Review of L’Imaginé, l’imaginaire & le symbolique, by Maurice Godelier

Abstract : Maurice Godelier has become one of the major anthropologists of the second half of the 20 th and of the 21 st centuries. Often too quickly categorised as a Marxist anthropologist, his research and publications have in fact with perseverance investigated the complex relationship between the material conditions of existence, the social relationships that organise access to and control of these resources, and the imaginary rationales (and symbolic bodies) that articulate and legitimise these relationships. From La production des Grands Hommes (1982), his major ethnographic monograph on the Baruya of Papua New-Guinea, to L'idéel et le materiel (1984) where his conclusions are formulated into much wider applicable theoretical suggestions, or L'énigme du don (1996), Métamorphoses de la parenté (2004), Au fondement des societies humaines (2007), and Lévi-Strauss (2013), to quote just a few, Godelier has gradually evolved in the ways he articulates the relationship between the fundamental triad mentioned above. To make a long story short, while in earlier works he suggested that kinship and gender relationships are fundamental in the ways in which societies organise their access to resources and define the ways in which they conceive themselves as an entity of belonging, in his latest contributions he gradually moved the perspective to an upper level considering that it is the articulation of power relationships with belief systems within the political-religious domain that are universally at the core of social reality and cultural diversity, as well as of their historical evolution. Through this trajectory, Godelier has also used, coined or redefined notions that have become part of his theoretical toolbox in the analysis of these political-religious systems.
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Laurent Dousset. Review of L’Imaginé, l’imaginaire & le symbolique, by Maurice Godelier. Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2017, ⟨10.1080/00664677.2017.1347249⟩. ⟨halshs-01573929⟩

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