Structural anthropology is a paradigm which branches of structuralism in anthropology, developed in the 1940s by the ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and constitutes his major work. Structural Anthropology aims to explain the diversity of social facts by the combination of a limited number of logical possibilities linked to the architecture of the human mind, breaking with the dominant currents of ethno-anthropology: evolutionism, diffusionism , culturalism , functionalism. Structural Anthropology uses the general principles of the so-called fundamental sciences, apprehending a society as a complex system endowed with invariable autonomous properties ("structural") resulting from the relations between the elements (the individuals) which compose it, not deductible from the study of these. only individuals and not consciously perceptible a priori by them.
The terms structural analysis (or method ) in anthropology have often been used interchangeably as synonyms for structural anthropology by Lévi-Strauss himself, who set them as the titles of several of his articles and works. Today, these different terms remain attached to his name and continue to designate his general work and his methodology). To generally designate the use of the structural paradigm in anthropology, among other authors for example, the term usually used is that of structuralism in anthropology.
Structural anthropology, originating from various intellectual filiations of holistic orientation (Durkheimian sociology, Maussian ethnology, Saussurian linguistics, phonology, natural sciences, mathematics), will gradually develop an emerging scientific paradigm very close to the systemic current and the cognitivism which was established at the same time, by its taking into account of the structure (synchrony) / history (diachrony) dialectic, relations within the system and between systems, and its ambition to describe the human “mental enclosures” within of a vast science of man.
Although Lévi-Strauss initially used the term structuralism and referred to structural linguistics, he firmly and early, in the 1950s, dissociated himself from the recovery of his methods of analysis by a vast intellectual movement. transdisciplinary of formalist and semiological inspiration , which will capture the generic name of structuralism and experience in the 1960s an immense media, intellectual and political success. Lévi-Strauss will also in the 1970s abandon any reference to the notion of structure, to mark the major paradigm difference that separates him from the politicized and ultra-formalist evolution of so -called generalized structuralism .