Post-structuralism

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Post-structuralism is either a continuation or a rejection of the intellectual project that preceded it—structuralism. [1] Structuralism proposes that one may understand human culture by means of a structure—modeled on language (structural linguistics)—that differs from concrete reality and from abstract ideas—a "third order" that mediates between the two. [2] Post-structuralist authors all present different critiques of structuralism, but common themes include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of structuralism, and an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute its structures. [3] [4] [5] [6] Writers whose works are often characterised as post-structuralist include: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard, Julia Kristeva, and Jürgen Habermas [ citation needed ], although many theorists who have been called "post-structuralist" have rejected the label. [7]

Structuralism Theory that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure

In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract structure".

Culture Social behavior and norms found in society

Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups.

Structure arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in an object or system, or the object or system so organized

Structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system, or the object or system so organized. Material structures include man-made objects such as buildings and machines and natural objects such as biological organisms, minerals and chemicals. Abstract structures include data structures in computer science and musical form. Types of structure include a hierarchy, a network featuring many-to-many links, or a lattice featuring connections between components that are neighbors in space.

Contents

Post-structuralism and structuralism

Structuralism was an intellectual movement in France in the 1950s and 1960s that studied the underlying structures in cultural products (such as texts) and used analytical concepts from linguistics, psychology, anthropology, and other fields to interpret those structures. Structuralism posits the concept of binary opposition, in which frequently used pairs of opposite but related words (concepts) are often arranged in a hierarchy, for example: Enlightenment/Romantic, male/female, speech/writing, rational/emotional, signified/signifier, symbolic/imaginary.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties, joining this way the broader neuroscientific group of researchers. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

A binary opposition is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning. Binary opposition is the system of language and/or thought by which two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as on and off, up and down, left and right. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In structuralism, a binary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language.

Post-structuralism rejects the structuralist notion that the dominant word in a pair is dependent on its subservient counterpart and instead argues that founding knowledge either on pure experience (phenomenology) or systematic structures (Structuralism) is impossible because history and culture condition the study of underlying structures and these are subject to biases and misinterpretations. This impossibility was not meant as a failure or loss, but rather as a cause for "celebration and liberation". [8] A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object. [9] The uncertain distance between structuralism and post-structuralism is further blurred by the fact that scholars rarely label themselves as post-structuralists. Some scholars associated with structuralism, such as Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, also became noteworthy in post-structuralism. [10]

Roland Barthes French philosopher, critic and literary theorist

Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of many schools of theory, including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology, and post-structuralism.

Michel Foucault French philosopher

Paul-Michel Foucault, generally known as Michel Foucault, was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

Controversy

Some observers from outside the post-structuralist camp have questioned the rigour and legitimacy of the field. American philosopher John Searle [11] argued in 1990 that "The spread of 'poststructuralist' literary theory is perhaps the best-known example of a silly but non-catastrophic phenomenon." Similarly, physicist Alan Sokal [12] in 1997 criticized "the postmodernist/poststructuralist gibberish that is now hegemonic in some sectors of the American academy." Literature scholar Norman Holland argued that post-structuralism was flawed due to reliance on Saussure's linguistic model, which was seriously challenged by the 1950s and was soon abandoned by linguists: "Saussure's views are not held, so far as I know, by modern linguists, only by literary critics and the occasional philosopher. [Strict adherence to Saussure] has elicited wrong film and literary theory on a grand scale. One can find dozens of books of literary theory bogged down in signifiers and signifieds, but only a handful that refers to Chomsky." [13]

John Searle American philosopher

John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher. He was Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language and Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and social philosophy, he began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1959.

Alan Sokal American physicist and mathematician

Alan David Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. He is a critic of postmodernism, and caused the Sokal affair in 1996 when his deliberately nonsensical paper was published by Duke University's Social Text. He also works to counter faulty scientific reasoning, as seen with his involvement in criticising the critical positivity ratio concept in positive psychology.

David Foster Wallace wrote:

The deconstructionists ("deconstructionist" and "poststructuralist" mean the same thing, by the way: "poststructuralist" is what you call a deconstructionist who doesn't want to be called a deconstructionist) ... see the debate over the ownership of meaning as a skirmish in a larger war in Western philosophy over the idea that presence and unity are ontologically prior to expression. There’s been this longstanding deluded presumption, they think, that if there is an utterance then there must exist a unified, efficacious presence that causes and owns that utterance. The poststructuralists attack what they see as a post-Platonic prejudice in favour of presence over absence and speech over writing. We tend to trust speech over writing because of the immediacy of the speaker: he's right there, and we can grab him by the lapels and look into his face and figure out just exactly what one single thing he means. But the reason why poststructuralists are in the literary theory business at all is that they see writing, not speech, as more faithful to the metaphysics of true expression. For Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, writing is a better animal than speech because it is iterable; it is iterable because it is abstract; and it is abstract because it is a function not of presence but of absence: the reader’s absent when the writer’s writing and the writer's absent when the reader's reading.

For a deconstructionist, then, a writer's circumstances and intentions are indeed a part of the "context" of a text, but context imposes no real cinctures on the text's meaning because meaning in language requires cultivation of absence rather than presence, involves not the imposition but the erasure of consciousness. This is so because these guys–Derrida following Heidegger and Barthes Mallarme and Foucault God knows who–see literary language as not a tool but an environment. A writer does not wield language; he is subsumed in it. Language speaks us; writing writes; etc. [14]

History

Post-structuralism emerged in France during the 1960s as a movement critiquing structuralism. According to J. G. Merquior [5] a love–hate relationship with structuralism developed among many leading French thinkers in the 1960s.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

José Guilherme Merquior Brazilian academic, writer and diplomat

José Guilherme Merquior was a Brazilian diplomat, academic, writer, literary critic and philosopher.

A love–hate relationship is an interpersonal relationship involving simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate—something particularly common when emotions are intense.

In a 1966 lecture "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", Jacques Derrida presented a thesis on an apparent rupture in intellectual life. Derrida interpreted this event as a "decentering" of the former intellectual cosmos. Instead of progress or divergence from an identified centre, Derrida described this "event" as a kind of "play."

In 1967, Barthes published "The Death of the Author" in which he announced a metaphorical event: the "death" of the author as an authentic source of meaning for a given text. Barthes argued that any literary text has multiple meanings and that the author was not the prime source of the work's semantic content. The "Death of the Author," Barthes maintained, was the "Birth of the Reader," as the source of the proliferation of meanings of the text.

The period was marked by the rebellion of students and workers against the state in May 1968.

Major works

Barthes and the need for metalanguage

Barthes in his work, Elements of Semiology (1967), advanced the concept of the "metalanguage". A metalanguage is a systematized way of talking about concepts like meaning and grammar beyond the constraints of a traditional (first-order) language; in a metalanguage, symbols replace words and phrases. Insofar as one metalanguage is required for one explanation of the first-order language, another may be required, so metalanguages may actually replace first-order languages. Barthes exposes how this structuralist system is regressive; orders of language rely upon a metalanguage by which it is explained, and therefore deconstruction itself is in danger of becoming a metalanguage, thus exposing all languages and discourse to scrutiny. Barthes' other works contributed deconstructive theories about texts.

Derrida's lecture at Johns Hopkins

The occasional designation of Post-structuralism as a movement can be tied to the fact that mounting criticism of Structuralism became evident at approximately the same time that Structuralism became a topic of interest in universities in the United States. This interest led to a colloquium at Johns Hopkins University in 1966 titled "The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man", to which such French philosophers as Derrida, Barthes, and Lacan were invited to speak.

Derrida's lecture at that conference, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences", was one of the earliest to propose some theoretical limitations to Structuralism, and to attempt to theorize on terms that were clearly no longer structuralist.

The element of "play" in the title of Derrida's essay is often erroneously interpreted in a linguistic sense, based on a general tendency towards puns and humour, while social constructionism as developed in the later work of Michel Foucault is said to create play in the sense of strategic agency by laying bare the levers of historical change. Many see the importance of Foucault's work to be in its synthesis of this social/historical account of the operation of power (see governmentality).[ citation needed ]

See also

Poetry

Authors

The following are often said to be post-structuralists, or to have had a post-structuralist period:

Related Research Articles

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to critical theory:

Originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. Derrida's approach consisted of conducting readings of texts looking for things that run counter to the intended meaning or structural unity of a particular text. The purpose of deconstruction is to show that the usage of language in a given text, and language as a whole, are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible. Throughout his readings, Derrida hoped to show deconstruction at work.

Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era.

Literary theory systematic study of the nature of literature

Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of intellectual history, moral philosophy, social prophecy, and other interdisciplinary themes which are of relevance to the way humans interpret meaning. In the humanities in modern academia, the latter style of scholarship is an outgrowth of critical theory and is often called simply "theory". As a consequence, the word "theory" has become an umbrella term for a variety of scholarly approaches to reading texts. Many of these approaches are informed by various strands of Continental philosophy and of sociology.

"Logocentrism" is a term coined by the German philosopher Ludwig Klages in the early 1900s. It refers to the tradition of Western science and philosophy that regards words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality. It holds the logos as epistemologically superior and that there is an original, irreducible object which the logos represents. According to logocentrism, the logos is the ideal representation of the Platonic ideal.

"The Death of the Author" is a 1967 essay by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–1980). Barthes' essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of a text, and instead argues that writing and creator are unrelated. The title is a pun on Le Morte d'Arthur, a 15th-century compilation of smaller Arthurian legend stories, written by Sir Thomas Malory.

Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University; his published works are in the fields of structuralism, literary theory and criticism.

Linguistic turn

The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relations between language, language users, and the world.

In social theory and philosophy, antihumanism is a theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition. Central to antihumanism is the view that concepts of "human nature", "man", or "humanity" should be rejected as historically relative or metaphysical.

Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences was a lecture presented at Johns Hopkins University on 21 October 1966 by philosopher Jacques Derrida. The lecture was then published in 1967 as chapter ten of Writing and Difference.

Difference is a key concept of philosophy, denoting the process or set of properties by which one entity is distinguished from another within a relational field or a given conceptual system. In the Western philosophical system, difference is traditionally viewed as being opposed to identity, following the Principles of Leibniz, and in particular, his Law of the identity of indiscernibles. In structuralist and poststructuralist accounts, however, difference is understood to be constitutive of both meaning and identity. In other words, because identity is viewed in non-essentialist terms as a construct, and because constructs only produce meaning through the interplay of differences, it is the case that for both structuralism and poststructuralism, identity cannot be said to exist without difference.

French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century philosophy of science, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and postmodernism.

The linguist Ignace Gelb coined the term "grammatology" in 1952 to refer to the scientific study of writing systems or scripts. Grammatology can examine the typology of scripts, the analysis of the structural properties of scripts, and the relationship between written and spoken language. In its broadest sense, some scholars also include the study of literacy in grammatology and, indeed, the impact of writing on philosophy, religion, science, administration and other aspects of the organization of society. Historian Bruce Trigger associates grammatology with cultural evolution.

Barbara Ellen Johnson was an American literary critic and translator, born in Boston. She was a Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University. Her scholarship incorporated a variety of structuralist and poststructuralist perspectives—including deconstruction, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and feminist theory—into a critical, interdisciplinary study of literature. As a scholar, teacher, and translator, Johnson helped make the theories of French philosopher Jacques Derrida accessible to English-speaking audiences in the United States at a time when they had just begun to gain recognition in France. Accordingly, she is often associated with the "Yale School" of academic literary criticism.

Todd Gifford May is a political philosopher who writes on topics of anarchism, poststructuralism, and post-structuralist anarchism. He is currently Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of Philosophy at Clemson University.

Post-anarchism or postanarchism is an anarchist philosophy that employs post-structuralist and postmodernist approaches. Post-anarchism is not a single coherent theory, but rather refers to the combined works of any number of post-modernists and post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard; postmodern feminists such as Judith Butler; and alongside those of classical anarchist and libertarian philosophers such as Zhuang Zhou, Emma Goldman, Max Stirner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus, the terminology can vary widely in both approach and outcome.

Feminist post-structuralist discourse analysis (FPDA) is a method of discourse analysis based on Chris Weedon's theories of feminist post-structuralism, and developed as a method of analysis by Judith Baxter in 2003. FPDA is based on a combination of feminism and post-structuralism. While it is still evolving as a methodology, FPDA has been used by a range of international scholars of gender and language to analyse texts such as: classroom discourse, teenage girls' conversation, and media representations of gender. FPDA is an approach to analysing the discourse of spoken interaction principally.

References

  1. Lewis, Philip. "The Post-Structuralist Condition." Diacritics 12, no. 1 (1982): 2-24. doi:10.2307/464788.
  2. Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. "How Do We Recognise Structuralism?" In Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. Trans. David Lapoujade. Ed. Michael Taormina. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents ser. Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e), 2004. 170-192. ISBN   1-58435-018-0. esp. pp. 171-173.
  3. Bensmaïa, Réda Poststructuralism, article published in Kritzman, Lawrence (ed.) The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought , Columbia University Press, 2005, pp.92-93
  4. Mark Poster (1988) Critical theory and poststructuralism: in search of a context, section Introduction: Theory and the problem of Context, pp.5-6
  5. 1 2 Merquior, J. G. (1987). Foucault (Fontana Modern Masters series), University of California Press, ISBN   0-520-06062-8.
  6. , Craig, Edward, ed. 1998. Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Vol. 7 (Nihilism to Quantum mechanics). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN   0-415-18712-5. p.597.
  7. Harrison, Paul; 2006; "Post-structuralist Theories"; pp122-135 in Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds); 2006; Approaches to Human Geography; Sage, London
  8. Colebrook 2002, pp. 2-4
  9. Raulet, Gerard. "Structuralism and post-structuralism: An interview with Michel Foucault." Telos 1983, no. 55 (1983): 195-211. doi: 10.3817/0383055195 telos March 20, 1983 vol. 1983 no. 55 195-211
  10. Williams, James. Understanding poststructuralism. Routledge, 2014.
  11. Searle, John. (1990). "The Storm Over the University," in The New York Times Review of Books, 6 December 1990.
  12. Sokal, Alan. (1997) "Professor Latour's Philosophical Mystifications," originally published in French in Le Monde , 31 January 1997; translated by the author.
  13. Holland, Norman N. (1992) The Critical I, Columbia University Press, ISBN   0-231-07650-9, p. 140.
  14. Biblioklept (22 December 2010). "David Foster Wallace Describes Poststructuralism". Biblioklept. Retrieved 25 May 2017.

Sources