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Totemism Paperback – 1 Jan 1964

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
An awakener from Anthropology 2 Feb. 2002
By Michel Heller - Published on
Format: Paperback
A classic of 20th Century intellectual creativity, that has been recognized as such, but that has not yet received the full attention it deserves. It has momentarelly be dispensed of as "old fashioned", when social sciences based on neuro-sciences has clearly not yet integrated the vast webb of implications the formulations of this volume generate.
An absolute must, even - or because - many formulations are arguable. It is not a book that proposes conclusions, but awakens our intelligence.
Down with fuzzy thinking! 7 Mar. 2015
By krebsman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had no intention of reading this book. The book I wanted to read was Levi-Strauss’s THE SAVAGE MIND. However, that book begins with “This book is complete in itself, but the problems it discusses are closely linked to those which I surveyed more hastily in a recent work entitled TOTEMISM (trans. Rodney Needham, London, 1964). Without wishing to oblige the reader to refer to it, it is proper to draw his attention to the connection between the two: the first forms a kind of historical and critical introduction to the second.” So I put down the book and ordered TOTEMISM. I do not have a strong background in anthropology. My reason for reading the book is to research another project.

“Totemism” was the most difficult thing for me to understand in Durkheim’s THE ELEMENTARY FORMS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE. But I just decided that it wasn’t important for me to understand for my particular project. However, I was obviously not the only one who didn’t understand “Totemism.” On reading this book, I now understood why: because there’s no such thing! (Levi-Strauss compares it to writing about “Hysteria.”) Levi-Strauss carefully lays out all the reasons that such eminent and respected minds as Boas, Malinowsky, and Durkheim (among others) were mistaken. Most of the time, I had no difficulty following Levi-Strauss’s arguments, but I occasionally found it helpful to read some brief encyclopedic entries about some of the people and things he mentions. But those with a better background should have no problem. This was, for me at least, a fascinating book and I was awed by the solution that Levi-Strauss comes up with. According to him, the anthropologists had got it all wrong! For the correct answer, look all the way back to Rousseau (!) and then hear what the 20th Century philosopher Henri Bergson has to say. And Levi-Strauss makes it seem perfectly obvious. I can’t wait to start THE SAVAGE MIND. Five stars.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fundamental thematic development totems ... 28 July 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book, even did a painting on it. I can't imagine not having read it.
5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
a classic, boring book 23 Jan. 2009
By J. Shepard - Published on
Format: Paperback
Don't read this book for pleasure. Only read it if you have to. It's useful if you have a good reason to read it.
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