Maurice Godelier (born February 28, 1934) is a French anthropologist who works as the Director of Studies at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. He is one of the most influential French anthropologists and is best known as one of the earliest advocates of Marxism's incorporation into anthropology. He is also known for his field work among the Baruya in Papua New Guinea from the 1960s to the 1980s.
In 1955, Godelier received an associate degree in philosophy, a degree in psychology, and a degree in modern literature. During his early education, he was especially interested in the works of Husserl. He attended the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud from 1955 to 1959 and received an agrégation in philosophy. Godelier developed a specific interest in Marxist theory and politics; influenced by Claude Lévi-Strauss, he chose to pursue the field of anthropology.
In 1963, Godelier initiated the first program on economic anthropology in France at College de France. In this program he focused on refining the Marxist ideas of base and superstructure and modes of production.
From 1966 to 1969, Godelier conducted his first major anthropological field study on the Baruya in Papua New Guinea. His research provided significant contributions to the limited understanding of New Guinea cultures. In 1982, he used his research to write an ethnography on the Baruya. The book, entitled The Making of Great Men, discusses sex- and gender-based inequality and provided insight into the systems of power in Melanesia. His analysis of the systems of power was further developed in Big Men and Great Men, published in 1991, which he co-edited with Marilyn Strathern.
In the late 1990s, Godelier addressed the future of peripheral societies under the effects of world capitalism and a new analysis of kinship theory focusing on gender inequality and sexuality. In 1995, he founded the Center for Research and Documentation on Oceania, which he directed until 1999.
From 2000 to 2003, Godelier served on various organizations related to research in social sciences in Europe and his anthropological work in Oceania. He is currently (2013-2015) president of the Société des océanistes.