What is culture? This is the question that Claude Levi-Strauss tries to answer in his writings Race and History.
3 lessons on culture from Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Levi-Strauss studied the notion of culture
In his analysis, Claude Levi-Strauss rises in particular three points concerning the culture:
1. Man refuses cultures other than his own, and tends to flee them, he “repudiates” them.
2. Thus the man calls culture all that does not correspond to the standards which he fixed
3. It is thus by refusing other cultures, by refusing this plurality of cultures, that man institutes his own culture
Extract of a text of Claude Lévi-Strauss on the culture
The oldest attitude, and which undoubtedly rests on solid psychological basis since it tends to reappear in each one of us when we are placed in an unexpected situation, consists in repudiating purely and simply the cultural forms: moral, religious, social, aesthetic, which are the most distant from those with which we identify ourselves. “Savage habits that are not from us,” “we should not allow that”, etc., so many crude reactions that translate this same shiver, this same repulsion, in the presence of ways of living, believing or thinking that are foreign to us. Thus the antiquity confused all that did not take part of the Greek culture (then Greco-Roman) under the same name of barbarian; the Western civilization then used the term of savage in the same direction. But behind these epithets is hidden the same judgment: it is probable that the word barbarian refers etymologically to the confusion and in articulation of the song of birds, opposed to the signifying value of the human language; and savage, which means “of the forest”, also evokes a kind of animal life, in opposition to the human culture. In both cases, one refuses to admit the very fact of the cultural diversity; one prefers to reject out of the culture, in the nature, all that does not conform to the norm under which one lives.
Claude Levi-Strauss, Race and History, UNESCO, 1952
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“it is probable that the word barbarian
etymologically refers to the confusion and in articulation of birdsong,
as opposed to the signifying value of human language“