chapter  eight
21 Pages

The Kinship Abstraction in Feminist Theory

WithNancy C.M. Hartsock

A number of feminist theorists have been impressed with Claude Levi-Strauss's theory that the exchange of women marks the human transition from nature to culture and have credited him with laying the basis for developing a political economy of sex. As Levi-Strauss moves through what he sees as three sets of symbol systems sharing a single structure, one can perhaps best describe his trajectory in the terms a feminist poet used to describe the male mind. Levi-Strauss contends that the study of kinship presents the anthropologist with a situation that formally resembles that of the structural linguist. Exchange for Levi-Strauss is fundamental to purposeful human activity, since it forces natural sentiments and biological relationships into artificial social structures. Levi-Strauss argues that the prohibition against incest is less to prevent marriage with mother or sister than to require that they be given to other men.