Natural Symbols is one of the most important works of modern anthropology. First published over thirty years ago, the work presaged many of the most controversial areas of intellectual debate, exploring themes such as the social meaning of natural symbols and the image of the body in society and religious cosmology.
Bringing anthropology into the realm of religion, Natural Symbols enters into the ongoing debate in religious circles surrounding meaning and ritual. Written against the backdrop of student uprisings of the late 1960s, the book took seriously the revolutionary fervor of the times, but instead of seeking to destroy the rituals and symbols that can govern and oppress, Mary Douglas saw instead that if transformation were needed, it could only be made possible through better understanding. Expressed with clarity and dynamism, the passionate analysis which follows from this remains one of the most insightful and rewarding studies of human behavior that has been written.