Sociologist Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss first published Structural Anthropology in his native French in 1958. Not only did the book transform the discipline of anthropology, it also energized a movement (called structuralism) that came to dominate the humanities and social sciences for a generation.
Linguistic structuralism studies the meaning of language based not just on definitions, but also on the relationships of words and sounds to each other. Lévi-Strauss's insight was to see that this concept of structuralism in linguistics could be applied to anthropology as well. He saw that while some cultures are very different from others, they all seem to have certain internal structural relationships in common. By tracing these structures across cultures, he tried to answer nothing less than the eternal question: "What is man?"
Structural Anthropology has been both highly praised and harshly criticized, but even Lévi-Strauss's critics recognize the importance of his work.