The logic of symbols : the functionalist structuralism of Edmund Leach
Source document: Religio. 2011, vol. 19, iss. 1, pp. -80
ISSN1210-3640 (print)2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
The paper analyses the thoughts of Edmund Leach, focusing on those aspects that are relevant to the study of religion. It explains his attempt to combine functionalism with structuralism, showing how Leach attempted to modify the Lévi-Straussian concept of structure by focusing not just on the binary oppositions but also on the liminal interstices between these oppositions. In this way, he was able to account for the specifically religious aspects of myths more successfully than Lévi-Strauss. Hand in hand with this interest went Leach's lifelong interest in the concept of power or "potency" in all the meanings of the term: political, social, sexual, and religious. At the end of the paper it is argued that Leach is interesting in the field of religious studies on account of his ability to combine "explanatory" and "interpretive" approaches, offering a theory of religion that, despite its secular character, manages to avoid reductionism.