows Lévi-Strauss to form some of his characteristically dense, though elegant, sentences: 'Structure modifies decoration, but decoration is the final cause of structure, which must also adapt itself to the requirements of the former. ... Decoration is conceived for the face, but the face itself exists only through decoration.'79

Facial decoration is a supertext expressing an aspect of a particular culture's view of itself. The inextricable interrelationship of structure and decoration in Lévi-Strauss's sentences expresses the inextricability - although apparently deep on the one hand and superficial on the other - of those aspects of the system MC.

Lévi-Strauss returns at the end of the paper to history and to the potential of diffusion. But even while he continues to allow for the possibility of specific historical influence, he still prefers to see the larger structures in preference to the detail. So that it still would not be a question of a particular movement of artistic styles in one direction or another, but of 'organic wholes' consisting of the all the attributes of cultural and social organization, that is, a mind-culture system. Although he does not mention the 'savage mind' in this paper, or refer to anything like a collective unconscious, he does indicate in what is almost an aside in the last sentence where his real interests will take him. He quotes another writer pointing to the existence of eyes as a motif in disparate cultures and wondering whether there is some 'magical reason' for their presence. Perhaps there is, Lévi-Strauss responds, and continues: 'but magical connections, like optical illusions, exist only in men's [sic] minds, and we must resort to scientific investigation to explain their causes,'80 thus ending the paper. Although it is scientific investigation which has the rhetorical prominence, there is a clear suggestion that the answers to all the questions in which he is interested will be found in an understanding of the human mind - in its interrelationship with the culture in which it is interpellated.

And indeed this is clearly the point of the whole paper, that is in the nature of the human mind to be aware of and to use creatively those dualities that are among the bases of our existence. Lévi-Strauss moves from a consideration of a seemingly trivial aspect of the graphic arts of four quite separate cultures, through a number of connexions with other features of these cultures, to a conclusion which is profound in its implications for the understanding, not only of social organization, but also of the organization of mind itself. He himself sets thus out the increasing abstraction of his own process of thought in the paper.

We saw in the course of our analysis that the dualism between representational and non-representational art became transformed into other kinds of dualism: carving and drawing, face and decoration, person and impersonation, individual existence and social function, community and hierarchy.81

Telling endless stories about patricide and incest, dividing and distorting the subject of art in a non-representational and obsessive way: these may be regarded as nonsensical, illogical, and therefore, in that light, neurotic behaviours. Subjecting them to (psycho)analysis reveals that they do in fact have a sense. For Freud, they have a sense which reveals something about the structure and function of individual human minds; for Lévi-Strauss they reveal the nature of mind per se as something analogous to an agency. As we come now to the last stage of this investigation we shall look at the work of a writer who proposes a model which allows examination not only of individual human minds and cultures but also a way of seeing their interrelationships and their mode of existence as a unified system, with its own specific process of evolving.

The texts that Bateson analyses are not essentially different from those looked at by Freud and Lévi-Strauss. His uniqueness is in his multidisciplinary grasp of ways of seeing which simultaneously encompass important unconscious aspects of both individual and culture.

Notes

referring to the Bibliography

1 Lévi-Strauss 1976 [1955].
2 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 58-9.
3 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 67.
4 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 186-205.
5 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 197-8.
6 1900a, SE 4: 179; SE 5: 445.
7 1923c SE 19: 111-12.
8 1900a, SE 5: 579, n.1.
9 Lévi-Strauss 1970 [1964]: 64-5.
10 Lévi-Strauss 1978b: 12.
11 1908e SE 9: 152.
12 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 208.
13 Lévi-Strauss 1977 [1960]: 204.
14 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 68.
15 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 68-70 [italics in original].
16 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 210.
17 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 71-2.
18 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 245-68.
19 1923b, SE 19: 1-66.
20 1933a, SE 22: 78.
21 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 203.
22 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 59.
23 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 85.
24 Laplanche & Pontalis 1973: 474.
25 1933a, SE 22: 73.
26 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 203.
27 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 202-3.
28 Derrida 1981 [1967]: 230; no source given for the quotation.
29 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 58.
30 Lévi-Strauss 1966 [1965]: 340.
31 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 62.
32 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 87.
33 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 186-205.
34 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 186 [italics added].
35 Lévi-Strauss 1949b.
36 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 187.
37 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 189 [italics added].
38 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 190.
39 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 191.
40 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 202.
41 Lévi-Strauss refers in his footnote at this point to Bonaparte 1945.
42 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 202.
43 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 203. [Lévi-Strauss's footnote at this point reads: 'This definition, which was subjected to considerable criticism, acquires a new meaning through the radical distinction between preconscious and unconscious.']
44 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 203.
45 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 202.
46 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 204.
47 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 200. Lévi-Strauss refers his reader to Sechehaye 1947.
48 Masson 1989 [1988].
49 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 200 [italics in original].
50 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 201.
51 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 278.
52 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 206-31.
53 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 209, 212.
54 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 210.
55 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 210. 'Le mythe est langage; mais un langage qui travaille à un niveau très élevé, et où le sens parvient, si l'on peut dire, à décoller du fondement linguistique sur lequel il a commencé par rouler.' 1958: 232.
56 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 213.
57 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 213 [italics added].
58 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 213 [italics added].
59 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 215.
60 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 61.
61 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 62.
62 Lévi-Strauss 1949a.
63 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 217.
64 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 235.
65 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 228.
66 Sperber 1979: 20-1; cited in Birch 1989: 122.
67 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 228.
68 Perhaps he is thinking of the 'Dora' case study, where, among other things, Freud writes, 'of cases of hysteria ... In not a single one of them have I failed to discover the psychological determinants which were postulated in the Studies [on Hysteria], namely, a psychical trauma, a conflict of affects, and - an additional factor which I brought forward in later publications - a disturbance in the sphere of sexuality.' 1905e [1901], SE 7: 24.
69 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 228.
70 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 229.
71 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 229 [italics in original].
72 Lévi-Strauss 1976: 544.
73 Lévi-Strauss 1966 [1965]. The translator is not named.
74 Hawkes 1977: 52.
75 Lévi-Strauss 1972 [1944-5] Chapter 13 of Structural Anthropology Volume 1: 245-68; 1972 [1948] Chapter 14 of Structural Anthropology Volume 1: 269-73.
76 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 248.
77 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 259.
78 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 256.
79 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 261.
80 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 266.
81 Lévi-Strauss 1972: 261.

Bibliography


New: 8 August, 1996 | Now: 22 January, 2018