Stanley Diamond on civilization and ‘the primitive’

Diamond quotes Lévi-Strauss on the effects of civilization:

Civilization manufactures monoculture like sugar-beet.

And quotes the great Lewis Henry Morgan:

Since the advent of civilization, the outgrowth of property has been so immense, its forms so diversified, its uses so expanding, and its management so intelligent in the interests of its owners, that is has become, on the part of the people an unmanageable power. The human mind stands bewildered in the presence of its own creation. The time will come, nevertheless, when human intelligence will rise to the mastery over property, and define the relations of the state to the property it protects, as well as the obligations and the limits of the rights of its owners.

Stanley Diamond. 1964. “A revolutionary discipline.” Current Anthropology 5.5, pp. 432-437


Lévi-Strauss on Anthropology

Anthropology is not a dispassionate science like astronomy, which springs from the contemplation of things at a distance. It is the outcome of a historical process which has made the larger part of mankind subservient to the other, and during which millions of innocent human beings have had their resources plundered and the institutions and beliefs destroyed, whilst they themselves were ruthlessly killed, thrown into bondage, and contaminated by diseases they were unable to resist. Anthropology is daughter to this era of violence: its capacity to assess more objectively the facts pertaining to the human condition reflects, on the epistemological level, a state of affairs in which 1 part of mankind treated the other as an object.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1966. “Anthropology: its achievements and future.” Current Anthropology 7.2, p.126


Lévi-Strauss: What Disappears on Death

What disappears with the death of a personality is a synthesis of ideas and modes of behaviour as exclusive and irreplaceable as the one a floral species develops out of simple chemical substances common to all species. When the loss of someone dear to us…moves us, we suffer much the same sense of irreparable privation that we should experience were Rosa centifola to become extinct and its scent to disappear for ever. From this point of view it seems not untrue to say that some modes of classing, arbitrarily isolated under the title of totemism, are universally employed: among ourselves this ‘totemism’ has merely been humanized. Everything takes place as if in our civilization every individual’s own personality were his totem: it is the signifier of his signified being.

Savage Mind, p. 214

Via Savage Minds