Mixing sociology and anthropology: naming Claude Levi-Strauss a “founder of sociology”

While describing the theme of the Magnificat, a writer mixes sociology and anthropology:

The triumph of the meek is a recurring narrative in all cultures both sacred and secular. One of the fathers of sociology, Claude Levi-Strauss, documented the recurrence of identical consoling myths throughout all cultures. The themes of the Magnificat are echoed in Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling and Forrest Gump and my favourite in this genre, the rom-com Sleepless in Seattle. There is retribution for the wicked and reward for humility and generosity of spirit. This too conforms to Levi-Strauss pattern. He noted that these universal narratives often employ binary opposites — death/life, good/evil, suffering/reward. The main difference between religion compensation myths and the profane ones is that the religious ones often need a magical trigger such as the afterlife or the coming of God. And that of course, is where I must differ with the Magnificat – a minor quibble in the scheme of things.

Comparing the Magnificat and Sleepless in Seattle? You don’t see that every day. Sociology and anthropology share some common foundational thinkers, people like Karl Marx, but Levi-Strauss is clearly an anthropologist. Even Wikipedia knows this!

Claude Lévi-Strauss (French pronunciation: [klod levi st?os]; (28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the “father of modern anthropology”.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember a time I’ve seen Levi-Strauss cited in a sociological piece. At the same time, his ideas about binary oppositions can be found in sociology of culture work. For example, Jeffrey Alexander has some pieces working with binary oppositions.


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