Summary: In this article, the fundamental role and significance of sexuality, gender and sexual difference is stressed as the basis of the conceptualization and legitimization of Western metaphysics. Furthermore, its aim is to argue that sexuality and sexual difference are one of the constitutive tools for the explanation and interpretation of the human notional world. Therefore, an analysis of the metaphysical layers in the perception of the "nature" of sexuality and sexual relations is considered crucial in the elaboration of the hypotheses of decentred perception. In this context, the focal point at issue is Levi-Strauss' cultural projection of the human origin, that is his theory of incest taboo, exogamy and the exchange of women. It is pointed out that in his anthropological model the mechanism of the global human passage from nature to culture is founded on one sole decisive factor - on "natural," instinctive, incestuous and polygamous male sexuality. In this frame of thinking, women can be considered only as objects of exchange between men, that is mere instruments in mediating the passage from male "nature" to male "culture." Consequently, two conclusions can be draw from this: 1. that Levi-Strauss' global concept of the passage from nature to culture is deeply gender based and therefore represents a form of gender particularism, and 2. that in this projection of the human origins, Levi-Strauss did, in fact, create a hypothetical reconstruction of the primal social state as a social contract exclusively between men, from which women are excluded, being reduced to mere instruments of exchange.
Key words: nature, culture, physis/nomos, sexuality, sexual difference, incest taboo, exogamy, exchange of women, sexuality, social contract.
Socrates: Who, in your opinion seem to be more rational in states, men or women, generally speaking?
The opposition of nature and culture or the "enigma" of relations between nature and culture as the basis of sexual dichotomy - reality (and ir-reality) of sexuality and sexual difference
The dimensions of humanness upon which (and in which) the opposition between nature and culture is refracted in perhaps the deepest and most non-transparent manner and then implemented and "superimposed" as its "quintessence," are the dimensions of sexuality as the structural characteristic of humanness, and sexual differences as one of the structural bases of human relations. The study of problems in relations between nature and culture both in the perception of sexuality and in the cultural practice of relations between the genders is truly a question of vital importance. Therein lie the deepest roots, one of the unavoidable foundations of the human project of the defining of one's one place in society and the construction of the world of culture. The fact that this question has remained in a true, historical and theoretical sense neglected and the question to which contemporary feminist theory has pointed in its full significance has been denied is the best indication of the "damaged" character and spiritual borders of the cultural project of the explanation of humanness itself, such as is the project of the Western model of thought.
It does not seem an exaggeration to say that the very phenomenon of sexuality, and particularly sexual difference, represent a particular methodological tool in the spiritual, conceptual structuring of the human world and in its practical, historical and cultural construction. The significance, instrumentality and function of sexuality as a methodological tool consists, to be precise, in the role that it has in the construction of man's concept of, as well as in the practical organization of the human world, which is founded to a considerable extent on such a system of concepts. Unlike Levi-Strauss, this definition of sexuality and sexual difference as a methodological tool does not, in my opinion, necessarily have to give rise to opposition. It is only one of the many possibilities of the interpretation of the world of sexuality and relations between the sexes.
The significance of sexuality and sexual difference for man's perception of his own nature, as well as their impact on his construction of the principles for organizing the world as a world of culture can, in short, best be seen in the fact that all theories, like the myths before them too, on the primal beginnings of man, that is the origin of human society and culture, find their initial, that is most frequently crucial explanation in the very domain of sexuality - in the nature of human sexuality (the "original" promiscuity as mentioned by H.L. Morgan and Engels; for example incest taboo as the first intervention of culture as stated by Levi-Strauss), in the relationbetween the genders (theories of matriarchates and patriarchates), in the relation between parents and children (the role of patricide in Freuds theory of the origins of culture, or, lets say, the significance of paternity in Lockes political philosophy). The biblical Genesis is, in fact, rather a story of sexual difference (Eve, by giving Adam the apple, is "guilty" for their being driven from Heaven) - and her crucial impact on the Christian vision of Genesis and the whole of the ensuing human destiny.
Sexuality and sexual difference therefore represent one of the elemental, unavoidable contents in man's space of conception, his interpretation of the world as well as that of the entire imagination of the "primeval" and the "primordial beginning" of his own existence. The question logically arises, however, as to the reason why sexuality, when it already represents such an unavoidable content as a methodological tool of perception concerning the "beginning," - goes, as a rule, no further than these interpretations of the "beginning." Why is it that such a fundamental methodological tool, after the "primeval," is somehow "hidden," as if its importance is no longer valid? In other words, why is it not introduced into history? Why does it remain only at the "beginning"? Why has it not become an integral part of the historical perception of culture? Why is it not "translated" into specific cultural forms of thought that would be a constitutive part of the very "movement" of culture? Why does it not achieve its real place, the legitimate importance that it has for man's perception of his own spiritual and social structure? Why is the power of theimpact it has on the organization of the human world, human relations and the very structure of the personality not acknowledged?
How is it that what in the theory of the "inception" of the human had such a great importance that it quite defined the character (both external and internal) of the human world suddenly disappeared from view - left in "nature," "eternity," the "primeval"? Why did man not later, in his social existence, remain aware and mentally capably of reflecting upon all the implications of the role and significance of sexuality, sexual difference and the relation between the sexes? Why, therefore, have sexuality and sexual difference not become "conscious" and "transparent" operative principles for man in the structuring of the human world, as something that man has "brought" with him into the historical?
Within culture, however, sexuality, and with it sexual difference, which is acknowledged as being "primordial" and of crucial significance for the passage into culture, assumes various specific historical forms of an a-cultural nature. And not only that, or just because of that, they are something to which is attributed some kind of ambivalent significance/insignificance. They will thus be significant like "nature itself"; they will be ruled by "forces" that are beyond man's power. They will also be significant as is anything that is "eternal" that is beyond time, beyond history. They will therefore be significant on account of their "eternal" essence, the very fact that they are above and beyond time and above and beyond context - on account of the unchangeable nature of their duration.
However, on account of the very fact that they will remain beyond history, beyond human time and culture, they will actually assume the dominant characteristic of insignificance. Because they are not recognized and present as visible cultural factors in the practical, cultural and conscious form of a specific culture and in a specific time, they will be denoted as non-determinants, as non-essential factors in a world of culture that is separate from nature. Why is it that, in one sense, such a general "eternal" and "lasting" significance (and that is the "primeval nature" of the human and the passage into culture) is attributed to sexuality and sexual difference - while, in another sense, on another level of culture, that is to say on a concrete historical level, that importance is suppressed and denied?
It is possible here to formulate only an outline of the main characteristics of the provocative idea that the entire significance and force of the impact that sexuality and sexual difference have on the constructing of the human can actually be seen quite clearly in what has in reality been eluding human awareness for such a long time and at such a depth as an essential "methodological tool" of the spiritual and practical explanation of the world, and which, similarly, right when it seems that they are that tool, again become persistently elusive; they do not become a "transparent object" for man. That is to say that man never achieves the level of awareness of the fact that the form of perception that he has about sexuality is not a perception of something eternally "natural" but only about his own place in history, the culturally specific form of explanation of sexual difference.
This idea is based on the thesis that sexuality and sexual difference signify, in the words of Foucault, that deep, primary and lasting unperceived structure of the Western model of thought. That is why they also appear as the deep-seated and determining condition that actually makes that thought possible. The argument for such a thesis is that fact that sexuality, sexual difference, as well as the relation between the sexes, has in the framework of Western thought all the attributes of nature. That is why, only one relation is established towards these aspects of sexuality a relation that is, as it were, some kind of nature "in itself," while it is as if the relation between the sexes were a "natural" relation - a relation of opposition.
Moreover, all the signs and characteristics of the most dominant Western opposition - the opposition between nature and culture, physis/nomos, can also be recognized in the relation towards sexuality. Sexuality, sexual difference and the relation between the sexes are defined as something universal, lasting, unchangeable and static. That is the "essence" upon which nomos - culture, dialogue, custom, rationality, justice, law, etc. - is then built. Sexuality is, therefore, the "natural foundation" upon which grow convention and all the variety of explanations of cultural forms. In order that the cultural character of nomos as the "superstructure" should be affirmed, sexuality it is not brought into question. That means that - for that very reason - its "task" is never to becomenomos but to remain a lasting, eternal, universal variable that bears the burden of the entire structure of nomos.
It is, therefore, logical, bearing in mind all observations to date, to wonder, which agreement on the nature of sexuality has become that universal, eternal and lasting "nature" that will then "logically" oppose culture - and, vice-versa, culture will then oppose that "nature" as it will thereby confirm its irrefutable difference from "nature," that is its specific form and historical origin. Which nomos has, therefore become the physis of sexuality? Which stratum of culture has thus "legitimately" become "nature in itself" and thereby established the principle ofcontradiction as the "essence" of sexuality? How are we able to establish whether something from the world of culture has been "delegated" into "nature" in order to be able to claim with greater certitude that the concept and image of sexuality, sexual difference and relation between the sexes is, in fact, based on the opposition of two cultural conventions - the convention of the "nature" of sexuality, on the one hand, and the convention of its "culture," on the other hand?
Here, of course, I do not wish to deny that the phenomenon of human sexuality really does have its natural characteristics, nor do I disregard the quite evident fact of sexual difference or do I overlook such a persistent fact as the dualistic form of the social and symbolic organization of relations between the male and female genders in almost all cultures. In a quite specific manner, I am not, in fact, interested in some kind of "objective" or "real" discussion about what is actually natural and what is culturally acquired in human sexuality. I am not attracted by the idea of drawing some precise and "proven" linesof contact and/or demarcation between what indubitably forms the biology of sexuality - from history and the culture of sexuality. There are two reasons for this.
First, I think that such an undertaking would really be of epochal significance for the relation between the natural sciences and the humanities if the dynamics and exchange between the natural and the cultural in the "real" space of sexuality could be learnt and formulated more reliably and more "objectively" through dialogue. However, in order to achieve that, a developed critical awareness is not sufficient, or rather self-awareness on the part of the humanities concerning all types and forms of the use of nature for the purpose of discourse of culture. What is needed is a quite detailed, thorough and self-critical deconstruction of the concept of nature in the natural sciences.
A discourse on nature, as unproblematic task of "objective" science, is also a discourse of a specific culture as a system and mutual relations of "meaningful totalities" in which the "objective" too has its own culturally specific place. Therefore, some kind of "reality," in this case the reality of sexuality, cannot exist without a deep link to and the intervention of a specific historical form of symbolic reality and the epistemological configurations of an age. In the most general sense, the human relation between nature and culture is explained. Accordingly, nature itself is explained as the "objective subject" of natural sciences, but only in the domain of specific historical and cultural relations that make that "objectivity" possible. Biological facts, Margrit Eichler succinctly warns, receive meaning from culture, and not vice-versa. (Eichler, 1980:11), while Lorraine Code recalls that human beings are creatures of such a type that their nature is, to a great extent, structured by culture (Code, 1983:546).
I fear therefore that any endeavour to fathom some "truth" about real difference, however subtly that cut between nature and culture be conceived, only leads, in fact, to a new "production" of metaphysical "essences" that would, for that very reason, thus justify their quite clear ideological function of conceiving themselves as the only "objective" truth. This would only compound the danger of the historically and culturally constructed reality of sexuality being established as the one and only true - sexually dichotomous "essence," "nature," and "fate" of a human being. That would take us even further from the perception that "just as 'fate' does not exist, similarly 'nature' or essence as such does not exist either. What exists in fact are living structures caught and frequently rigidly fixed within historical and cultural borders that are so mixed into the scene of History that it was long impossible (and is still very difficult) to think of or even imagine some kind of 'elsewhere'" (Cixous & Clement, 1986:83).
Second, such an intention is not at all the subject of this discussion. What then is the subject of this discussion, and what is it that interests me as the "reality" of sexuality? First and foremost, I am interested, so to speak, in the historically constructed "reality" of the perception of difference. That is the dominant reality of the modern episteme that determines not only our opinion, but also our perception of what "nature" and what "culture" are or can be. The field of sexuality is, in my opinion, particularly suitable for an analysis of this perception of difference, for it is there that the greatest confusion is created about what sexuality "really" is and what it is not, as it is only epistemically built as the cultural reality of difference. It seems to me that it is in that field of sexuality that perhaps the deepest and most persistent and, apparently, irrefutable "argument of reality" has been retained that justifies the ruling episteme and, primarily, the actual "authentic" basis of the opposition between physis and nomos.
On account of the fact that there exist real, indubitable natural differences between the sexes, between male and female "natures", as well as the fact that differences exist between the sexes as biology and the genders as the culture of sexuality, that reality assumes a particular function - it has served as an "authentic" proof and irrevocable legitimising factor of an epistemic configuration that has remodelled reality as the reality of the opposition between physis and nomos, as the "reality" of the gap between the world of nature and the world of culture. In that sense, the opposition between nature and culture has its "perfect" and "irrefutable" foundation in the domain of sexuality, for which, once again, there are two main reasons.
The first is that, due to the "actual" involvement of nature, the concept and sign of "nature" can "verifiably" be identified with nature "in itself." There, it would seem, there can be no dispute and, for that very reason the "determinator" is "conceived," appears and fixed so effectively and persistently as a metaphysical concept (Derrida, 1990:135). There, the metaphysical presence of Western thought has, it seems, finally found a "true" place for its presence and laid down its deepest, non-transparent roots. Therein it finds its "true" and "firm" origin - the foundation of its own pretensions to universality, trans-historical nature and the immutability of its categories of spirit.
Therefore, to put it more freely, sexuality and its "enigma" of the relation between nature and culture is, in a certain sense, truly a perfect form, a "real" and tangible shell in which a metaphysical solution to this enigma - as the only "real" solution can, with total certainty in its "veracity," settle itself comfortably. According to this "solution," physis emerges as "nature" itself, and on the basis of that there is then the "logical" explanation of an entire "genuine" model of difference - nomos - in which, to recall Horrigan, the difference itself is more important than the very "things" that thereby differ.
The second reason does, in fact, stem from the first. When such a convincingly and empirically "proven" identification of the sign and the concept of "nature" is once performed with nature as "such" then that genuine identification represents a decisive and "incontrovertible" basis for all other identifications of signs and concepts of a thing with the very "thing" itself. Then that ultimate goal that Plato defined as the ideal of adequacyof one word that would express the very "nature of things" is "realized" and achieved. And in this way the "reality" of the entire structure of a metaphysical thought is also realized. With this reliance on the "reality" of a "natural thing", it has finally found is focus of presence. And with it, as Derrida says, all the conditions have been created for an established game. The "reality" has been made possible as the concept of a centred structure, whose "game" is founded on an "elementalimmobility andcalming security that is excluded from the game (Derrida, 1990:132, italics by Ž.P.).
From this, I hope, it can be seen why the issue of sexuality is of crucial importance for the building of the assumption of a possible decentring of Western metaphysical thought. If metaphysicians disclaim the fact that in their key "proof", that is in the immobile and calming fundament, no "reality" upon which it calls actually exists outside of itself, that there does not exist "one word" that would adequately express the essence and the nature of a thing - then we shall be able to see far more clearly how and to what extent that "proof," which is unquestioned and adequate for metaphysical thought is, in fact, its own assumption, the condition of its organization - its unmeant structure on which the entire structure of the Western fabric of thought is built.
Therein lies, for the greater part, the intention of this work, that is the endeavour to "enter" or, rather, intervene in the very space of the modern episteme in the desire to seek what it makes it possible. And this space is, in my opinion, the entire space of sexuality and the global concept of human nature/convention "derived," fundamentally speaking, from it. This endeavour also contains the ambition to derive the issue of sexuality, unlike the predominant "realistic" current in feminist theory, from the "sphere of reality" to the sphere of the reality of the structure of a model of thought. For, such a "reality" in the structure of dominant thought presents that reality of sexuality to us as a real subject that one has to "deal with." Consequently, however paradoxical it may seem, it is of no "consequence" whatsoever whether we shall accept that "reality" as such and justify it, or whether we shall nonetheless struggle to criticize it and thereby "prove" that the "reality" we are being offered is not valid, for it seems to us there exists a "more valid," "more essential"... reality.
The problem really lies in the fact that both these discourses, the discourse of affirmation and the discourse of negation or "destruction" as Derrida would say, are imprisoned in the conceptual and symbolic borders of metaphysics that they "defend" or "attack." Where feminist theory is concerned, it is truly in a particularly ambivalent position. On the one hand it has entered deeper into the domain of sexuality more seriously and more consciously as a plan of "unmeant structures," but, on the other hand, in the scope of its perception of the destruction ofthe existing it has very frequently maintained, as its own unmeant and unquestioned assumptions, those very assumptions of that same metaphysics that it wishes to "destroy."
Directing its greatest criticism against the very fundament of Western metaphysics - against the oppositions between nature and culture, the sensual and the rational, the body and the spirit, the male and the female, gender and kinship - feminist theory has frequently been powerless, despite everything, to prevent itself from "smuggling" to a certain extent those same oppositions, at a different place, in a different form, but nonetheless in some kind of alternative "image." And thus, instead of escaping from it, it has remained in its power as it is constantly in danger of falling again into what it is breaking with. (Derrida, 1976:23) So, it has found itself, like it or not, together with its "bitter" opponents in the sphere of common blind prejudice, which doubtless are shared by both the accuser and the accused. (Derrida, 1990).
It is just on account of this ambivalently charged content of feminist theory that I consider that it is of particular importance to deal with the thought that is attempting to overcome, or "destroy" the perception of the opposition between nature and culture in the very sphere of sexuality, sexual difference and relations between the sexes. For that reason, it is not my intention to deal with the "reality" of sexual difference and relations between nature and culture in some "genuine" structure of gender/kinship, but rather to ask myself to what end this strategy of difference serves in the sphere of sexuality. Why is the difference more important than the things that differ? Where does it withdraw to and what arguments does it defend itself with. Does there exist a link between that withdrawal of the difference and what ends that difference serves and what it signifies? And if a link does exist, what kind is it? What role is played in the structure of modern Western epistemes by "sexual attributes"?
In this sense, the already mentioned thesis that sexuality and sexual difference have and "play" the role of the founder of the metaphysical perception of the opposition between nature and culture, that they represent that precious shell in which the frequently distant and amorphous content of that perception finds the place where it belongs and the form of "truth" - has its hermeneutic function. This thesis may perhaps in a certain way bring the perception of opposition to some of its ultimate points of legitimacy on the basis of which it realises its cardinal right to represent "reality." In this way we shall, I hope, bring closer and achieve greater transparency of the epistemological foundations of metaphysics in which opposition with reduction forms a system (Derrida, 1990:136). Our aim is also to achieve a clearer decoding and recognition of the "force of one desire," which rules sovereign, albeit invisibly, over it.
Bearing this in mind, therefore, it is possible even to put forward the thesis that, with this perception of opposition, all "real" examples of opposition, of which sexuality and sexual difference are the "most real," are actually only arguments for the explanation and implementation of an overall, monolithic model of difference as the true "picture of the world" - which will then, in turn, in its own specifically "seductive" manner, be set up as the legitimate principle of the organization of the world, in all dimensions, aspects and "parts" of reality".
The importance and role of sexual difference as one of the organizing objects and principles of thought
...culture is not nature,
but nature is a totally cultural concept
David Schneider, What is Kinship About?
Intending to discover the role and significance that sexuality and sexual difference have for the notionality of Western metaphysics, that is to seek for those arguments that demonstrate that they, for the greater part, represent its fundamental but "unmeant condition", which has, for that very reason, long remained "intentionally" invisible and hidden, but nonetheless openly suppressed, underrated, etc, - there lies another more general intention. If, taking the example of Western metaphysics, it can be perceived to what extent sexuality and sexual difference have truly been the foundation that has enabled the domination of the principle of opposition, and primarily, the opposition between nature and culture, as this is the decisive self-evident "example" from reality that can be a starting point as it does not have to be proved, then that is, I hope, a good way also to suggest the importance and role of sexuality and sexual difference as one of the unavoidable foundations of man's experience of the world. However, it is, for this very reason, one of man's constitutive conceptual tools for the interpretation of the world.
It is not, I hope, necessary to give particular proof of how and to what extent the world of culture is, in fact, to a large extent, the world of sexuality, the world in which sexualdifference is vital and even, if we take a better look, an exceptionally visible factor not only in the structuring of relations between the sexes, but also in the entire system of social relations. The very fact that the reproduction of human life rests on the fact that humans beings are of two genders is sufficient to suggest that each world of culture has in many ways "remodelled" that fact of human nature into a fact of culture.
Therefore, if we wish to speak of some universal characteristic of human nature/culture, then we would be able to stress that this is actually the cultural "remodelling" of those elements and dimensions as represented by the "natural material" of humanness into a unique "culturalmaterial." The fact that such "cultural material" most frequently assumes the characteristic of an "image," "sign" or, even, "proof" of a nature in itself does not tell us anything about its "innateness." On the contrary, it tell us only of the character of the cultural operation, that is to say of the intention of culture to ensure that such "cultural material" should assume the distinctive characteristic of nature - outside of culture.
Furthermore, sexuality and sexual difference are not only factors that participate vitally in the construction of the world of culture in the sphere of "real" social relations. They also, and that in an extremely far-reaching sense, represent a particular kind of "material" with the help of which a symbolic representationof theworld is built as the fundamental characteristic of the cultural order - and then they are used to constitute not only the world of culture, but also the world of nature. The human concept of the world, from its very beginning, has been, so to say, marked by gender. The natural forces as conceived in myths also bore for man, amongst other things, the idea of the forces of sexuality, as well as the power of each gender particularly. As we well know, there are no myths without genders. Cosmogonic and cosmological visions were also "populated" by the sexes. Thus, the cultural features of femaleness and maleness, the ideas about difference, and particularly about the ratio of forces between the sexes, was from the very beginning moved from the world of "objective" nature into the world of the conception of the natural, and particularly of the cultural world - from planetary forms, the world of the gods, magic forces, secret activities, principles of power, role of reason - right up to the ultimate principles of the world.
This, in my opinion, points significantly to the extent to which the human body and corporality - as nature, that is to say the "object" the human being finds himself with - at the same time represents the significant unavoidable and permanent object of his thought and, similarly, the "methodological tool" through which he conceives that same world in which he has found himself in. It could, therefore, be said that human corporality, and most marked within which human sexuality, represents one of the organizing principles of human thought - the instrument of the interpretation and the explanation of human reality.
What does this mean? The human being finds himself with some "natural" characteristics of his own, and those characteristics, at the same time, "offer" themselves to him as the beginningof the concept of himself - and thus, vice-versa, they represent tools through which he will manage in the world he finds himself in. Man's own natural attributes, the ability to think, move, act and handle things, as well as his/her sexual specific qualities, are man's reality which he will, through his practice, at the same time transform into the reality of his culture. That is why it is quite right also to apply Levi-Strauss' idea that the "world represents the object of thought at least to the extent that it is the means for satisfying needs" (Levi-Strauss, 1966:37, italics by Ž.P.) to man's world of corporality, sexuality and sexual difference, considering it, therefore, not only as a means for satisfying (sexual) needs, but also as the object of thought, with the help of which the human being organizes his own reality for himself.
Although Levi-Strauss' idea of the emergence of language instantaneously has always represented a problem to me, it now seems to me that only with such an "enigmatic" thesis can the relation between man's nature and culture, as well as man in nature and in culture be explained or, rather, understood. That is because human nature simply cannot be envisaged without culture. Human nature presupposes culture. It is already, at the same time, human culturalnature, for deeply interwoven in it is man's image of his own nature. It is, therefore, always a cultural fact. On the other hand, human culture cannot be envisaged without human "nature." It is that space, fundament, framework and "material" from which culture discovers instruments, draws it meaning - and upon which it builds the human world.
That further means that both worlds, the world of nature and the world of culture, are simultaneously, two real and two symbolically marked and culturally remodelled worlds. These two worlds belong to man's objective nature, but their form of objectivity actually consists in and is represented as a subjective form of a specific culture. That means that, if we apply Levi-Strauss' idea about the emergence of language to human nature, then human nature, and first of all the human nature/culture relation "could only emerge instantaneously. Things could not assume meaning gradually. After a transformation, the study of which does not belong to the social sciences but rather biology and psychology, there occurred a passage from one level at which nothing had any meaning to another level at which everything possessed meaning" (Levi-Strauss, 1982:53, italics by Ž.P.).
Only when the problem of relations between nature and culture are posed in this way is it possible, in my opinion, to avoid the trap of Western metaphysics that sought (and found) the primeval beginnings, fundament and legitimacy of all other transitory attributes of nomos in "nature", that is in the cultural explanation of the lasting physis. Only thus is it possible to perceive that physis and nomos are, in fact, two cultural constructions, whose principle of opposition is "derived" from some outer nature, and then introduced legitimately into culture. And it was introduced not only as the principle of the relation between nature and culture, but also as the principle of the opposed relations between two parts of culture - permanent/transitory, old/new, sensual/rational, corporal/spiritual, male/female, etc.
Without such a specifically two-way established human relational nature, where not only nature and culture in general but also nature and culture between the sexes as well as within the human being, in his body, on the entire surface of corporality is to be found in a constant "flow" and forward-backward movement - one cannot fathom all the complexity behind what seems at first sight quite "simple" elementary and self-evident facts such as male gender/female gender, female nature/male nature, biology of the sexes,/culture of kinship. Similarly, there is no other way to reach that depth of "secret" that sexuality and sexual difference have as a model in the construction of the human world, as the determining object of perception through which the principles of the organization of an entire complex and criss-cross system of relations are built. And that system of relations represents, as a rule, that relation of opposition between two separate, untouchable "realities":
1. between nature and culture in general, as the universal opposition of physis and nomos,
2. between the male and female sexes as opposition between male and female "natures" - as the "natural" opposition between two physises,
3. between the female and male sexes as opposition between "female nature" and "male culture" - as the opposition between the physis of femaleness and the nomos of maleness,
4. between the "natural" and the cultural within the human being as the opposition between sex and kinship - as the opposition between the physis ("biology") and nomos ("culture") of sexuality.
As I have already mentioned, the "naturalness" of sexuality, in my opinion, represents that "perfect" elemental shell, with which the opposition between physis and nomos "thinks" it has found its habitus, and, thus, realized its "legitimate" right to denote an adequate expression of the "essence of the world." Plato's ideal of the identical nature of the essence and (one single) name (Platon, 1988), that is one singleconcept of ours that we express with that name, has there found its long-lasting and secure refuge - its origin. In that sense, it can be said this undoubted "naturalness" of sexuality represents a presupposition, that fundamental condition of presence on which the entire corpus of Western metaphysics rests.
In this "naturalness" of sexuality, what is most evident - sexual difference assumes, of course, its most natural status. Male and female. The factof difference is so evident that, one considers, it does not even have to be "proven." Its "naturalness" can be seen. It can be felt. It cannot be overlooked. Sexual difference, therefore, functions according to the laws of "nature." It is an incontestable fact of nature. Therefore, the difference between the sexes too can only be "natural," and nothing else. Sexuality here assumes the status of physis as it has been "proven" (or, rather, it is not necessary to prove it) to be something beyond human activity. There can be nodiscussion about it. It thus assumes all the attributes and the status of a permanent essence.
On the basis of this, allegedly proven "permanent essence", it is then possible to derive quite "consistently" and "logically" an entire structure of metaphysical logic of essences that are "located" beyond human activity. And, on the basis of the "elemental" logical difference, it is further possible also to build up an entire dominant opposition model of difference. It is then possible to derive all the "consistence" of the logic of opposition of an entire series of indubitable "essences" that set themselves up in contrast to what alone is acknowledged to be the result of human activity and agreement - to nomos. On the basis of that, I hope, it can be concluded that the Western model of opposition as the dominant principle of difference does in fact rest on this presupposed, and I would even dare to say "required" example of opposition on the plane of sexuality, as it has its "indubitable" place in nature.
Bearing in mind the importance of the "nature" of sexuality and sexual difference as the "natural" foundation of a cultural model of difference, it is logical, I am convinced, to conclude that this so "untouchable" foundation is also the product of that same model which, allegedly, it "produces" and "proves." The very "proof" is, in this case, actually the essential consequence of a cultural model of proving, and not some kind of independent, separate and untouched sphereof reality from which the very proof would stem and, on the basis of that, the model of proving. That "proof" is, in fact, absolutely essential to this model in order for it to be able to function "legitimately" and "truly" as the principle of the organization of the world - to conceptually organize and interpret relations both in the world of men and in the world of things. That is because culture is, as Levi-Strauss writes, an entity of symbolic systems (they) tend to express certain aspects of physical and social reality and, further, relations between these two types of reality, as well as the relation between the "symbolic systems" themselves. (Levi-Strauss, quoted in Jenkins 1979: 9, italics by Ž.P.) That means that, paraphrasing David Schneider, just as nature is not a "natural" but rather a cultural concept, neither can the relation between nature and culture in any way be "natural", but a cultural relation par excellence.
Consequently, I consider that it is possible to argue that, upon the pattern of the general opposition between physis and nomos, opposition between nature and culture on the plane of human sexuality also actually represents opposition between two parts, two aspects, two dimensions of culture. That opposition, therefore, is not some kind of independently given "natural" basis and "primordial cause" of everything, but also the very result of cultural conceptualisation and vision and, finally, the remodelling of relations between nature and culture on the plane of sexuality as some "natural" opposition. And that opposition, which allegedly "comes" from nature, then "naturally" sets itself up again as a dual opposition - as the opposition between two natures (male and female) and as the opposition between two cultures - the world of maleness and the world of femaleness.
Levi-Strauss and the cultural projection of the human origin - "natural" male sexuality as the key of culture: incest taboo, exogamy and the exchange of women
A critical re-examination of the anthropological thought of Claude Levi-Strauss and his interpretation of the opposition between nature and culture is vital in this context. It is vital for two reasons:
firstly, in order fully to comprehend what his theory on incest taboo, as that institution that "performs" the passage from nature into culture, is, in fact, founded, and
secondly, in order to use his example to corroborate the above-mentioned idea that sexuality and sexual difference are that decisive substructure upon which the opposition model of difference is built and, on the basis of that model, also the entire system of conceptualities of Western metaphysics. Bearing in mind that Levi-Strauss' idea of the opposition between nature and culture represents one of the most highly developed (and most broadly transposed into anthropology) contemporary adaptations of the basic postulate of Western metaphysics - the opposition between physis and nomos - I am of the opinion that it is consequently of particular importance to establish what it is in it that is the condition sine qua non upon which the possibility ofculture is based.
Upon what, therefore, does Levi-Strauss base his theory on incest taboo as that crucial, unique intervention into the world of nature whereby man opens up for himself the possibility to become a cultural being? Why is incest taboo so particular? Why is it such an exceptionally significant dualist form in which the characteristics of two opposite worlds are united - the universal (nature) and the rule (culture) and which, for that reason, is "at once on the threshold of culture, in culture and, in one sense culture itself?" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:12).
Levi-Strauss gives an unambiguous answer to this question. Incest taboo is for him at the same time social (as it is a rule), but it is also pre-social (as it is universal), and that is for two reasons. Firstly, because it represents that sole universal (rule) in all cultures, and, secondly, because it is a particular form of regulation directed to a quite specific "type ofrelationships upon which it imposes its norm" (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.). The type of conduct upon which incest taboo directs its relative function is, according to Levi-Strauss "man's sexual life." Human sexuality is, therefore, that universal "nature" that must be "regulated"; a rule must be imposed on it; one part of it must be prohibited - and, only when this is done, is man made able to pass into the state of culture.
What is, therefore, the "nature" of human sexuality that, as Levi-Strauss tells us, must be regulated? It is primarily, as Levi-Strauss writes, "external to the group" (Ibid). And it is "external" to the group for two reasons. Firstly, because it represents "the highest expression of (man's) animal nature, and the most significant survival of instinct," and, secondly, because it is asocial as its ends are " to satisfy inpidual desires, which, as is known, hold little respect for social conventions..." (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.).
Human sexuality is, therefore, according to Levi-Strauss definition, animal, instinctive and asocial. When speaking of the asocial nature of sexuality, it should be stated that in the next sentence he contradicts himself by clearly pointing out and stressing at least onesocial component of sexuality, but it is a vital one. Incest taboo, according to him, is one direction of the relation between nature and culture, as "regulation of relations between the sexes represent the decantation of culture into nature," while the second direction of relations between nature and culture actually represent for him a quite evidently "natural" characteristic of sociality in sexuality: it is, according to Levi-Strauss, "one beginning of social life in nature, for the sexual is man's only instinct requiring the stimulation of another person" (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.). This contradiction does not, however, induce him to revise the idea of the asocial character of sexuality, as it seems that he does not consider this type of inpidual orientation towards another person as social. It is as if for him only group, collective conduct deserves to be called social.
The idea that there exists some kind of naturalsexuality that brings man the closest to animal nature, that it represents in him the strongest form of the instinctive and that it is, moreover, asocial in its very "nature" as it is external to the group, is, according to Stephen Horrigan, the most problematic part of Levi-Strauss' hypothesis. He underlines that in Levi-Strauss' interpretation of the passage from nature into culture incest taboo assumes a special repressive function, as it prevents the expression of "natural" sexuality (Horrigan, 1988:44). This, he writes, can best be seen in Levi-Strauss' thesis that mans propensity towards polygamy is innate, as "social and biological observations combine to suggest that in man these tendencies are natural and universal, and that only limitations born of the environment and culture are responsible for the suppression" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:37, italics by Ž.P.).
This concept of sexuality, Horrigan considers, has directly affected Levi-Strauss concept of culture. Culture in this context, for Levi-Strauss, has the primary role of suppressing and prohibiting that allegedly "natural" sexuality, that is in the form of rules and punishment, the law against incest intervenes and directs these "natural" ("incest-prone") sexual desires into acceptable channels of laws of wedlock: exogamy and the exchange of women. Natural sexuality, therefore, continues to be the way it is, except for the fact that it is now a subject regulated by culture (Horrigan, 1988:45).
Horrigan compares Levi-Strauss concept of sexuality with that of Freud, and, in that comparison, notes the evident contrast between these two concepts. Like Levi-Strauss, Freud too attributes the central role in the foundation of society to incest taboo, but he attributes a different place for the regulation of sexuality to it. For Freud, sexuality is not a "group" or a "collective" phenomenon. Consequently, incest taboo has primarily had an impact on the constitution of inpidual sexual identities through the Oedipus complex. In that sense, he is not thinking about any kind of "natural" sexuality in itself; for him sexuality is not a collective phenomenon and nor is it a pre-cultural fact. Moreover, in the case of Freud, it is not even possible to reduce sexuality to a mere biological instinct, conceived traditionally as genetic, pre-determined conduct common to all members of a species. Freud considers sexuality to be a product of a complex intertwinement of biological, social and psychological factors.
Bearing this in mind, Horrigan stresses that Freud never considered sexuality and incestuous desires as "pure" natural phenomena, nor the result of biological instincts, or even some kind of "archetypal" characteristic of the human species. That can be particularly seen in his understanding of child sexuality. According to Freud, child sexuality is bisexual, polymorphous and perverse. A child is not born with some pre-determined and fixed sexual identity. The objective, object and source of sexuality are not given in advance. The formation, that is the fixing of sexual identity as male or female, according to Freuds concept, is only achieved through the process of the cultural construction of sexuality - through the resolution of the Oedipus complex. That means, Horrigan concludes, that, for Freud, human sexuality cannot merely be reduced to biologically pre-determined conduct. It is organized, formed and expressed through complex social and psychological forms, which means, consequently, that heterosexual genital sexuality does not come naturally but represents only a possible, but not essential form (Horrigan, 1988:46).
In his further critical analysis Levi-Strauss' concept of sexuality as some kind of pre-cultural "natural" entity, Horrigan turns to another type of argumentation. He takes the examples of the sexual behaviour of primates in order to demonstrate that even that irrefutable animal sexuality does not come naturally and nor can it be considered within the scope of a mere reflex or instinctive model. Horrigan quotes results of research that demonstrate that sexuality among animals is, to a great extent, acquired, on the contrary, through experience; it is formed through communication and depends on learning, for the "environment or experience affect the functions of the brain that are subject, to a considerable extent, to modification, as well as the ability of brain activities to have an impact on the sensitivity of lower centres that are of primary importance in the sexual behaviour of large mammals (Beach, 1947:310, italics by Ž.P.).
This argument of Horrigan's once again clearly shows, through the example of the sexual life of "animals," all the unnaturalness and tension, contrary to empirical results, of endeavours to draw sharp lines of difference between nature and culture, and between the animal and the human. This research also served for Horrigan to point once again quite unambiguously to the function of the opposition between nature and culture in contemporary anthropology. The difference between nature and culture, Horrigan writes, is used as a metaphysical means for laying the foundations for and differing human societies. (Horrigan, 1988:49).
In this sense, he considers, Levi-Strauss does not, in fact, differ much from proponents of American cultural anthropology, but goes even further than them as he places this difference explicitly in the sphere of ontology. The difference between nature and culture represents for Levi-Strauss a "classic contrast" (see Levi-Strauss, 1989:345), and that contrast, Horrigan considers, actually represents that "metaphysical thread" that clearly shows how much Levi-Strauss actually relies on that difference - that he endeavours to create (Horrigan, 1988:49, italics by Ž.P.).
For Levi-Strauss, therefore, the opposition between nature and culture is not only, as he himself says, a valuable and useful "methodological tool," like some kind of neutralmedium for him but, primarily, also the crucial assumption upon which his entire thought is based and the result of which will then be "logically correctly" derived as an "empirical" confirmation of that same assumption. In the same sense, it can be said that a certain "natural" nature was vital for him, that is to say that it was necessary for him to start from such a concept of "natural," animal and asocial sexuality in order to demonstrate that the specific character of culture really does consist in everything that nature is not.
Insisting, therefore, on a cut between nature and culture, and insisting particularly on the fact that, lets say, "natural" sexuality is external to the group, Levi-Strauss' anthropology rests on the idea of nature and culture as two external entities nature that is external to culture, and, vice-versa, culture that is external to nature. Also, on account of the privileged place that contrast has between nature and culture in Levi-Strauss thought as the condition of his entire anthropological explanation, it is not difficult to agree with Horrigan's conclusion that one can even say that he has, in fact, in the whole of his opus, built up his own myth about the origin of culture (Horrigan, 1988:41)
However, although I agree in principle with Horrigan's conclusion that Levi-Strauss built up his own myth about the origin of culture, it seems to me that his thought can also be considered from a different angle. That different perspective can, in my opinion, be founded on two facts:
1. on the extent to which and how the concept of the opposition between nature and culture was necessary to him in order for him to build upon it in minute detail his own idea that the principle of opposition also exists and "acts" on all levels of the human: from the structure of the human spirit, the main principle of conceptual and practical human activity, the essence of the characteristics of human culture, right up to the dominant basis of the internal structure of the entire system of knowledge of Western culture (with the result that even the realization of it is only possible if the opposition between nature and culture is accepted as a "methodological means"),
2. on how and to what extent the concept of "natural" sexuality was vital to him as the "root," "foundation," of the opposition between nature and culture, as the "crown evidence" that such an opposition actually exists, and, furthermore, that it exists as that "first" and "primordial" human situation in which the need for culture appears in order that man may leave the "state of nature."
With this explanation, Levi-Strauss, like an evolutionist, pointed to the fundamental importance that sexuality and sexual difference have in the construction of the human world. The fact that his concept of sexuality is biological and that he does not presuppose the possibility that, with its very constitution it already "requires" and assumes culture, in no way lessens the fact of the importance that he attaches to it. That is because, despite such an interpretation of the "naturalness" of sexuality, Levi-Strauss has not at all overlooked the realization that the very organization of human sexuality, as well as the definition of sexual difference that he, of course, develops "conservatively" in his theory about the exchange of women - is one of the essential, vital conditions for human life in society.
In that sense, the idea that Levi-Strauss considers that incest taboo, exogamy and exchange of women represent some form of social contract can be examined in a quite specific light. Compared to Rousseau's and Hobbes' theories of the social contract, in the case of Levi-Strauss it is far more precise and elaborated more concretely with regard to the importance it attaches to sexuality and sexual difference. This is because, unlike Rousseau and Hobbes, who each in his own way creates his own pictures of "natural" humanity, be it good, noble and unspoilt (Rousseau) or hostile, uncontrolled and selfish (Hobbes), but thereby totally disregard sexuality and sexual difference as one of the "real" objects of the social contract. We do, of course, know that their visions were considerably coloured with sexual metaphors. In those images, they expressed the cardinal point of view concerning "natural" male domination, and therefore those "pictures" and images concerning "natural" characteristics of human nature were exclusively images of some kind of "natural" maleness. However, they did not consider that sexuality represents that place where the construction and agreement of culture begin. They presupposed a certain form of sexuality and a certain sexual difference as "natural." For that reason, all the characteristics of which they wrote as "natural" human attributes were not, in fact, only their historicalprojection of the "good" or the "evil" in human nature, but, also, they were characteristics that had already been founded and "derived" from a markedly patriarchal concept of sexual difference.
Consequently, Levi-Strauss' concept of the social contract is all the more significant as it takes as "an object of agreement" everything that, for example, Rousseau and Hobbes did not even mention as they either considered distribution between the sexes - sexuality, incest taboo, exogamy, exchange of women - either unimportant or "natural." In this way, Levi-Strauss has truly seriously shifted the border of "nature," considering that the operations of culture, as he says himself "overflow" and extend into those spheres of human nature that were earlier considered "pure" nature. And those are, primarily, human ("natural") sexuality and the patriarchal concept of sexual difference according to which an entire human gender - the female being - belongs to the world of nature.
It is therefore of particular importance to pose this question: what role do women have in Levi-Strauss variant of the social contract? Why is incest taboo the precondition and form of passage from nature into culture and, therefore also that basic form of the social contract? What does exchange of women mean, which, seemingly "naturally" stems from incest taboo and the rules of exogamy? Why is it that women are exchanged and not men too? And is that exchange really natural? And, finally, what is the form of social contract to which the "naturalness" of the exchange of women is so necessary? However, in order to answer those questions, we have once again to return to Levi-Strauss concept of "natural" sexuality, and ask ourselves whose "natural" sexuality he is talking about. Is it some "general", common or sexually undetermined sexuality, or, nonetheless, the sexuality of only one of the two human sexes? Is it a matter, therefore, of "natural" male - or even female sexuality?
First and foremost, as we have already mentioned, "deep polygamous tendencies" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:38) are the only form of sexuality to which Levi-Strauss openly and markedly lends the character of naturalness. They are innate, natural and universal assuch, with the result that they can only be transformed by "external" intervention - their suppression and restriction can come and does come only from the environment, that is from culture.
What, however, does Levi-Strauss mean when he speaks of natural and innate polygamous tendencies? Let us recall the meanings of that concept. In her Dictionary of Anthropology, Charlotte Seymour-Smith defines polygamy as a plural marriage that includes polyandry and polygyny. (Seymour-Smith, 1986:228), polyandry being a form of plural marriage in which a wife has more than one husband and polygyny a form of plural marriage in which a husband has more than one wife. For Levi-Strauss, polygamy does not represent that plural form of marriage in both these mentioned senses: a "sexually abstract" plurality of spouses, that is the possibility for both sexes to have forms of marriages with more than one spouse of the opposite sex. For him, this plural form of marriage in two directions, which is what is meant by polygamy, is, in fact, reduced to the plural form of marriage in only one direction, that is to say only polygyny - the form of marriage in when a husbandhasmore than one wife.
This can be seen quite clearly when, writing about the semi-nomadic Nambikwara tribe of Western Brazil he states that polygamy refers exclusively to men, for they "sanction polygamy for their headmen and sorcerers" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:38). In short, when he speaks of "deep polygamous tendencies," he is thinking exclusively of men, for he says that they "exist amongst all men, (and) that always makes the number of available women seem insufficient" (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.). As he used the word "men" (just as he used the words les hommes in the French original), which, we know, at the same time is the general definition - that is a human being in general, it nonetheless denotes a particular definition that means only one sex: men. Any possible dilemma as to his meaning (general or particular) of the concept of man disappears when he speaks, in the second half of the sentence, of the "number of available women." The fact that he mentions a plurality of women as the consequence of these deep polygamous tendencies can therefore only mean that the "subject" of such tendencies can only be man - and not in its definition that would include both sexes.
Furthermore, this (particularly single-gender) presupposition of polygyny under the (general dual-gender) concept of polygamy can also be followed in his further analysis, or rather interpretation of the "essential" elements of polygamy. We know that polyandry, amongst other things, occurs in specific cases of a lack of women, while polygyny occurs rather as a specific system of stratification according to gender and age, where older men have control of human resources, and therefore control productive and reproductive activities (Seymour-Smith, 1986: 228). For Levi-Strauss, however, the polygamous tendencies about which he first speaks in the plural (as if they allegedly belong to the male and female gender) represent that very tendency in the singular, which belongs only to the male gender.
Moreover, Levi-Strauss interprets this polygamous tendency as some kind of primaltendency of men that is not particularly provoked by the fact that, for example, in polygyny, when the headmen and sorcerers have more than one wife, there will actually occur a lack ofwomen that could otherwise be "allocated" to each man. For, he considers, "even if there were as many women as men, these women would not all be equally desirable, giving this term a broader meaning than its usual erotic connotation and that, by definition...the most desirablewomen must form a minority. Hence, the demand for women is, as an actual fact, or to all intents and purposes, always in a state of disequilibrium and tension" (Levi-Strauss, 1969: 38, italics by Ž.P.).
That means that, according to Levi-Strauss, specific social factors do not provoke the deep polygamous tendency as the tendency of men to have more than one wife, but, on the contrary, some kind of "abstract" and "deeply" motivated demandfor women, which does not depend at all on an actual imbalance between the sexes. It is based on their (unexplained, that is "natural") desirability or undesirability. The very demand for women is, without explanation, a "true fact." That "demand" for women, as the desire of (one) man for (one or more) women is, Levi-Strauss tells us, always in a state of imbalance and tension. That means that as a consequence that "line of desirability" always goes in one direction - it is "always" the man that desires and "seeks" the woman. Never is it the other way round.
Through such a construction of the desirability of women as some kind of unambiguous, extra-cultural "seductiveness of objects," that is women, Levi-Strauss build up an entire picture of the primal marital scene and further, of the cultural scene amongst the genders in primitive societies. This is a picture of the "marital scene" as it is seen, experienced and resolved by only one gender - man. When speaking of cases of imbalance between the sexes, he gives as examples of its "truly tragic nature" only those that refer to men, and the way that they are experienced, once again, by man. Homosexuality, polyandry and the borrowing of women are those "tragic examples" of cases when every man cannot procure a woman for himself. Similarly, the mosttragic example is, once again, the example that refers to a man. Levi-Strauss even mentions it as the "deepest impression" in his first experiences in the field. That is the example of an unmarried man in a village in central Brazil, who seemed to be dismal and ill-cared for, virtually expelled from the community for the sole reason that he was not married. That was, Levi-Strauss says, "the sole reason for his apparent curse."
Levi-Strauss concludes this enumeration of "tragic" circumstances to which a man is exposed in the case of the imbalance of the sexes with one, at first sight, general conclusion that refers, or should refer, to the general human situation, that is to the situation in which both sexes find themselves. However, his concretisation of such a generality clearly tells us what gender he is thinking of, that is to which inpidual of a specific gender the entire general nature of this human situation referred. In primitive societies, he writes, "it is no exaggeration to say that marriage is of vital importance for every inpidual, as he is, doubly concerned not only to find a wife forhimself, but also to prevent those two calamities of primitive society from occurring in his group, namely the bachelor and the orphan" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:39, italics by Ž.P.)
It is therefore clear from this that in Levi-Strauss language each inpidual does not mean what it should, in fact, mean each inpidual of both sexes. Women have, it seems, "naturally" disappeared and remain absent from his concept of the inpidual, and thus the entire generality of the human situation in the primitive society does in fact refer to another generality that is "covered" by and above all presupposes the first, and that is simply the particular generality of one gender, that is generality exclusively in the sense of the situation in which, in his opinion, every man finds himself.
That is, therefore, the generality of a situation in which one gender designates and presupposes itself as the "general," "common" generality of the situation that allegedly belongs to the entire human race men and women. The human is thus designated and understood as being male, and only a situation involving a man is seen as a general human situation. That is why the human situation is also interpreted exclusively from his perspective. On account of such an "operation of generality" that Levi-Strauss presupposed, was he able constantly and exclusively to corroborate his general conclusion on the essential nature of marriage in primitive communities with "evidence" referring exclusively to men. He thus begins his conclusion by citing the wise saying of the Chukchee tribe: no single man (male, note by Ž.P.) can live a bearable life if he does not have his own separate house and a wife who will look after it..." - and he concludes with an oriental saying: "If a man (male, note by Ž.P.) has no wife, there will be no Paradise for him hereafter, and no Paradise on earth" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:40, italics by Ž.P.).
It can, I hope, clearly be seen from this that Levi-Strauss "reads," sees and interprets the entity of the situation of a male in a primitive communityexclusively as a situation involving themale. He then, as if it were quite logical, generalises this as the overall human situation. That is why his explanation of mans "primitive" situation is also, in fact, an explanation of the situation in which a man finds himself. The subject of the situation is, therefore, the man who wants and "seeks" a desirable woman. The value of marriage therefore consists exclusively in what it brings and means to a man, and that is why it does, of course, save him from the curse of not being married. Imbalance and tension arise only when there are not sufficient women for every man. Marriage is therefore a social situation in which the needs and desires of men are resolved. The social life that is made possible and created through marriage is, in fact, the "single-gender" social life of men. Through marriage they will achieve position, renown and a "place" in Paradise, as well as on earth, etc. In short, human life is, neither more nor less, than the life of theman. And the male perspective and concept of the "human situation" thus becomes a generalhuman situation, and it then becomes, as in the case of Levi-Strauss, even an anthropological concept of human nature.
Levi-Strauss also carried out the same kind of "operation of generality" in the case of presupposed natural sexuality, which "as such" remains enslaved in nature. Who does this "natural" sexuality actually belong to? Does it belong to the human race in general, or, after all, to one specific gender? If we endeavour to read his explanation of the characteristics of that "natural" sexuality in the same way as his previous postulation on marriage, that is if we try to discover what gender he is actually talking about when he speaks about sexuality in general; if we only ask ourselves what gender he is using for that "general" definition, it will not be difficult to realize that when speaking of general human sexuality, he is, actually, speaking of male sexuality.
In order to see this, it is sufficient, I hope, to give a more literal translation of his already mentioned quotation of the essential characteristics of man's "natural" sexuality. "Man's sexual life," he writes, "is itself external to the group, firstly in being the highest expression of his animal nature, and the most significant survival of instinct and secondly, in that its ends are to satisfy inpidual desires which, as is known, hold little respect for social conventions..." (Levi-Strauss, 1969:12, italics by Ž.P.). The statement about man's sexual life thus, instead of having a general generic definition, becomes, in the language of Levi-Strauss, actually a statement about a particular definition of the sexuality of one gender, and that is the male gender. If we still have any doubts about whether he is, after all, thinking in generally human generic terms, and that the "laws of language" (that still allow the word "man" to be used exclusively in male terms in all known languages) are themselves imposing their restrictions upon him, it will be sufficient to recall that he presupposed the word polygamy not as the inclination of both sexes to have several partners, but the very precise "natural," "innate" and "universal" inclination of men to desire and "seek" more than one wife. We have already shown that he uses the noun inpidual in a male sense.
By "man's" sexuality, therefore, Levi-Strauss was not thinking of the sexuality of both genders, but only of one, the male gender. If we accept that Levi-Strauss presupposed male sexuality when speaking of natural sexuality, then the characteristics of such sexuality also assume for us a more precise significance. That sexuality is, let us recall, the expression of his animal nature; it is the most important remnant of instinct. Moreover, all its "animal nature" can best be expressed in its asocial character, in the lack of "respect" for social conventions, as it follows only "inpidual desires."
Although it is quite surprising that a thinker and anthropologist of his stature would use the concept of the inpidual with some kind of "natural" meaning, when we know that the inpidual can only exist in society and that only in a social framework can the inpiduals "desires" be defined as social, or even asocial - his definition of "natural" sexuality as asocial convinces us even more that he was thinking exclusively of male sexuality. For, if we are to speak of the "nature" of sexuality, then we could not in any way define female sexuality as asocial. In contrast to male sexuality, whose activity does not as a consequence have to lead to any kind of relation with another being, female sexuality, even in its "most natural" form, has, as a consequence, a social character. The woman is the person in whom the consequence of sexuality takes place. She gives birth to another human being and, like it or not, whether she has maternal instinct or not, by the very act of giving birth she is forced to meet with another, newly- born being. The consequence of her sexuality cannot, therefore, in any way be "naturally" asocial.
Why was it necessary to analyse all this in more detail? It was necessary because, from this male line of deduction of the necessity of marriage, Levi-Strauss deduces - immediately and in the same place, the necessity of incest taboo. He asks himself: "what would happen then, if the principle of collective intervention expressed purely by the rule prohibiting incest did not exist?" And, after short consideration, he asks himself what would happen if there really was no incest taboo. He concludes that "such an eventuality is incompatible with the vital demands not only of primitive society but also society in general" (Ibid. 41, italics by Ž.P.) What vitaldemands of society in general, that is to say of every society, are therefore involved?
The first vital demand is, as Levi-Strauss himself says here, incest taboo. The second, also vital, essential demand for the survival of the community is exogamy but, again in a clearly narrowed, one-way and "single-gendered" meaning - the exchange of women. Both these requirements make possible marriage, kinship and, with them, the entire "architectonics of culture." And what lies at the basis of both vital demands? Male "natural" sexuality that, as Levi-Strauss says, is instinctive, animal and asocial. What is more, male "natural" sexuality is universally polygamous in its universality and innateness. It is, therefore, for Levi-Strauss, "nature" in itself. There is no culture with it. It must be "taken" from nature. How? Only if we bear in mind that by "natural" sexuality, Levi-Strauss presupposed male sexuality can his explanation of "man's passage from nature into culture become far clearer and more transparent. Then all the "necessity" and "universality" of the three phases, or rather the three forms of that "passage" - incest taboo, exogamy and the exchange of women - fit in quite clearly.
For, if what is involved for Levi-Strauss is indeed such a natural, animal, instinctive and asocial sexuality, then it does indeed need prohibition in order to enable it to pass into culture - from such "natural" sexuality into social sexuality. Incest taboo is, consequently, the first precondition to prevent him from following exclusively his "inpidual" and incestuous desires. The law of exogamy, which is at the basis of the incest taboo, is further, that social rule whereby a new social male sexuality is created and made possible. And the exchange of women is, above all, the means by which that rule is realized and a new social sexuality created, as it realizes the main objective - the definition of the desirable (but from culture clearly distant) category of women as the mere objects of male sexuality and thus the first social link with the group outside the biological family is established.
Confirmation of the thesis that male sexuality is that "animal nature" that must be introduced into culture - with a specific "external intervention" can be found in several places amongst Levi-Strauss' works. Writing about the essential positive functions of incest taboo and exogamy, he stresses that the "reason for their existence is to establish a tie between men (males, note by Ž.P.), which the latter cannot do without if they are to raise themselves from a biologicalto a social organization..." (Ibid.: 493, italics by Ž.P.)
If, however, it is still not clear that Levi-Strauss is thinking about males, when he speaks about "people," it will, I hope, become more evident when it is shown that he interprets, once again, a cultural institution, the forms of which do not prevent it from involving both genders, exclusively with the meaning of and in function of one gender. As in the case of the already mentioned narrowing of the meaning of polygamy to only the male practice of having more than one wife, equally so, in the case of the law of exogamy Levi-Strauss does not presuppose general exogamy, that is to say the right of both sexes to exchange "desirable" marital partners in both directions, but he quite clearly presupposes only one gender and one direction of exchange - that direction whereby men exchange women.
He even further considers such a single-gendered and one-directional practice as "evidence" of the universal applicability and duration of exogamy as a cultural fact. He says: "the law of exogamy is omnipresent, acting permanently and continually; moreover, it can be applied to values - viz., women - values par excellence both from the biological and the social points of view, without which life is impossible..." (Ibid.: 481, italics by Ž.P.) Moreover, Levi-Strauss does not wish to leave us in any doubt whatsoever about whosesexuality taboo is involved or whose exchange we are actually talking about: "incest taboo is less a rule prohibiting marriage with the mother, sister or daughter, than a rule obliging the mother, sister or daughter be given to others (men, note by Ž.P.)" (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.). Or, to be more precise, "the prohibition of incest is not merely a prohibition because in forbidding it also orders. Like exogamy, which is its widened social application, the prohibition of incest is a rule of reciprocity. The woman whom one does not take and whom one may not take is, for that very reason, offered up" (Ibid.: 51, italics by Ž.P.).
The exchange of women has, for the very reason that it is so closely connected with male sexuality, assumed a multiply important place and importance, Incest taboo and the rule of exogamy would, as Levi-Strauss says, be impossible if there were not this form of "trade in women." Incest taboo would be impossible unless a man was offered someone elses sister, daughter or even mother instead of a "desired" mother, sister or daughter. With this mutual offering of women by men the rule of exogamy - as a form of the exchange of valuables between men exclusively - becomes possible as a social practice. That is because this rule allows what is most important - men's departure from nature. Thus, the exchange of women makes possible the replacement of a form of male ("naturally" incestuous) sexuality with another, also male form (of social and exogamous) sexuality. It, therefore, enables the passage into the state of culture for what, according to Levi-Strauss, is considered as "first naturalness" - male, animal, instinctive, asocial and incestuous sexuality. That sexuality has to be prohibited in order to achieve culture at all. Incest taboo is, consequently, a kind of prohibition of male "nature."
On account of such a series of positioning, intermediary and reifiedmeanings that Levi-Strauss attributes to women, his seductive rhetoric about the value of woman does not surprise us. Women are a "valuable of fundamental importance" (Ibid.: 32); they have "an essential value in group life (Ibid.:43) and "the most precious possession" (Ibid.:62). A woman, therefore, represents a commodity that, in a system of shortage of products of vital importance, represent the greatest value, as women produce not only what is the most vital - life itself, but also the condition for the socialnature of human life - male cultural sexuality.
However, behind this alluring pathos about the "essential" value of women as they produce life itself, there lies, or rather, there hides another, according to Levi-Strauss, more "essential" essence. For, if the value of women were thus, seemingly logically, derived from the fact that they produce life, then it would not be illogical to conceive and imply such social forms of marriage and kinship in which women exchange men, and which Levi-Strauss does not even mention as anthropological material. He even stresses that such a structure of relations between the genders, in which the genders were distributed the other way round can be considered only as a theoretical possibility that "is immediately eliminated on an experimental basis: in human society men exchange women, and not vice-versa" (Levi-Strauss, 1989:56).
Unfortunately, his rhetoric concerning the "essential value of women nonetheless doesnot rest on some kind of characteristic belonging to women, and not even on that manifest virtue of their producing life, which Levi-Strauss stresses himself, but, primarily, and that is fundamentally, once again on their characteristic of intermediary - as a unique instrument ofintermediation thanks to which man succeeds in shedding his animal and instinctive "incestuous" nature. For it is in the very place that he speaks of the value of women as the "most precious property" in the primitive system of values that he once again corrects himself and adds that the entity of the fundamental functionof reciprocity is not based on that. It therefore follows that there is an even deeper side to the function of reciprocity that, it seems, does, after all, rest on some kind of "naturalness" of the woman, which is of primary importance for Levi-Strauss. He writes that "above all, women are not a primary sign of social value, but a naturalstimulant; and the stimulant of the only instinct the satisfaction of which can be deferred and consequently the only one for which, in the act of exchange and through the awareness of reciprocity, the transformation from the stimulant to the sign can take place, and, defining by this fundamental process the transformation from nature into culture, assume the character of aninstitution" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:62-63, italics by Ž.P.).
What are we talking about here? We are saying that women, before they become a sign of social importance, have a "special" natural characteristic that precedes everything social that could signify it. That "natural" characteristic of theirs is the fact that they represent a natural stimulant for one primary instinct, and it is evident that for Levi-Strauss this is also the most important instinct for everything to follow. What is that instinct? And what is the only human instinct whose satisfaction, according to Levi Strauss, can be deferred? What instinct is it whose transformation affects the "act of exchange" and "awareness of reciprocity"? And, taking a step further, what instinct is transformed from a stimulant to a sign? And, finally, what instinct is it that, in all these processes, actually defines the "very" transformation from nature into culture?
If I am not mistaken, there is one instinct that Levi-Strauss does not directly name here, but of which he is, in fact, thinking. What is a woman a "natural stimulant" for? For male, "natural," instinctive and incestuous sexuality as, for such sexuality, all women, without differentiation, but particularly those that are "naturally" his, are desirable. What is that act ofexchange that has such a decisive impact on the transformation of that instinct from the stimulant to the sign? That is the act of exchange when a man exchanges his women for women that belong to another man. What awareness about reciprocity is evolved here? It is not, as it would seem at first sight, the awareness of the reciprocity of women (themselves) that are "formally" exchanged, but, on the contrary, it is a matter of the awareness of the reciprocity of relationsbetween men - with the help, the intermediation and through women.
And what is the fundamental process involved that will further, according to Levi-Strauss, define that vital point of passage between nature and cuture? Involved here, I am deeply convinced, is the fundamental process of the transformation of the man from a "natural" being imprisoned in animal, instinctive, asocial and incestuous fascination with women as "natural stimulants" - into a social being. He is that "natural man in general" who defers his instinct and thus enters into the act of exchange with another man, for both renounce their "natural" women. And then he achieves an awareness of reciprocity that he receives with such an exchange.
With this "fundamental process," there occurs not only, according to Levi-Strauss, the transformation of man from nature into culture, but it is also the fundament, that is the essence - the definition of the passage from nature "as a whole" into culture "as a whole" as such. That is because through this process of transformation this instinct is not transformed only from a stimulant into a sign, it also assumes the entire characteristic of an institution. And only in the scope of such a set of meanings does woman obtain a special place, but in no way as a value "in herself" but as a function "in itself." Because she represents that primary object of desire upon which the deferral of male instinct occurs, she thus also represents the "essential object" - the intermediary in the passage from male nature into male culture. She thus assumes her "value" and "essential importance" not as a human being but exclusively as the reified function ofpassage, as the means by which man passes from the state of his (incestuous) nature into the state of his (exogamous) culture.
Levi-Strauss' form of the primal human agreement - the social contract between men and opposition between female "nature" and male "culture"
Incest taboo and the exchange of women, as we have seen, represent that intermediatinginstrument that makes it possible for male sexuality to pass from the "state of nature," where the law of male incestuous instinct reigns, into the state of culture in which that instinct is deferred, directed towards others women and thus enables social organization of sexuality as the fundamental condition of culture. With incest taboo, that is to say with men renouncing their "natural" women, that "natural" sexuality is transformed into a culturally defined sexuality which has as a consequence exogamy - the social, and not natural, reproduction of the human being. Incest taboo is therefore, as Levi-Strauss writes, the preliminary measure that "establishes that natural distribution should not be the basis of social practice regarding women" (Levi-Strauss: 1969:44, italics by Ž.P.). It is further "confirmed in a field vital to the group's survival, the pre-eminence of the social over the natural, the collective over the inpidual, organization over the arbitrary" (Ibid.:45).
It can be concluded from the above that Levi-Strauss' transformation of male sexuality represents that crucial, decisive factor in which the passage from the state of nature into the state of culture occurs. Incest taboo, and particularly the exchange of women as a crucial form of intermediation, therefore, represent those fundamental and vital instruments thanks to which that passage is realized and a new state achieved "of higher order" with respect to nature - the social state.
However, the exchange of women does not have only that key, intermediating role whereby male natural sexuality is transformed into culturally acceptable sexuality, it also has another, and perhaps even more important intermediating role. As a specific instrument of linkage, the exchange of women also makes it possible for the type of bond between men to be fundamentally transformed - for it to pass from the "state of nature" into a new state, the state of culture.
Levi-Strauss clearly stresses this transformation of the bond between men and, upon the example of Durkheim and Ferdinand Tonnies, defines it as the transformation from mechanicalto organic solidarity. Levi-Strauss designates mechanical solidarity between men as a relation between brothers. That is the relation that is given to men by a natural bond - by birth. That is, in other words, the natural category of men. Brothers are closely connected, but, Levi-Strauss says, that closeness is founded exclusively on their similarity. It is a mechanical form of solidarity as it "adds nothing and unites nothing: it is based upon a cultural limit, satisfied by the reproduction of one type of connection the model for which is provided by nature" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:484).
A different, cultural form of solidarity is possible, he considers, only with the exchange of women, as, thanks to this, men are able to depart from the natural, mechanical type of bond, which is typical of relations between brothers, and enter an organic type of bond. There thereby emerges a new type of relation and a new social category of men, such as the brother-in-law, father-in-law or godfather. This enables the emergence of a new type of solidarity between men that is not natural and is all the more important as it "brings about the integration of thegroup on a new plane." (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.). The solidarity that comes about between men assumes a quite new relational quality. It consists in the fact that men now "complement each other and have a functional efficacy for one another their masculine alliance as adults isconfirmed by each providing the other with what he does not have - a wife - through their simultaneous renunciation of what they both do have - a sister" (Ibid. italics by Ž.P.).
Thus, Levi-Strauss considers, first with incest taboo and exogamy and, finally, with the exchange of women, that it has been made possible for "society to influence the natural order" (Ibid.:489) These three cultural forms are, in his opinion, the three fundamental interventions of culture in human nature that have enabled the passage from the state of nature to the state of culture. They are, consequently, the presupposition for culture in general. For that reason, marriage andthe kinship relations that stem from it are vital for man's becoming a cultural being. Marriage is, he stresses, a "dramatic encounter between nature and culture, between alliance and kinship" (Ibid.) The importance of marriage can be seen primarily in the fact that within it there occurs the transformation of sexuality, as the "sexual encounter, with its basis in promiscuity, is transformed into a contract, ceremony or sacrament" (Ibid.) To be even more precise, Levi Strauss emphasizes, that kinship and marriage represent the "social state in itself, reshaping biological relations and natural sentiments, forcing them into structures and compelling them to rise above their original characteristics" (Ibid.: 490, italics by Ž.P.).
With these three interventions, which are vital for the emergence of marriage and kinship as a society in itself, Levi-Strauss has, in fact, consistently rounded off his theoretic concept of the human passage from nature into culture. What, however, does Levi-Strauss theory of the passage from nature into culture presuppose and does not explain but quite evidently (presupposing) at the same time also affirms as the key hypothesis that - as the condition of culture "had to be" transformed? That vital condition of culture is, for Levi-Strauss, the transformation of the male. He is, thus, that "factor" without whose transformation there can be no "culture in itself."
That transformation is, as I have mentioned, a dual transformation of male "nature." This can be quite clearly recognized in the above-mentioned quotation in which Levi-Strauss defines two fundamental "categories" on the basis of which kinship and marriage can be designated as society in itself. Those are: 1. the transformation of biological relations and 2. the transformation of "natural" feelings. How is it possible to define more clearly what he considers as entering into these two "categories"? The answer, it seems to me, is not so difficult to find. We ask ourselves only who Levi-Strauss is talking about when he writes about the transformation of biological relations. He is talking about men who from mechanical (brotherly) solidarity pass, thanks to the exchange of women, into an organic (male kinship) solidarity. Moreover, whose transformation of "natural feelings" is he persistently speaking of? He is speaking of the "natural" feelings of a man towards "his" women. In no place does he turn that relation around - he talks only of men's "natural" feelings in "search" of women and of the types of bonds between men that are established by the mutual "supply" of their own women. In no single place does he mention "natural" or any other sexuality of women, or even a "natural" bond between them.
In Levi-Strauss' discourse, women as subjects in whom, like in men, a transformation would occur from nature into culture, simply do not exist. They always servethe passage - they are the most valuable "instrument" through which a man achieves his own passage into culture. Proof of that lies in the very exchange of women. For, to elaborate a theory so "consistently" through his entire discourse on the passage from nature into culture and ceaselessly to talk exclusively about the exchange of women speaks sufficiently, in my opinion, of who is the subject and who is the object of such a conceived and theoretically elaborated "passage."
In Levi-Strauss' entire elaboration, women are the basic material through which and by means of which men's passage from nature into culture is performed. Women represent the key place of transformation where, according to Levi-Strauss, the essential process of the deferral ofmen's instincttakes place, thanks to the fact that she is the "natural stimulant" and, as such, indubitably the "object" of his desire. It is for that reason, then, according to Levi-Strauss, that woman would not seem to change her "nature" - she is the "natural" object of his desire. For it just because of her unambiguously natural "desirability" that man agrees to redirect his "natural"desire - from "his own" women to the women "of others." Finally, in that exchange, a man does "obtain" a woman. What's more, besides her, he also obtains everything else - all the other second nature, that is culture, as well as the social organization of relations with other men - the social character of his own being, as a "bond of alliance with another family ensures the dominance of the social over the biological and of the cultural over the natural" (Ibid.:479).
To be more precise, Levi-Strauss directs us to the nature of this passage from the state of nature to the state of culture when he speaks of the social significance of marriage. The institution of marriage, he says, makes possible an essential transformation - "natural," instinctive, incestuous and promiscuous sexuality is transformed into a "contract, ceremony orsacrament." If we bear in mind whose sexuality he is constantly speaking about, we cannot but conclude that the contract that is made with marriage is not primarily a contract between the spouses, the man and the woman, but, first and foremost, a form of social contract between men. That is because they renounce their "natural" incestuousness by reaching agreement with other men to commonly renounce their "naturalness", that is their desires for their sisters, mothers and daughters in order to "obtain" wives in return, and, with them a new form of social character.
Thus, Levi-Strauss, in his analytical "fathoming" of the "first" and "natural" preconditions for the human society, takes as his starting point a hypothetical reconstruction that he then deduces and defines as the "first" agreement between people. As the object of that agreement is male sexuality, considered as asocial and polygamously instinctive by its "primal" nature, it is then clear that the first agreement amongst people occurred exclusively as an agreement between men. Through it they agree to a cultural ban on their own form of "natural" incestuous sexuality - and thereby also agree to society as the culture form of their existence.
That agreement is further based on Levi-Strauss' vision of the first opposition that has be established and overcome in order to make human society possible. That is the opposition between two types of male sexuality - between "natural" (incestuous) and "cultural" (exogamous) male sexuality. Male sexuality is, therefore, the primeval - the "source" of human "naturalness" that has to be suppressed and transformed with culture. As such, it represents the primordial from which "everything starts" - and, above all, the "source" of the opposition between nature and culture. The first prohibition, according to Levi-Strauss' concept, is the prohibition of male "nature."
Levi-Strauss has little dilemma as to the fact the human society thus conceived was madepossible by the exchange of women, in other words, that it is the fundamental prerequisite for the "human" society. He openly claims that "the exchange of women" functions, therefore, as a mechanismthat intermediates between nature and culture, which were first thought to be separate. By replacing supernatural and primitive mechanisms with cultural architectonics, that marriage creates a second nature that man can change, that is to say a mediated nature" (Levi-Strauss, 1966: 164, italics by Ž.P.). What is, however, that "cultural architectonics" when a mediated, second human nature that surpasses the "primitive mechanics" of nature is realized in such a way that one half of the human race (men) exchanges the other half (women)?
Nor does Levi-Strauss leave one in any doubt that men represent the subjects of exchange in the "first human agreement" and, consequently, women represent its objects. He writes:... "in the sphere of culture men perform the exchange of women that maintain those same people in the sphere of nature..." (Ibid: 161, italics by Ž.P.) Similarly, he does not conceal another unusually important aspect of that exchange - and that is the fact that the person who is the subject ofexchange is at the same time also the subject that has the power to designatethe object ofexchange, in this case women, in a sovereign manner and to thus define its "value" and, above all, its "usefulness." He even openly claims that man's reificationof women is a "true" example of the mutuality of the natural and the cultural processes. He writes that "true mutuality stems from two processes: the natural process that evolves through women that give birth to people, and the cultural process, the protagonists of which are people that socially define women alongside with their giving birth naturally." (Ibid.:162, italics by Ž.P.).
What does this mean? Levi-Strauss writes here about something that is, above all, attractive - about such a concept of relations between nature and culture that, it seems, does notpresuppose their opposition. He writes of the mutualityof relations between those two processes and thus, one would say, explicitly refutes his own idea about the opposition between nature and culture not only being the dominant structure of the human spirit, but also the essential characteristic of human culture. This concept of mutuality, moreover, would, in its degree ofgenerality, seem to surpass that "first opposition" that is established by the prohibition of "natural" male sexuality. Or, to be more precise, one gains the impression that the "first opposition" represents the condition and root for the establishment of its own opposite the mutuality of natural and cultural processes.
However, if one analyses the quotation above more carefully, the question arises as to the type ofmutuality established between natural and cultural processes. And, what is more important, what pision does Levi-Strauss assume as the basis for the mutuality? We shall find the answer to these questions if we ask ourselves once again which gender, on the basis of this principle of mutuality, belongs to which process - which to the natural process and which to the cultural process. We shall see that the female gender is "contained" in the natural process, as it "evolves through women who give birth to people," and, on the other side, the male gender alone, that is the concept of people from which, as we can well see, women are excluded. Men are, he writes, the protagonists of the cultural process and they are such as they, first and foremost, "socially determine women."
Thus, Levi-Strauss' idea that the opposition between male natural and cultural sexuality also builds and establishes its opposite, that is to say mutuality between natural and cultural processes, represents a specific and original version of "intellectual cunning" whereby it is claimed that something does exist that actually does not - merely because a specific act of "shifting the opposition," upon which that "declarative opposition" of mutuality actual rests, is not noticed. For, his vision of mutuality between natural and cultural processes quite evidently rests on opposition between the human genders, on the fact that one gender (women) belongs to nature, while the other gender (men) not only "belongs to" culture but are its supreme subject. Female "nature" is, consequently, nature "per se" because as it is through women that the process of birth evolves, while male "nature" is, to be more explicit, culture "per se" as men are its subjects, that its "protagonists." That means that Levi Strauss builds up his principle of mutuality on an inexplicable but evidently deeply predetermined "natural" opposition between male and female "natures."
That opposition is, however, a dual "gender opposition":
1. Female "nature" belongs to nature, while male nature belongs to culture. Concluding indirectly from Levi-Strauss form of conclusion (as in no single place does he take female sexuality as the object of his discussion and nor does he even give thought to the type of its possible cultural transformation), this opposition can be defined as opposition between two sexualities - between the "culturally unelaborated" (as it is "naturally" harmless) female sexuality and the "culturally elaborated" (as it is "naturally" dangerous) male sexuality. One has remained in nature, while the other has passed into culture. That is the opposition between natural femaleness and cultural maleness.
2. Male "nature" thus defined, according to Levi Strauss, has not only passed into culture but has even become its subject. Set up as the subject of culture, man thus assumes a "special" power - and that is the power of one gender to "socially define" the other gender. Thus, women have not simply remained forever in "nature". They have, after all, "passed" into culture, but they received the definition of their culture from "outside," from the main protagonist that designates them and gives them social definition. Involved here, therefore, is opposition with more far-reaching practical and conceptualconsequences. For this is the opposition between the subject and the object, between the designator and the designated, which is just that because, as such, it is established as the domination - of the subject over the object, the designator over the designated, the male gender over the female gender, male "culture" over female "nature."
What does Levi-Strauss base this dual gender opposition on? He bases it on the fact that he considers that it represents the essence that cannot be brought into question. And it is birth itself that represents the "essence" that cannot be brought into question. The existence and the renewal of the essence of "that" most important thing - the social group - are founded on birth. And from that "essence" of birth and the renewal of the group there then "logically" follow the other "essences" that, by the very fact that they "stem" from the first "essence" are no longer brought into question - and those are women and their exchange. That hierarchy and "logical essence" is best expressed in Levi-Strauss' statement that "the group prolongs its life throughwomen- some true essence can only be achieved through exchanges of women, even if the specific manner in which each society organizes these exchanges or conceives their mechanism makes it possible for more or less symbolic contents to be introduced in them" (Levi-Strauss, 1966:145-146, italics by Ž.P.).
What is that "true content" for Levi-Strauss? Some kind of "true content," he says, can only be achieved with the exchange of women. That means that only in the exchange of women is there the exchange of some kind of "essence" that, without hesitation, could be defined as "actual" and not symbolic. And that further means that nothing else has to be "real" but culturally derived, but, however, all that later "unreality" must nonetheless be founded on some first, albeit sole, reality. That "reality" therefore "emerges" as the first and "essential cause" - as the deepest prerequisite of everything to follow from it.
However, does everything that follows really represent the consequence of this "actual content"? Or is it, perhaps, the reverse? Is it not, perhaps, that "first essence," that "true content", as the "essential precondition" of everything that follows from it possible as such only if it is derived from which is assumed to "follow" after it? We therefore ask ourselves why it is in the very exchange of women that, according to Levi-Strauss, that "true content" is located. On which presuppositions does it rest?
Firstly, it rests on the first and such explicit identification contained in this very sentence: the group prolongs its life through women - ergo only can the "true essence" be achieved through the exchange of women. Here, in other words, the incontestable value of life, that is the value of the prolongation of the groups life, is absolutely identified with the assumption of one single possible form through which life is made possible and prolonged - the exchange of women.
We are not therefore talking here of the fact that the group prolongs its life through women, signifying only that simple and "true content" the "pure" renewal of life in whateverform it may be. It that were the case, that would then mean that the group is renewed through some "general" or "abstract" woman that can assume different cultural types of her "nature." Similarly, that would mean that the group renews life in various forms of exchange - and perhaps even in the "exchange of men." The famous "universality" of the exchange of women indicates that it is not so in this case. That is because this is an already determined and clearly culturally defined type of female nature that Levi-Strauss declares the only "general" and "abstract" nature of woman. However, as we have seen, this specific type of female "nature" did not emerge of itself. It is derived nature and it was derived from male "nature" that finds in it the mediatinginstrument for its own passage into culture.
How is it that female "nature" is derived from male "nature"? Let us recall, the exchangeof women is, for Levi-Strauss, the unique formfor the passage of male nature from "nature" into culture. It renders possible two "essential cultures," both essentially linked to men: the transformation of male "natural" sexuality into cultural sexuality, as well as the transformation of natural bonds between men (mechanical solidarity) into a cultural type of bond between men (organic solidarity). Accordingly, in order for the "essences" to have their real foundation, they have to stem from some even "more real" essence from the fact that the exchange of women is not merely some "symbolic act" but that some "real content" is responsible for it. For, as the exchange of women, in Levi-Strauss vision of the "primal scene," has the essential function of transforming male nature into culture, then it is evident that it is all the more necessary for some "true content" to be responsible for it "essentially". For that reason, therefore, that "true content" can also be found, or rather situated deductively in that very place that is of decisive importance for all other "essences" and their tenability as "derived contents." For, in order for them to be "truly derived," they have toconfirm their "origin" in some part of "reality" that then thus makes such "derivation" possible for them.
For that reason, Levi-Strauss' concept of "true content" as some kind of first condition of all other "essences" represents, in fact, a hypothetical constructionof the former condition that has to stem from and follow (backwards) from its allegedly later "consequences," that is later"essences." That "true content" is not, therefore, the first cause, but rather the derived logicalcondition for the entire structure of consequences to which that condition occurs as its own vital "beginning." Only thus is it possible for the meaning of true essence to be attached to one form of group renewal, that is the one through the exchange of women. For that very form of the renewal of group life "needs" some "real content" to correspond to the exchange of women. It needs it as the basis of its own origins and the deepest cause from which the entire "structure of consequences" then follows.
Levi-Strauss above-mentioned assumptions concerning the duality of gender opposition, which seems to be "naturally" at the root of the human passage from nature into culture, also tells us that the content of Levi-Strauss' idea of the "true content" represents a specific logical construction of the essence as the "cause" in order to prove the authenticity and "natural causality" of the consequences, that is the series of other "essences that follow it. For, if he openly claims that men are the exclusive protagonists of culture because, amongst other things, they socially define women, then why should it be different if it were the case of Levi-Strauss' own definition that a "real content" stands behind the exchange of women?
If he has already derived all the "naturalness" of the cultural fact that men definewomen, then is it not logical to conclude that those same men, who are the protagonists of culture in the practice of the social definition of women, also consider the very definition of their own, alleged "essence" as an integral part of the practice of the definition of women? And thus, under the definition of the essence of women, they presuppose the reason why they in any case consider that women are of "essential significance" - on account of their "essential function" as instruments ofbonding and the transformation of "natural" men into cultural beings.
That means, in fact, that the very concept of the "essence of women" is inseparable from their "essential function," as it is seen and socially defined by men. And then, thanks to the force of such logic of "inseparability," it is very easy for that "essence" to become what defines it most vitally in culture - the essence of women is identified with and reduced to their "essential function"- giving birth, renewing the group and, primarily, their exchange function in the process of the socialization of men. That is why it seems so natural to Levi-Strauss that a "true content" can only be achieved with the exchange of women, as reality as "such" is seen and understood only as the "reality of the function" that this "content" has and must have.
Thus, in Levi-Strauss' vision of human origins and the passage from nature into culture, women are conceived and seen as "essential mediators," but they are themselves excluded from that mediation. They are the mediators of men's "great leap" from nature into culture, which makes possible the first human agreement as an agreement between men on the inhibition of their own sexuality, and thereby also the first form of social contract whereby social relations are constituted exclusively as relations between men. From all this, it would really be illogical to conclude that under the "true content" standing behind the exchange of women Levi Strauss can presuppose anything but their instrumental functionality in the transformation of male "nature" into the "general human" nature of culture.
The importance and the place of women in Levi-Strauss vision of human nature consists primarily in their performing the key functionof mediation in the passage from (male) nature into (male) culture. Besides, as Levi-Strauss says, the man is the protagonist of a culture conceived as the transformation of male "nature." He is the subject that decides what is to be defined as "true essence" because he performs that specific operation of the social definition of female nature. That further means that one (the male) gender decides on the "real content" and natural "essence" of both genders. And, consequently, he also decides on and defines the function and social meaning of the natural "essence" of the genders. It is therefore quite "logical" that the essence ofwomen as human beings is identified and equated with - and finally - reduced to their "essentialfunction," that is the "value of their use" for the sole purpose of male "culture." That is because the passage from male "nature" into the state of culture according to male criteria is identified and equated with the human being in general, and thereby also with the entire concept of the passage from nature into culture.
For that reason, it seems, it is quite sufficient for Levi-Strauss that women are nothing other than a functional place of the "essential" transformation of man from the state of nature into the state of culture. Furthermore, it is that very functional place that gives her that seductive and "elevated status of "real essence" - the first essence on which all other "essences" rest and are derived, and even the "emergence of symbolic thought (that) must have required that women, like words, should be things that were exchanged" (Levi-Strauss, 1969:496, italics by Ž.P.).
In this way, Levi-Strauss has from sexual difference created such an opposition ofessences on the basis of which he has derived a fundamental principle, that is the mechanism ofpassage from nature into culture. The function of giving birth, which is, a s we can see, performed "through women," becomes the privileged essential function of women. It is established as the "essential" determinant not only of womans real "nature" but also the entire content and scope of her social character, that is her social denotation. And just as their nature - the ability to give birth - is geared to the transformation of male "nature" into culture, thus their social character, all its content and volume, is geared to overcoming natural bonds and establishing social bonds between men. As since, according to Levi-Strauss, it is through this "primal" social contract that the entire human culture has been constituted, thus a universal, global and "essential" function is attributed to womens "nature" it is the instrument of the passage of the "general", seemingly common to both sexes, human nature from the state of nature into the state of culture.
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade,