The structural study of symbolism
Pages 4

Durkheim argued that the significance of each *totem as a †symbol stemmed, not from any intrinsic attribute, but from its position in the structure of clan totemism. The influence that Durkheim’s theory of the social origin of the meaning of totemic emblems had on †Saussure and the formulation of his structural theory of †semiology is wellknown. Lévi-Strauss later developed the structural theory of totemism, most notably in Chapter 4 of The Savage Mind. He here compares the structural logic of central Australian totemism with that of the Indian caste system. A structural approach is also taken in Stanner’s analyses of Murinbata religion, which gains from its basis in Stanner’s own fieldwork among the Murinbata. Stanner records, in a footnote, that he only learned of Lévi-Strauss’s analysis after he had commenced publication of this series of papers.