What are the major criticisms of the theory of “Structuralism” as propounded by Claude Levi—Strauss?
Structuralism believes that the structure of human thought processes is the same in all cultures. Claude Levi-Strauss was a staunch believer in psychic unity of mankind.
Structuralists say that every culture has some hidden rules that govern the behaviour of the members. Anthropologists may discover those underlying thought processes by examining such things as kinship, myth, ritual, language.
1. Structural methods are imprecise and dependent on the observer, thus independent structural analyses of the same phenomena may not arrive at the same conclusions.
2. Historical Factors: Mainly concerned with the structure of human psyche – it does not address the historical aspects/change in culture. That is, it is ahistoric and static. Although, historical aspects gives numerous details on social change
3. Individuality: Lack of human individuality. Human thought is not as uniform and invariable as structuralism assumes it to be.
4. Human Acts: It does not account for independent human acts.
5. Lack of proof – The assumption that fundamental structures of human thought are universal is just that – an assumption. It was never proved, paving way for other theories such as post-structuralism.
6. Cannot be externally validated, hence not scientific enough.
7. Reality vs Ideality: It depicts not reality but the idealized behavioral patterns
8. Cultural Variation: It fails to explain cultural variation i.e. why should structure be maintained only by this custom and not by some other one i.e. technological, economic and ecological factors might have to be considered to answer such questions
Despite the criticisms, Structuralism was highly influential, and even today, the concept of ‘role of universal human thought process in shaping culture’ is still pursued in cognitive anthropology.