Structuralism

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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". [1]

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life using the principles of psychology neuroscience and network science. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology studies patterns of behaviour and cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.

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.

Contents

Structuralism in Europe developed in the early 1900s, mainly in France and Russian Empire, in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague, [2] Moscow [2] and Copenhagen schools of linguistics. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when structural linguistics were facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance, an array of scholars in the humanities borrowed Saussure's concepts for use in their respective fields of study. French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was arguably the first such scholar, sparking a widespread interest in structuralism. [1]

French Third Republic Nation of France from 1870 to 1940

The French Third Republic was the system of government adopted in France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed during the Franco-Prussian War, until 10 July 1940 after France's defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II led to the formation of the Vichy government in France.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire was an empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Structural linguistics is an approach to linguistics originating from the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and is part of the overall approach of structuralism. Structural linguistics involves collecting a corpus of utterances and then attempting to classify all of the elements of the corpus at their different linguistic levels: the phonemes, morphemes, lexical categories, noun phrases, verb phrases, and sentence types.

The structuralist mode of reasoning has been applied in a diverse range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, economics and architecture. The most prominent thinkers associated with structuralism include Claude Lévi-Strauss, linguist Roman Jakobson, and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. As an intellectual movement, structuralism was initially presumed to be the heir apparent to existentialism. [3] However, by the late 1960s, many of structuralism's basic tenets came under attack from a new wave of predominantly French intellectuals such as the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the literary critic Roland Barthes. [2] Though elements of their work necessarily relate to structuralism and are informed by it, these theorists have generally been referred to as post-structuralists. In the 1970s, structuralism was criticized for its rigidity and ahistoricism. Despite this, many of structuralism's proponents, such as Lacan, continue to assert an influence on continental philosophy and many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's post-structuralist critics are a continuation of structuralism. [4]

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.

Literary criticism study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature

Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.

Structuralist economics is an approach to economics that emphasizes the importance of taking into account structural features (typically) when undertaking economic analysis. The approach originated with the work of the Economic Commission for Latin America and is primarily associated with its director Raúl Prebisch and Brazilian economist Celso Furtado. Prebisch began with arguments that economic inequality and distorted development was an inherent structural feature of the global system exchange. As such, early structuralist models emphasised both internal and external disequilibria arising from the productive structure and its interactions with the dependent relationship developing countries had with the developed world. Prebisch himself helped provide the rationale for the idea of Import substitution industrialization, in the wake of the Great Depression and World War II. The alleged declining terms of trade of the developing countries, the Singer–Prebisch hypothesis, played a key role in this.

Overview

The term "structuralism" is a related term that describes a particular philosophical/literary movement or moment. The term appeared in the works of French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and gave rise in France to the "structuralist movement," which influenced the thinking of other writers such as Louis Althusser, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, as well as the structural Marxism of Nicos Poulantzas, most of whom disavowed themselves as being a part of this movement.

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology, and philosophical anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life, while economic anthropology studies human economic behavior. Biological (physical), forensic, and medical anthropology study the biological development of humans, the application of biological anthropology in a legal setting, and the study of diseases and their impacts on humans over time, respectively.

Claude Lévi-Strauss French anthropologist and ethnologist

Claude Lévi-Strauss was a Belgium-born French anthropologist and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology. He held the chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France between 1959 and 1982 and was elected a member of the Académie française in 1973. He received numerous honors from universities and institutions throughout the world and has been called, alongside James George Frazer and Franz Boas, the "father of modern anthropology".

The origins of structuralism connect with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure on linguistics, along with the linguistics of the Prague and Moscow schools. In brief, Saussure's structural linguistics propounded three related concepts. [1]

Ferdinand de Saussure Swiss linguist

Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist and semiotician. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiology in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics and one of two major founders of semiotics/semiology.

The Moscow linguistic circle was a group of social scientists in semiotics, literary theory, and linguistics active in Moscow from 1915 to ca. 1924. Its members included Filipp Fedorovich Fortunatov, Roman Jakobson, Grigory Vinokur, Boris Tomashevsky, and Petr Bogatyrev. The group was a counterpart to the St. Petersburg linguistic group OPOJAZ; between them, these two groups were responsible for the development of Russian formalist literary semiotics and linguistics.

  1. Saussure argued for a distinction between langue (an idealized abstraction of language) and parole (language as actually used in daily life). He argued that the "sign" was composed of both a signified, an abstract concept or idea, and a "signifier", the perceived sound/visual image.
  2. Because different languages have different words to describe the same objects or concepts, there is no intrinsic reason why a specific sign is used to express a given signifier. It is thus "arbitrary".
  3. Signs thus gain their meaning from their relationships and contrasts with other signs. As he wrote, "in language, there are only differences 'without positive terms.'" [5]

Proponents of structuralism would argue that a specific domain of culture may be understood by means of a structure—modelled on language—that is distinct both from the organizations of reality and those of ideas or the imagination—the "third order". [6] In Lacan's psychoanalytic theory, for example, the structural order of "the Symbolic" is distinguished both from "the Real" and "the Imaginary"; similarly, in Althusser's Marxist theory, the structural order of the capitalist mode of production is distinct both from the actual, real agents involved in its relations and from the ideological forms in which those relations are understood.

Psychoanalysis psychological theory that was founded in 1890 by the Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind, which together form a method of treatment for mental-health disorders. The discipline was established in the early 1890s by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and stemmed partly from the clinical work of Josef Breuer and others. Psychoanalysis was later developed in different directions, mostly by students of Freud such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, and by neo-Freudians such as Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan. Freud retained the term psychoanalysis for his own school of thought.

The Symbolic is a part of the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, part of his attempt "to distinguish between those elementary registers whose grounding I later put forward in these terms: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real—a distinction never previously made in psychoanalysis".

In philosophy, the Real is that which is the authentic, unchangeable truth. It may be considered a primordial, external dimension of experience, referred to as the infinite, absolute or noumenal, as opposed to a reality contingent on sense perception and the material order. The Real is often considered irreducible to the symbolic order of lived experience, but may be gestured to in certain cases, such as the experience of the sublime.

Blending Freud and Saussure, the French (post)structuralist Jacques Lacan applied structuralism to psychoanalysis and, in a different way, Jean Piaget applied structuralism to the study of psychology. But Jean Piaget, who would better define himself as constructivist, considers structuralism as "a method and not a doctrine" because for him "there exists no structure without a construction, abstract or genetic". [7]

Although the French theorist Louis Althusser is often associated with a brand of structural social analysis which helped give rise to "structural Marxism", such association was contested by Althusser himself in the Italian foreword to the second edition of Reading Capital . In this foreword Althusser states the following:

Despite the precautions we took to distinguish ourselves from the 'structuralist' ideology ..., despite the decisive intervention of categories foreign to 'structuralism' ..., the terminology we employed was too close in many respects to the 'structuralist' terminology not to give rise to an ambiguity. With a very few exceptions ... our interpretation of Marx has generally been recognized and judged, in homage to the current fashion, as 'structuralist'... We believe that despite the terminological ambiguity, the profound tendency of our texts was not attached to the 'structuralist' ideology. [8]

In a later development, feminist theorist Alison Assiter enumerated four ideas that she says are common to the various forms of structuralism. First, that a structure determines the position of each element of a whole. Second, that every system has a structure. Third, structural laws deal with co-existence rather than change. Fourth, structures are the "real things" that lie beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning. [9]

In linguistics

In Course in General Linguistics the analysis focuses not on the use of language (called " parole ", or speech), but rather on the underlying system of language (called " langue "). This approach examines how the elements of language relate to each other in the present, synchronically rather than diachronically. Saussure argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts:

  1. a "signifier" (the "sound pattern" of a word, either in mental projection—as when one silently recites lines from signage, a poem to one's self—or in actual, any kind of text, physical realization as part of a speech act)
  2. a "signified" (the concept or meaning of the word)

This was quite different from previous approaches that focused on the relationship between words and the things in the world that they designate. [10] Other key notions in structural linguistics include paradigm, syntagm, and value (though these notions were not fully developed in Saussure's thought). A structural "idealism" is a class of linguistic units (lexemes, morphemes or even constructions) that are possible in a certain position in a given linguistic environment (such as a given sentence), which is called the "syntagm". The different functional role of each of these members of the paradigm is called "value" (valeur in French).

Saussure's Course influenced many linguists between World War I and World War II. In the United States, for instance, Leonard Bloomfield developed his own version of structural linguistics, as did Louis Hjelmslev in Denmark and Alf Sommerfelt in Norway. In France Antoine Meillet and Émile Benveniste continued Saussure's project, and members of the Prague school of linguistics such as Roman Jakobson and Nikolai Trubetzkoy conducted research that would be greatly influential. However, by the 1950s Saussure's linguistic concepts were under heavy criticism and were soon largely abandoned by practicing 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 refer to Chomsky. [11]

The clearest and most important example of Prague school structuralism lies in phonemics. Rather than simply compiling a list of which sounds occur in a language, the Prague school sought to examine how they were related. They determined that the inventory of sounds in a language could be analysed in terms of a series of contrasts. Thus in English the sounds /p/ and /b/ represent distinct phonemes because there are cases (minimal pairs) where the contrast between the two is the only difference between two distinct words (e.g. 'pat' and 'bat'). Analyzing sounds in terms of contrastive features also opens up comparative scope—it makes clear, for instance, that the difficulty Japanese speakers have differentiating /r/ and /l/ in English is because these sounds are not contrastive in Japanese. Phonology would become the paradigmatic basis for structuralism in a number of different fields.

In anthropology

According to structural theory in anthropology and social anthropology, meaning is produced and reproduced within a culture through various practices, phenomena and activities that serve as systems of signification. A structuralist approach may study activities as diverse as food-preparation and serving rituals, religious rites, games, literary and non-literary texts, and other forms of entertainment to discover the deep structures by which meaning is produced and reproduced within the culture. For example, Lévi-Strauss analysed in the 1950s cultural phenomena including mythology, kinship (the alliance theory and the incest taboo), and food preparation. In addition to these studies, he produced more linguistically focused writings in which he applied Saussure's distinction between langue and parole in his search for the fundamental structures of the human mind, arguing that the structures that form the "deep grammar" of society originate in the mind and operate in people unconsciously. Lévi-Strauss took inspiration from mathematics. [12]

Another concept used in structural anthropology came from the Prague school of linguistics, where Roman Jakobson and others analysed sounds based on the presence or absence of certain features (such as voiceless vs. voiced). Lévi-Strauss included this in his conceptualization of the universal structures of the mind, which he held to operate based on pairs of binary oppositions such as hot-cold, male-female, culture-nature, cooked-raw, or marriageable vs. tabooed women.

A third influence came from Marcel Mauss (1872–1950), who had written on gift-exchange systems. Based on Mauss, for instance, Lévi-Strauss argued that kinship systems are based on the exchange of women between groups (a position known as 'alliance theory') as opposed to the 'descent'-based theory described by Edward Evans-Pritchard and Meyer Fortes. While replacing Marcel Mauss at his Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes chair, Lévi-Strauss' writing became widely popular in the 1960s and 1970s and gave rise to the term "structuralism" itself.

In Britain, authors such as Rodney Needham and Edmund Leach were highly influenced by structuralism. Authors such as Maurice Godelier and Emmanuel Terray combined Marxism with structural anthropology in France. In the United States, authors such as Marshall Sahlins and James Boon built on structuralism to provide their own analysis of human society. Structural anthropology fell out of favour in the early 1980s for a number of reasons. D'Andrade suggests that this was because it made unverifiable assumptions about the universal structures of the human mind. Authors such as Eric Wolf argued that political economy and colonialism should be at the forefront of anthropology. More generally, criticisms of structuralism by Pierre Bourdieu led to a concern with how cultural and social structures were changed by human agency and practice, a trend which Sherry Ortner has referred to as 'practice theory'.

Some anthropological theorists, however, while finding considerable fault with Lévi-Strauss's version of structuralism, did not turn away from a fundamental structural basis for human culture. The Biogenetic Structuralism group for instance argued that some kind of structural foundation for culture must exist because all humans inherit the same system of brain structures. They proposed a kind of neuroanthropology which would lay the foundations for a more complete scientific account of cultural similarity and variation by requiring an integration of cultural anthropology and neuroscience—a program that theorists such as Victor Turner also embraced.

In literary theory and criticism

In literary theory, structuralist criticism relates literary texts to a larger structure, which may be a particular genre, a range of intertextual connections, a model of a universal narrative structure, or a system of recurrent patterns or motifs. [13] [14] Structuralism argues that there must be a structure in every text, which explains why it is easier for experienced readers than for non-experienced readers to interpret a text. Hence, everything that is written seems to be governed by specific rules, or a "grammar of literature", that one learns in educational institutions and that are to be unmasked. [15]

A potential problem of structuralist interpretation is that it can be highly reductive, as scholar Catherine Belsey puts it: "the structuralist danger of collapsing all difference." [16] An example of such a reading might be if a student concludes the authors of West Side Story did not write anything "really" new, because their work has the same structure as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet . In both texts a girl and a boy fall in love (a "formula" with a symbolic operator between them would be "Boy + Girl") despite the fact that they belong to two groups that hate each other ("Boy's Group - Girl's Group" or "Opposing forces") and conflict is resolved by their death. Structuralist readings focus on how the structures of the single text resolve inherent narrative tensions. If a structuralist reading focuses on multiple texts, there must be some way in which those texts unify themselves into a coherent system. The versatility of structuralism is such that a literary critic could make the same claim about a story of two friendly families ("Boy's Family + Girl's Family") that arrange a marriage between their children despite the fact that the children hate each other ("Boy - Girl") and then the children commit suicide to escape the arranged marriage; the justification is that the second story's structure is an 'inversion' of the first story's structure: the relationship between the values of love and the two pairs of parties involved have been reversed.

Structuralistic literary criticism argues that the "literary banter of a text" can lie only in new structure, rather than in the specifics of character development and voice in which that structure is expressed. Literary structuralism often follows the lead of Vladimir Propp, Algirdas Julien Greimas, and Claude Lévi-Strauss in seeking out basic deep elements in stories, myths, and more recently, anecdotes, which are combined in various ways to produce the many versions of the ur-story or ur-myth.

There is considerable similarity between structural literary theory and Northrop Frye's archetypal criticism, which is also indebted to the anthropological study of myths. Some critics have also tried to apply the theory to individual works, but the effort to find unique structures in individual literary works runs counter to the structuralist program and has an affinity with New Criticism.

History and background

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, existentialism, such as that propounded by Jean-Paul Sartre, was the dominant European intellectual movement. Structuralism rose to prominence in France in the wake of existentialism, particularly in the 1960s. The initial popularity of structuralism in France led to its spread across the globe.

Structuralism rejected the concept of human freedom and choice and focused instead on the way that human experience and thus, behaviour, is determined by various structures. The most important initial work on this score was Claude Lévi-Strauss's 1949 volume The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Lévi-Strauss had known Jakobson during their time together at the New School in New York during WWII and was influenced by both Jakobson's structuralism as well as the American anthropological tradition. In Elementary Structures he examined kinship systems from a structural point of view and demonstrated how apparently different social organizations were in fact different permutations of a few basic kinship structures. In the late 1950s he published Structural Anthropology , a collection of essays outlining his program for structuralism.

By the early 1960s structuralism as a movement was coming into its own and some believed that it offered a single unified approach to human life that would embrace all disciplines. Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida focused on how structuralism could be applied to literature.[ citation needed ][ dubious ]

The so-called "Gang of Four" of structuralism was Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Barthes, and Foucault. [17] [ dubious ]

Interpretations and general criticisms

Structuralism is less popular today than other approaches, such as post-structuralism and deconstruction. Structuralism has often been criticized for being ahistorical and for favouring deterministic structural forces over the ability of people to act. As the political turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (and particularly the student uprisings of May 1968) began affecting academia, issues of power and political struggle moved to the center of people's attention. [18]

In the 1980s, deconstruction—and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of language rather than its crystalline logical structure—became popular. By the end of the century structuralism was seen as an historically important school of thought, but the movements that it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, commanded attention. [19]

Several social thinkers and academics have strongly criticized structuralism or even dismissed it in toto. The French hermeneutic philosopher Paul Ricœur (1969) criticized Lévi-Strauss for constantly overstepping the limits of validity of the structuralist approach, ending up in what Ricœur described as "a Kantianism without a transcendental subject". [20] Anthropologist Adam Kuper (1973) argued that "'Structuralism' came to have something of the momentum of a millennial movement and some of its adherents felt that they formed a secret society of the seeing in a world of the blind. Conversion was not just a matter of accepting a new paradigm. It was, almost, a question of salvation." [21] Philip Noel Pettit (1975) called for an abandoning of "the positivist dream which Lévi-Strauss dreamed for semiology" arguing that semiology is not to be placed among the natural sciences. [22] Cornelius Castoriadis (1975) criticized structuralism as failing to explain symbolic mediation in the social world; [23] he viewed structuralism as a variation on the "logicist" theme, and he argued that, contrary to what structuralists advocate, language—and symbolic systems in general—cannot be reduced to logical organizations on the basis of the binary logic of oppositions. [24] Critical theorist Jürgen Habermas (1985) accused structuralists, such as Foucault, of being positivists; he remarked that while Foucault is not an ordinary positivist, he nevertheless paradoxically uses the tools of science to criticize science [25] (see Performative contradiction and Foucault–Habermas debate ). Sociologist Anthony Giddens (1993) is another notable critic; while Giddens draws on a range of structuralist themes in his theorizing, he dismisses the structuralist view that the reproduction of social systems is merely "a mechanical outcome". [26]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Blackburn, Simon (2008). Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, second edition revised. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 353, ISBN   978-0-19-954143-0
  2. 1 2 3 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: p. 170.
  3. Mambrol, Nasrullah (2016-03-20). "Structuralism". Literary Theory and Criticism Notes. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
  4. John Sturrock (1979), Structuralism and since: from Lévi Strauss to Derrida, Introduction.
  5. F. de Saussure, Cours de linguistique generale , published by C. Bally and A. Sechehaye (Paris: Payot, 1916); English translation by Wade Baskin, Course in General Linguistics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959), p. 120.
  6. 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: p. 171–173.
  7. Jean Piaget, Le structuralisme, ed. PUF, 1968.
  8. Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar. Reading Capital trans. Ben Brewster. London: NLB, 1970. p. 7.
  9. Assiter, Alison (June 1984). "Althusser and structuralism". British Journal of Sociology. 35 (2): 272–296. doi:10.2307/590235. JSTOR   590235.
  10. Roy Suryo and Talbot Roosevelt, Landmarks in Linguistic Thought, 1st ed. [1989], pp. 178–179.
  11. Holland, Norman N. (1992) The Critical I, Columbia University Press, ISBN   0-231-07650-9, p. 140.
  12. François Dosse, History of Structuralism: Volume 1: The Rising Sign, 1945-1966, University of Minnesota Press, 1997, p. 24.
  13. Barry, P. (2002), 'Structuralism', Beginning theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory, Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 39–60.
  14. Evgeny Slavutin, Vladimir Pimonov: ‘Plot Structure’. Flinta - Nauka, Moscow 2018
  15. Selden, Raman / Widdowson, Peter / Brooker, Peter: A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory Fifth Edition. Harlow: 2005. p. 76.
  16. Belsey, Catherine. "Literature, History, Politics". Literature and History 9 (1983): 17–27.
  17. Post-Structuralism – LibGuides
  18. J. D. Marshall (ed.), Poststructuralism, Philosophy, Pedagogy, Springer, 2004, p. xviii.
  19. Alan Finlayson and Jeremy Valentine, Politics and post-structuralism: an introduction, Edinburgh University Press, 2002, p. 8.
  20. P. Ricœur. (2004), The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics (originally published in French in 1969 as Le conflit des interprétations: Essais d’herméneutique). Continuum, pp. 49, 78ff.
  21. Kuper, Adam (1973), Anthropologists and Anthropology: The British School 1922–72, Penguin, p. 206.
  22. Pettit, Philip (1975), The Concept of Structuralism: A Critical Analysis, University of California Press, p. 117.
  23. C. Castoriadis (1987), The Imaginary Institution of Society (originally published in French in 1975 as L'institution imaginaire de la société). Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 116–7.
  24. C. Castoriadis (1997), The Imaginary: Creation in the Social-Historical Domain. In: World in Fragments. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 3–18.
  25. Habermas, J. (1990), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (originally published in German in 1985 as Der Philosophische Diskurs der Moderne), MIT Press, 1990, p. 276.
  26. Giddens, Anthony (1993), New rules of sociological method: A positive critique of interpretative sociologies. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, p. 121.

Further reading

Primary sources

Related Research Articles

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

Post-structuralism was either a continuation or a rejection of the intellectual project that preceded it—structuralism. Structuralism proposes that one may understand human culture by means of a structure—modeled on language —that differs from concrete reality and from abstract ideas—a "third order" that mediates between the two. 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. 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, although many theorists who have been called "post-structuralist" have rejected the label.

Roman Jakobson American linguist, philosopher and educationist

Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Jewish Russian linguist and literary theorist.

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.

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.

The structure of a thing is how the parts of it relate to each other, how it is "assembled".

In structuralism-influenced studies of mythology, a mytheme is a fundamental generic unit of narrative structure from which myths are thought to be constructed—a minimal unit that is always found shared with other, related mythemes and reassembled in various ways ("bundled") or linked in more complicated relationships. For example, the myths of Adonis and Osiris share several elements, leading some scholars to conclude that they share a source, i.e. images passed down in cultures or from one to another, being ascribed new interpretations of the action depicted, as well as new names in various readings of icons.

Structural anthropology is a school of anthropology based on Claude Lévi-Strauss' idea that immutable deep structures exist in all cultures, and consequently, that all cultural practices have homologous counterparts in other cultures, essentially that all cultures are equitable.

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.

The alliance theory, also known as the general theory of exchanges, is a structuralist method of studying kinship relations. It finds its origins in Claude Lévi-Strauss's Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949) and is in opposition to the functionalist theory of Radcliffe-Brown. Alliance theory has oriented most anthropological French works until the 1980s; its influences were felt in various fields, including psychoanalysis, philosophy and political philosophy.

Sir Edmund Ronald Leach was a British social anthropologist.

20th-century French philosophy is a strand of contemporary philosophy generally associated with post-World War II French thinkers, although it is directly influenced by previous philosophical movements.

In structural anthropology, Claude Lévi-Strauss, a French anthropologist, makes the claim that "myth is language". Through approaching mythology as language, Lévi-Strauss suggests that it can be approached the same way as language can be approached by the same structuralist methods used to address language. Thus, Lévi-Strauss offers a structuralist theory of mythology; he clarifies, "Myth is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at 'taking off' from the linguistic ground on which it keeps rolling."

Systems theory in anthropology is an interdisciplinary, non-representative, non-referential, and non-Cartesian approach that brings together natural and social sciences to understand society in its complexity. The basic idea of a system theory in social science is to solve the classical problem of duality; mind-body, subject-object, form-content, signifier-signified, and structure-agency. System theory suggests that instead of creating closed categories into binaries (subject-object); the system should stay open so as to allow free flow of process and interactions. In this way the binaries are dissolved.

Metaphorand metonymy are two fundamental opposite poles along which a discourse with human language is developed. It has been argued that the two poles of similarity and contiguity are fundamental ones along which the human brain is structured; in the study of human language the two poles have been called metaphor and metonymy, while in the study of the unconscious they have been called condensation and displacement. In linguistics, they are connected to the paradigmatic and syntagmatic poles.