Why Claude Levi-Strauss Is Considered the Father of Modern Anthropology?

Claude Levi-Strauss contributed greatly to the field of anthropology. Thus, he is considered the father of modern anthropology. Born in Brussels and raised in Paris by French parents, Claude became one of the leading and most respectable intellectuals in France soon after the World War because he managed to revolutionize anthropology by transforming it from an ancient way of thinking to a modern one. Given his interest in anthropology, Claude grasped anthropology on his own despite constant interacting with anthropologists (Doja 19). During his lifetime, Claude wrote several books two of which were acknowledged by the French Government thus becoming classics of French Literature. As such, Claude has made significant contributions to the development of social anthropology in France and the world at large. This paper seeks to analyze why Claude is considered by many as the father of modern anthropology.

The French anthropologist and ethnologist worked hard to reshape anthropology by introducing structuralism. Structuralism can be simply defined as the process of searching the hidden ways through which human beings think (Hénaff 76). By introducing structuralism, Claude made it easier for people to make comparisons of formal relationships in any given society. This was indeed a great step in the field of anthropology because the work of anthropologists was made easier. However, the association of flamboyant figures such as Lacan, Barthes, and Foucault with structuralism was not appealing to Claude (Kuper para. 13). Despite this, Claude continued to pursue his research in anthropology.

Claude developed several theories in anthropology, which played a great role in the conversion of ancient anthropology to modern anthropology. Among several theories that Claude unveiled include the establishment of commonalities between industrial and tribal societies. By studying the mythology of primitive tribes, Claude was able to transform anthropology making the society understand civilization (Kuper par. 10). Claude argued that the ancient people strongly believed in tribal myths. He, however, indicated that such thinking was unhealthy for society since it brought about social differences.

“Despite the fact that Claude sought to apply most of the works of Ferdinand de Saussure of structural linguistics in the field of anthropology, they differed on the issue of family settings” (Hénaff 63). According to Ferdinand, a family was a self-contained unit consisting of the nuclear family (father, mother, and children), while excluding those in the extended family (grandparents, cousins, aunties, uncles etc.). However, according to Claude there was a relationship between the units. This is what provoked Claude to invert the classical view of anthropology by insisting that identities were a result of marriages but not blood relations.

Nevertheless, despite the contributions made by Claude in anthropology, he was criticized by different groups of people. For instance, some readers criticized his writing saying that it is difficult to understand. Others view his theories as a trick on human beings, which is difficult to unveil.

Despite all the criticism, Claude remains what he is, the father of modern anthropology. Sadly, at the age of 100 Claude passed away in November 2009 in Paris after a cardiac arrest. His death came as a big blow to France for they had lost a great intellectual. In fact, the president of France at that time, Nicolas Sarkozy joined his government officials and the whole nation in mourning the great man by popularizing blogs containing heartfelt tributes.


Doja, Albert. “Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009): The apotheosis of heroic anthropology.” Anthropology Today 26.5 (2010): 18–23. Print.

Hénaff, Marcel. Claude Lévi-Strauss and the Making of Structural Anthropology. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1998. Print.

Kuper, Adam. “Claude Levi-Strauss: Intellectual considered the father of modern anthropology whose work inspired structuralism”. The Independent, 2009. Web.