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In
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
,
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
,
archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological ...
,
history History (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...

history
,
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existen ...

philosophy
, and
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
, structuralism is a general theory of culture and
methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers r other users R, or r, is th ...
that implies that elements of
human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differ ...

human culture
must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader system. It works to uncover the
structures A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A sy ...
that underlie all the things that humans do,
think Thought (or thinking) encompasses an "aim-oriented flow of ideas and associations that can lead to a reality-oriented conclusion". Although thinking is an activity of an existential value for humans, there is still no consensus as to how it ...

think
,
perceive Perception (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
, and
feel Feel may refer to: *Feeling Music Bands *Feel (New York band), a dance and R&B band *Feel (Polish band), a pop rock band Songs *Feel (Kendrick Lamar song), "Feel" (Kendrick Lamar song), 2017 * "Feel", by Phora, 2018 *"Feel", by Mahmut Orhan, 2016 ...

feel
. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher
Simon Blackburn Simon Blackburn (born 12 July 1944) is an English academic philosopher known for his work in Meta-ethics, metaethics, where he defends quasi-realism, and in the philosophy of language; more recently, he has gained a large general audience from ...

Simon Blackburn
, structuralism is:, ed. 2008. "Structuralism." In ''
Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ''The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy'' (1994; second edition 2008; third edition 2016) is a dictionary A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged Alphabetical order, alphabetical ...
'' (2nd rev. ed.). Oxford:
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press 200px, The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which used to be the headquarters of Cambridge University Press, and now serves as a conference centre for the Press. A university press is an academic ...

Oxford University Press
. . p. 353.
e 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.
Structuralism in Europe developed in the early 20th century, mainly in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a spanning and in the and the , and s. Its extends from the to the and from the to the and the ; overseas territories include in , in the N ...
and the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical that extended across and from 1721, succeeding the following the that ended the . The Empire lasted until the was proclaimed by the that took power after the ...
, in the
structural linguistics Structural linguistics, or structuralism, in linguistics, denotes schools or theories in which language is conceived as a self-contained, self-regulating Semiotics, semiotic system whose elements are defined by their relationship to other elements ...
of
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
and the subsequent
Prague Prague ( ; cs, Praha ; german: Prag, ; la, Praga) is the capital and largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people l ...
,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. : p. 170.
Moscow Moscow (, ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe ...
, and
Copenhagen Copenhagen ( da, København ) is the capital and most populous city of Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe. It is the most populous and politically central Constituent state, const ...
schools of linguistics. As an intellectual movement, structuralism became the heir to
existentialism Existentialism ( ) is a form of philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Rea ...
. After World War II, an array of scholars in the
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classic ...

humanities
borrowed Saussure's concepts for use in their respective fields. French anthropologist
Claude Lévi-Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (, ; 28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and Ethnology, ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theories of structuralism and structural anthropology. He held the chair of Soc ...
was arguably the first such scholar, sparking a widespread interest in structuralism. The structuralist mode of
reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ...

reasoning
has since been applied in a range of fields, including
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
,
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
,
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
,
literary criticism Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophical discussion of literature ...
,
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a bran ...
, and
architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Architecture (Latin ''archi ...
. Along with Lévi-Strauss, the most prominent thinkers associated with structuralism include linguist
Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,
and
psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...

psychoanalyst
Jacques Lacan Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (, , ; 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, ...

Jacques Lacan
. By the late 1960s, many of structuralism's basic tenets came under attack from a new wave of predominantly French intellectuals/philosophers such as historian
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
,
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
,
Marxist philosopher Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical per ...
Louis Althusser Louis Pierre Althusser (, ; ; 16 October 1918 – 22 October 1990) was a French Marxist philosopher Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical m ...
, and
literary critic Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical analysis, philosophical discussion of literature ...
Roland Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Ré ...

Roland Barthes
. Though elements of their work necessarily relate to structuralism and are informed by it, these theorists eventually came to be referred to as post-structuralists. Many proponents of structuralism, such as Lacan, continue to influence
continental philosophy Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awarenes ...
and many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's post-structuralist critics are a continuation of structuralist thinking. Sturrock, John. 1979. "Introduction." In ''Structuralism and Since: From Lévi Strauss to Derrida''.


History and background

Structuralism is an ambiguous term that refers to different schools of thought in different contexts. As such, the movement in
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classic ...

humanities
and
social sciences Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biol ...

social sciences
called structuralism relates to
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
.
Emile Durkheim Emil or Emile may refer to: Literature *'' Emile, or On Education'' (1762), a treatise on education by Jean-Jacques Rousseau * ''Émile'' (novel) (1827), an autobiographical novel based on Émile de Girardin's early life *"Emil", nickname of the ...

Emile Durkheim
based his sociological concept on 'structure' and 'function', and from his work emerged the sociological approach of
structural functionalism Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is "a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system A complex system is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accord ...
. Apart from Durkheim's use of the term structure, the concept of
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
Meike Watzlawik, Alina Kriebel, Jaan Valsiner (2015) ''Particulars and Universals in Clinical and Developmental Psychology: Critical Reflections A book honoring Roger Bibace'', p
3344-45
/ref> became fundamental for structuralism. Saussure conceived language and society as a system of relations. His linguistic approach was also a refutation of
evolutionary linguistics Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the Gene expression, expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. ...
. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s,
existentialism Existentialism ( ) is a form of philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or mental reality Rea ...
, such as that propounded by
Jean-Paul Sartre Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (, ; ; 21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980) was a French people, French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary criticism, literary critic. He was one of the key ...

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. 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. Russian functional linguist
Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,
was a pivotal figure in the adaptation of structural analysis to disciplines beyond linguistics, including philosophy, anthropology, and literary theory. Jakobson was a decisive influence on anthropologist
Claude Lévi-Strauss Claude Lévi-Strauss (, ; 28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and Ethnology, ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theories of structuralism and structural anthropology. He held the chair of Soc ...
, by whose work the term ''structuralism'' first appeared in reference to
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s. Lévi-Strauss' work in turn gave rise to the structuralist movement in
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Ame ...

France
, also called French structuralism, influencing the thinking of other writers, most of whom disavowed themselves as being a part of this movement. This included such writers as
Louis Althusser Louis Pierre Althusser (, ; ; 16 October 1918 – 22 October 1990) was a French Marxist philosopher Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical m ...
and
psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...

psychoanalyst
Jacques Lacan Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (, , ; 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, ...

Jacques Lacan
, as well as the
structural Marxism Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxist philosophy based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French philosopher Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the 1960s and 1970s, and also cam ...
of
Nicos Poulantzas Nicos Poulantzas ( el, Νίκος Πουλαντζάς ; 21 September 1936 – 3 October 1979) was a Greek- French Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better ...
.
Roland Barthes Roland Gérard Barthes (; ; 12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, Ré ...

Roland Barthes
and
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
focused on how structuralism could be applied to
literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expan ...

literature
. Accordingly, the so-called "Gang of Four" of structuralism is considered to be Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Barthes, and
Michel Foucault Paul-Michel Foucault (, ; ; 15 October 192625 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas Intellectual history (also the history of ideas) is the study of the history of human thought and of intellectual An intellectual is a ...

Michel Foucault
.


Saussure

The origins of structuralism are connected with the work of
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
on
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
along with the linguistics of the
Prague Prague ( ; cs, Praha ; german: Prag, ; la, Praga) is the capital and largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people l ...
and
Moscow Moscow (, ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe ...
schools. In brief, Saussure's
structural linguistics Structural linguistics, or structuralism, in linguistics, denotes schools or theories in which language is conceived as a self-contained, self-regulating Semiotics, semiotic system whose elements are defined by their relationship to other elements ...
propounded three related concepts. # Saussure argued for a distinction between ''
langue Langue is a Municipalities of Honduras, municipality in the Valle Department, Honduras. The town is located near the border of El Salvador and is a regional Hammock making center. Most of the town is made up of sharecroppers and day laborers. Th ...
'' (an idealized abstraction of language) and ''parole'' (language as actually used in daily life). He argued that a "sign" is composed of a "signified" ('' signifié'', i.e. an abstract concept or idea) and a "signifier" (''signifiant'', i.e. the perceived sound/visual image). # Because different languages have different words to refer to the same objects or concepts, there is no intrinsic reason why a specific signifier is used to express a given concept or idea. It is thus "arbitrary." # Signs gain their meaning from their relationships and contrasts with other signs. As he wrote, "in language, there are only differences 'without positive terms.'"


Lévi-Strauss

Structuralism rejected the concept of human freedom and choice, focusing instead on the way that human experience and behaviour is determined by various structures. The most important initial work on this score was Lévi-Strauss's 1949 volume '' The Elementary Structures of Kinship''. Lévi-Strauss had known
Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,
during their time together at the
New School The New School is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two decad ...
in
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...

New York
during
WWII World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
and was influenced by both Jakobson's structuralism, as well as the American
anthropological Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, l ...
tradition. In ''Elementary Structures'', he examined
kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist Robin Fox states th ...

kinship
systems from a structural point of view and demonstrated how apparently different social organizations were different permutations of a few basic kinship structures. In the late 1950s, he published ''
Structural Anthropology Structural anthropology is a school of sociocultural anthropology Sociocultural evolution, sociocultural evolutionism or cultural evolution are theories of sociobiology Sociobiology is a field of biology that aims to examine and explain soci ...
'', a collection of essays outlining his program for structuralism.


Lacan and Piaget

Blending Freud and Saussure, French (post)structuralist
Jacques Lacan Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (, , ; 13 April 1901 – 9 September 1981) was a French psychoanalyst Psychoanalysis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, ...

Jacques Lacan
applied structuralism to
psychoanalysis Psychoanalysis (from Greek language, Greek: + ) is a set of Theory, theories and Therapy, therapeutic techniques"What is psychoanalysis? Of course, one is supposed to answer that it is many things — a theory, a research method, a therapy, a bo ...

psychoanalysis
. Similarly,
Jean Piaget Jean Piaget (, , ; 9 August 1896 – 16 September 1980) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland *Swiss people Places *Swiss, Missouri *Swiss, North Carolina *Swiss, West Virginia *Swiss, Wisconsin Other uses *Swiss ...

Jean Piaget
applied structuralism to the study of
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is an occurrence in the real world. ...

psychology
, though in a different way. Piaget, who would better define himself as constructivist, considered structuralism as "a method and not a doctrine," because, for him, "there exists no structure without a construction, abstract or genetic."


'Third order'

Proponents of structuralism argue that a specific domain of culture may be understood by means of a structure that is modelled on language and is distinct both from the organizations of reality and those of ideas, or the imagination—the "third order." In Lacan's
psychoanalytic Psychoanalysis (from Greek: + ) is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques"What is psychoanalysis? Of course, one is supposed to answer that it is many things — a theory, a research method, a therapy, a body of knowledge. In what might ...

psychoanalytic
theory, for example, the structural order of "
the Symbolic The Symbolic (or Symbolic Order) is a part of the psychoanalysis, 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 i ...
" is distinguished both from "" and " the Imaginary;" similarly, in Althusser's
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
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 An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to attitudes abo ...
forms in which those relations are understood.


Althusser

Although French theorist
Louis Althusser Louis Pierre Althusser (, ; ; 16 October 1918 – 22 October 1990) was a French Marxist philosopher Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical m ...
is often associated with structural social analysis, which helped give rise to "
structural Marxism Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxist philosophy based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French philosopher Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the 1960s and 1970s, and also cam ...
," 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.


Assiter

In a later development, feminist theorist Alison Assiter enumerated four ideas common to the various forms of structuralism: # a structure determines the position of each element of a whole; # every system has a structure; # structural laws deal with co-existence rather than change; and # structures are the "real things" that lie beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.


In linguistics

In
Ferdinand de Saussure Ferdinand de Saussure (; ; 26 November 1857 – 22 February 1913) was a Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland ,german: Schweizer(in),french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_typ ...

Ferdinand de Saussure
's ''
Course in General Linguistics ''Course in General Linguistics'' (french: Cours de linguistique générale) is a book compiled by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye from notes on lectures given by Ferdinand de Saussure at the University of Geneva between 1906 and 1911. It was ...
'', the analysis focuses not on the use of language (''
parole Parole is the early release of a prisoner A prisoner (also known as an inmate or detainee) is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity ...
'', 'speech'), but rather on the underlying
system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundaries, structure and purp ...

system
of language (''
langue Langue is a Municipalities of Honduras, municipality in the Valle Department, Honduras. The town is located near the border of El Salvador and is a regional Hammock making center. Most of the town is made up of sharecroppers and day laborers. Th ...
''). 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: # a '' signifiant'' ('signifier'): the "sound pattern" of a word, either in mental projection—e.g., 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 In the philosophy of language In analytic philosophy Analytic philosophy is a branch and tradition of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, exist ...
. # a ''signifié'' '(signified'): the concept or meaning of the word. This differed from previous approaches that focused on the relationship between words and the things in the world that they designate. Although not fully developed by Saussure, other key notions in structural linguistics can be found in structural "idealism." A structural idealism is a class of linguistic units (
lexemes A lexeme () is a unit of lexical semantics, lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection. It is a basic abstract unit of meaning, a emic unit, unit of Morphology (linguistics), morphological Semantic analysis ( ...
,
morphemes A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical itemIn lexicography, a lexical item (or lexical unit / LU, lexical entry) is a single word, a part of a word, or a chain of words ( catena) that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon A l ...
, or even
constructions Construction is the process of producing buildings and other infrastructure. Construction also may refer to: * Additional physical/mechanical senses: ** Offshore construction, the installation of structures in marine environments * Primarily abstr ...
) that are possible in a certain position in a given '' syntagm'', or linguistic environment (such as a given sentence). The different functional role of each of these members of the
paradigm In science Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is a discovery as well as ...
is called 'value' (: ').


Prague School

In France,
Antoine Meillet Paul Jules Antoine Meillet (; 11 November 1866, Moulins, France – 21 September 1936, Châteaumeillant, France) was one of the most important French linguists of the early 20th century. He began his studies at the Sorbonne University Sorbo ...
and
Émile Benveniste Émile Benveniste (; 27 May 1902 – 3 October 1976) was a French structural linguist and semiotician. He is best known for his work on Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and south ...
continued Saussure's project, and members of the
Prague school The Prague school or Prague linguistic circle is a language and literature society. It started in 1926 as a group of linguistics, linguists, philology, philologists and literary critics in Prague. Its proponents developed methods of semiotic lite ...
of linguistics such as
Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,
and
Nikolai Trubetzkoy Prince Nikolai Sergeyevich Trubetzkoy ( rus, Никола́й Серге́евич Трубецко́й, p=trʊbʲɪtsˈkoj; 16 April 1890 – 25 June 1938) was a Russian linguistics, linguist and historian whose teachings formed a nucleus of the P ...

Nikolai Trubetzkoy
conducted influential research. The clearest and most important example of Prague school structuralism lies in
phonemics Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one time, the study o ...
. Rather than simply compiling a list of which sounds occur in a language, the Prague school examined how they were related. They determined that the inventory of sounds in a language could be analysed as a series of contrasts. Thus, in English, the sounds /p/ and /b/ represent distinct
phonemes In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ...

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—for instance, it makes clear the difficulty
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or ...

Japanese
speakers have differentiating /r/ and /l/ in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
and other languages is because these sounds are not contrastive in Japanese.
Phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

Phonology
would become the paradigmatic basis for structuralism in a number of different fields. Based on the Prague school concept, André Martinet in France, in the UK and
Louis Hjelmslev Louis Trolle Hjelmslev (; 3 October 189930 May 1965) was a Danish linguist whose ideas formed the basis of the Copenhagen School of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every ...
in Denmark developed their own versions of structural and functional linguistics.


In anthropology

According to structural theory in
anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the present and past, including . studies patterns of behaviour, while studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. studies how language influences social life. studi ...
and
social anthropology Social anthropology is the study of patterns of behaviour in human societies and cultures. It is the dominant constituent of anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous a ...
, ''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 The alliance theory, also known as the general theory of exchanges, is a structuralist method of studying kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all soci ...
and the
incest taboo An incest taboo is any or that prohibits between certain members of the same , mainly between individuals . have norms that exclude certain close relatives from those considered suitable or permissible or partners, making such relationshi ...
), 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 Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
. Another concept used in structural anthropology came from the Prague school of linguistics, where
Roman Jakobson Roman Osipovich Jakobson (russian: Рома́н О́сипович Якобсо́н; October 11, 1896Kucera, Henry. 1983. "Roman Jakobson." ''Language: Journal of the Linguistic Society of America'' 59(4): 871–883. – July 18,
and others analysed sounds based on the presence or absence of certain features (e.g., 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 opposition A binary opposition (also binary system) 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 ...
s such as hot-cold, male-female, culture-nature, cooked-raw, or marriageable vs. tabooed women. A third influence came from
Marcel Mauss Marcel Mauss (; 10 May 1872 – 10 February 1950) was a French sociologist and anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, ...

Marcel Mauss
(1872–1950), who had written on gift-exchange systems. Based on Mauss, for instance, Lévi-Strauss argued an ''alliance'' theory—that kinship systems are based on the exchange of women between groups—as opposed to the descent'-based'' theory described by Edward Evans-Pritchard and
Meyer Fortes Meyer Fortes (April 25, 1906 – January 27, 1983) was a South African people, South African-born anthropologist, best known for his work among the Tallensi and Ashanti people, Ashanti in Ghana. Originally trained in psychology, Fortes employed th ...
. While replacing Mauss at his '' Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes'' chair, the writings of Lévi-Strauss became widely popular in the 1960s and 1970s and gave rise to the term "structuralism" itself. In Britain, authors such as
Rodney Needham Rodney Needham (15 May 1923 – 4 December 2006 in Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2017, its population was estimated at 152,450. It is northwest of London London is the cap ...
and
Edmund Leach Sir Edmund Ronald Leach (7 November 1910 – 6 January 1989) was a British social anthropologist and academic. He served as Provost of King's College, Cambridge from 1966 to 1979. He was also President of the Royal Anthropological Instit ...
were highly influenced by structuralism. Authors such as
Maurice Godelier Maurice Godelier, 1977. Maurice Godelier (born February 28, 1934) is a French anthropologist who works as a Studies' Director at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (frenc ...
and Emmanuel Terray combined
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
with structural anthropology in France. In the United States, authors such as
Marshall Sahlins Marshall David Sahlins ( ; December 27, 1930April 5, 2021) was an American cultural anthropologist Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior ...
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'. One example is Douglas E. Foley's ''Learning Capitalist Culture'' (2010), in which he applied a mixture of structural and Marxist theories to his ethnographic fieldwork among high school students in Texas. Foley analyzed how they reach a shared goal through the lens of social solidarity when he observed "Mexicanos" and "Anglo-Americans" come together on the same football team to defeat the school's rivals. However, he also continually applies a marxist lens and states that he," wanted to wow peers with a new cultural marxist theory of schooling." 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 criticism and theory

In literary theory, structuralist criticism relates literary texts to a larger structure, which may be a particular genre, a range of Intertextuality, intertextual connections, a model of a universal narrative structure, or a system of recurrent patterns or motifs. The field of structuralist semiotics 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. A potential problem for a structuralist interpretation is that it can be highly reductive; as scholar Catherine Belsey puts it: "the structuralist danger of collapsing all difference." An example of such a reading might be if a student concludes the authors of ''West Side Story (musical), 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 deaths. 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. Structuralist 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 Claude Lévi-Strauss (, ; 28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and Ethnology, ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theories of structuralism and structural anthropology. He held the chair of Soc ...
in seeking out basic deep elements in stories, Mythology, 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 literary criticism, 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.


In economics

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 United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA or CEPAL) 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 thesis, Singer–Prebisch hypothesis, played a key role in this.


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 Ahistoricism, ahistorical and for favouring Determinism, deterministic structural forces over the Agency (philosophy), ability of people to act. As the political turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (particularly the Protests of 1968, student uprisings of May 1968) began affecting academia, issues of power and political struggle moved to the center of public attention. In the 1980s, deconstruction—and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of language rather than its logical structure—became popular. By the end of the century, structuralism was seen as a historically important school of thought, but the movements that it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, commanded attention. Several social theorists and academics have strongly criticized structuralism or even dismissed it. French hermeneutic philosopher Paul Ricœur (1969) criticized Lévi-Strauss for overstepping the limits of Validity (logic), validity of the structuralist approach, ending up in what Ricœur described as "a Kantianism without a transcendental subject." 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.
Philip Noel Pettit (1975) called for an abandoning of "the Positivism, positivist dream which Lévi-Strauss dreamed for semiology," arguing that semiology is not to be placed among the natural sciences. Cornelius Castoriadis (1975) criticized structuralism as failing to explain Symbolic system, symbolic mediation in the social world; he viewed structuralism as a variation on the "Rationalism, logicist" theme, arguing that, contrary to what structuralists advocate, language—and symbolic systems in general—cannot be reduced to logical organizations on the basis of the Two-valued logic, binary logic of Square of opposition, oppositions. Critical theorist Jürgen Habermas (1985) accused structuralists like Michel Foucault, Foucault of being Positivism, positivists; Foucault, while not an ordinary positivist per se, paradoxically uses the tools of science to criticize science, according to Habermas. (See ''Performative contradiction#Usage in philosophy, Performative contradiction'' and ''Foucault–Habermas debate''.) Sociologist Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens, 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."Anthony Giddens, Giddens, Anthony. 1993. ''New rules of sociological method: A positive critique of interpretative sociologies.'' Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 121.


See also

* Antihumanism#Structuralism, Antihumanism * Engaged theory * Genetic structuralism *Holism * Isomorphism * Post-structuralism * Russian formalism * Structuralist film theory * Structuration theory * Émile Durkheim * Structural functionalism


References


Further reading

* Johannes Angermuller, Angermuller, Johannes. 2015. ''Why There Is No Poststructuralism in France: The Making of an Intellectual Generation.'' London: Bloomsbury. * Élisabeth Roudinesco, Roudinesco, Élisabeth. 2008. ''Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Michel Foucault, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida''. New York: Columbia University Press.


Primary sources

*Louis Althusser, Althusser, Louis. '' Reading Capital''. * Roland Barthes, Barthes, Roland. ''S/Z''. * Gilles Deleuze, Deleuze, Gilles. 1973. "À quoi reconnaît-on le structuralisme?" Pp. 299–335 in ''Histoire de la philosophie, Idées, Doctrines. Vol. 8: Le XXe siècle'', edited by François Châtelet, F. Châtelet. Paris: Hachette (publisher), Hachette * Ferdinand de Saussure, de Saussure, Ferdinand. 1916. ''
Course in General Linguistics ''Course in General Linguistics'' (french: Cours de linguistique générale) is a book compiled by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye from notes on lectures given by Ferdinand de Saussure at the University of Geneva between 1906 and 1911. It was ...
''. * Michel Foucault, Foucault, Michel. ''The order of things, The Order of Things''. *Roman Jakobson, Jakobson, Roman. ''Essais de linguistique générale''. * Jacques Lacan, Lacan, Jacques. ''Seminars of Jacques Lacan, The Seminars of Jacques Lacan''. *Claude Lévi-Strauss, Lévi-Strauss, Claude. ''The Elementary Structures of Kinship''. * —— 1958. ''Structural Anthropology'' [''Anthropologie structurale''] * —— 1964–1971. ''Mythologiques'' * Wilcken, Patrick, ed. ''Claude Levi-Strauss: The Father of Modern Anthropology''. {{Authority control Structuralism, Continental philosophy Critical theory History of philosophy Intellectual history Linguistic theories and hypotheses Linguistic turn Literary criticism Metatheory Philosophical anthropology Psychoanalytic theory Sociological theories Theories of language