According to Levi-Strauss, the structure that underlies the practice is not to do either with the avoidance
of genetic inbreeding or with psychological confusion.
Rather it is constituted as a principle of
exchange which provides a significant functional contribution to social life.
If there were continuous consanguineous marriage, society would progressively fragment into tiny and
separate parts, the biological families of which it is composed.
The exchange of partners provides for negotiation between families and ultimately to a set or norms
that governs these exchanges.
Without rules of exogamy there is no exchange and without exchange
there is no society.
“incest is socially absurd before it is morally culpable”
The problem is that the average participant in society knows nothing of this if asked.
structure has to be carried unconsciously and to be transmitted genetically.
In a later reflection Levi-Stauss (1977: 289-90) argues that structure has four characteristics.
It has systematic qualities i.e., it is made up of a number of elements, none of which can be
changed without affecting all the others.
The relations between the elements are capable of “transformation” so that they can be seen
to be repeated in several different domains (e.g., kinship, economics, politics, myth).
The relations between elements are determinate, which means that one can predict how the
structure will react if one of the elements changes.
The existence of a structure means that all the elements of social life are in principle
The central element in Levi-Straus’ work is the revelation of structure by an analysis of myths, which
he defines as the stories people tell about themselves.
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Marx was born in Trier, in Prussia, which traverses what is now the Eastern border of Poland.
He took a doctorate at Berlin.
He moved to Paris to try to find a job in 1843 and there met
Friedrich Engels, who was to become his life-long benefactor, collaborator and friend.
Whereas Freud and Levi-Strauss stress that structures are carried in the unconscious areas of the mind,
Marx’s emphasis is on the material structures of production.
At a first glance therefore, there may not seem to be a connection between Marx on the one hand and
Freud and Levi-Strauss on the other.
However, while they definitely differ on where the realm of
structures lie or are carried, they are very much in agreement in the sense that for all of them, these
structures (wherever carried) operate without reference to the conscious mind.