Durkheim and Strauss

Topics: Reasoning, Logic, Idea Pages: 4 (1397 words) Published: March 6, 2013
Engineer and Bricoleur, Religion and Mythical Thinking
In his text The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Emile Durkheim is primarily interested in the functionalism of religion within society. Durkheim does not limit himself to religion; he also focuses on society’s structure and its preservation. In The Savage Mind, Claude Lévi-Strauss focuses on the theory of mythical thinking. Strauss analyzes and discusses society and how its structure is a result of mythical thinking. Strauss spends a lot of time focusing on two particular forms of thinking, “bricoleur” thinking and engineer thinking. According to Strauss’ definition of an engineer and a bricoleur, I would argue that Durkheim’s theory only favors the thinking of an engineer where as Strauss’ theory favors the thinking of a bricoleur. In The Savage Mind, Lévi-Strauss makes the distinction between an engineer and a bricoleur. Strauss best compares the two when he says, “It might be said that the engineer questions the universe, while the ‘bricoleur’ addresses himself to a collection of oddments left over from human endeavours, that is, only a sub-set of the culture.” (Strauss 19) Strauss describes an engineer as one who does not let the constraints of a particular civilization inhibit him. An engineer is a scientist who is always looking for other messages that have not been heard of or been answered before. Strauss defines a bricoleur as someone who is constrained by existing boundaries or restraints. Strauss uses the bricoleur to compare it with mythical thought. Strauss claims that mythical thought is the same as a bricoleur, except that mythical thought is constrained by restraints within a society. Strauss describes the constraints from society as, “The elements which the ‘bricoleur’ collects and uses are ‘pre-constrained’ like the constitutive units of myth, the possible combinations of which are restricted by the fact that they are drawn from the language where they already posses a sense which sets...
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