Explain Structuralism



Explain Structuralism: Structuralism is a mode of knowledge of nature and human life that is interested in relationships rather than individual objects or, alternatively, where objects are defined by the set of relationships of which they are part and not by the qualities possessed by them taken in isolation. Claude Lévi-Strauss was the spokesperson for structuralism in Anthropology, incorporating the work of many authors along the twentieth century. Three meanings of ‘structuralism’ will be distinguished, corresponding to different timescales: structuralism as a French intellectual movement of the 1960s, structuralism as a wider epistemological attitude and Lévi-Strauss' structuralism which is a link between the two.

Explain Structuralism: In a strict sense structuralism is the program which Lévi-Strauss, borrowing from structural linguistics, tried to introduce into anthropology. In a loose sense structuralism may refer to the works of those authors who deserve to be discussed when speaking about a style of approach which has manifest itself in different ways in different times and places, but which in the history of ideas generally can be traced back to certain writings of Durkheim and Mauss. From linguistics Lévi-Strauss took the idea of the phoneme, the notion of the arbitrary nature of the linguistic sign and the realization that each linguistic term derives its value from its opposition to all the other terms. Lévi-Strauss sought to apply the ideas of opposition and mediation beyond the familiar area of social structure to such topics as myth and totemism. Convergences have been noted between Lévi-Strauss and other authors such as Evans-Pritchard and an earlier generation of Dutch anthropologists, both in the use of opposition and in an interest in meaning. It may be concluded that structuralism is a technique or set of techniques among others to be used when and if appropriate.

Structuralism is a philosophy and method that developed from insights in the field of linguistics in the mid-twentieth century to study the underlying patterns of social life. In the social sciences the structuralist mode of inquiry sought not simply to identify structures or relationships per se, but rather to look behind or beneath the visible and conscious designs (beliefs, ideas, behaviors) of active human subjects (surface manifestations) to expose or unearth how those designs are in fact outputs, effects, consequences, products generated by underlying causes, hidden mechanisms, or a limited number of ‘deep’ structures that are universal to the human mind; structures which while not directly visible or knowable – with no grounding in subjectivity – are nevertheless absolute, autonomous, and only accessible theoretically through the techniques of a structuralist analysis. In other words, any explanation of social life, of observed patterns, can only be found in the general mechanisms, structures, schemas, or systems that are assumed to underpin all observable events; these structures cannot be touched and measured and are not directly observable in the events, phenomena, or patterns themselves, but must be deduced from them to reveal deeper logics.

Explain Structuralism

Structuralism, the structural, stands in contrast to a reductionism because it holds that all forms of cultural expression – be they the domains of art, architecture, cookery, dress, human self-perception, kinship relations, language, literature, music, etc. – cannot be understood in isolation, as somehow separate, but rather must be understood as positions within a structure or system of relations. Indeed, structuralism is holistic (anti-individualistic and anti-empiricist) because of its insistence that while observable phenomena are present, they are also absent precisely because any object's being is determined by its relationships, its relation to the whole structure to which it belongs; a structure that while not apparent is present in each of its observable parts. The structuralist approach (across the human and social sciences) claimed a fundamental importance to the task of identifying and analyzing (implicit and hidden) ‘deep structures’ which – as with Bhaskar's realist philosophy – are theorized to underlie and generate (explicit and obvious) ‘surface’ or observable phenomenon. While structuralism resonates with the philosophy of realism in that it challenges the positions of empiricism and positivism, it does not agree – as in realism – that there is a knowable real world ‘out there’; for structuralism what is knowable is structures. In other words, ‘structuralism’ is a term used in general to denote any kind of analysis that is concerned with exposing structures and relations, with finding orders rather than actions. More specifically and ambitiously however, structuralism was promoted as a philosophy with a worldview (a Weltanschauung), a universal understanding of reality and knowledge. Indeed, there were high hopes that structuralism could provide a general framework – a solid common structural basis – for ‘rigorous’ and ‘serious’ work across all the human and social sciences. The hold of phenomenology and especially Jean-Paul Sartre's existential Marxism in post-war France was the intellectual context from which structuralism emerged as critique in the 1950s.

In the 1960s and 1970s structuralism came to replace existentialism as the dominant intellectual movement and paradigm in France; an acceptance that can also be attributed to a broader general optimism as to the universality of science, with structuralism claiming to be a new science (albeit one that offered a structural analysis rather than the causal analysis common to the natural sciences). Structuralism represented a challenging critique, a radical break from previous philosophical traditions and theoretical methods/models (including those focused around beliefs in human intention, understanding, and consciousness such as phenomenology, humanism, and existentialism), with its rejection of metaphysics, its indifference to the human subject (including individual and collective action), and its interest in discontinuity rather than continuity and flux, or sociohistorical context. In general, structuralism was a method that was applied extensively in the study of language, society, art, and literature. However, whether or not structuralism can be described as a ‘movement’ is a subject of some debate given the differences between the so-called ‘first generation structuralists’ (i.e., Lévi-Strauss, Barthes, Lacan, Foucault). Indeed structuralism has also been described as an ideology, a debate, a method, a ‘creative activity’, and an intellectual fad precisely because it was never consciously formed to be a specific school of thought. Structuralism became a highly influential strand of post-war French philosophy impacting – to varying degrees – a host of disciplines including (but not limited to) anthropology, linguistics, literary criticism and the sociology of literature, aesthetic theory, Marxism, mathematics, psychology, sociology, history, architecture, and human geography.

The works of Lévi-Strauss in anthropology, Roland Barthes in literary theory, Jean Piaget in psychology, Jacques Lacan in psychoanalysis, Michel Foucault in philosophy, and Louis Althusser in Marxism were particularly influential (and controversial) in their respective fields pioneering the new approach in their respective disciplines and spawning a legion of followers. Indeed, structuralism had a number of independent leaders who – while often addressing common concerns – were also quite different in their specific enquiries. However, it can be said that it was above all the anthropological work of Lévi-Strauss which was most responsible for making ‘structuralism’ both an intellectual fashion and almost a household word. The structuralist approach did not, of course, appear in the 1950s/1960s out of a vacuum, somehow spontaneously appearing on the French intellectual scene. Indeed, many of the themes of structuralism had precursors, earlier antecedents, in the works of Bachelard, Bakhtin, Canguilhem, Cavaillès, Freud, Marx, Mauss, Merleau-Ponty, etc. In fact, the basic idea of structuralism can be traced back at least as far as 1725, to the writings of Giambattista Vico, and in many ways owes a debt to the core continental tradition of rationalist philosophy that was advanced by René Descarte, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant. However, the true intellectual source of modern structuralism (even though the term postdates him) was the work of the Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913). For while the works of structuralism differ considerably by author, Saussure provided the core lexicon – the technical vocabulary with terms such as semiology, la langue, parole, anti-essentialism, signified, signifier, arbitrary sign, synchronic, diachronic, paradigmatic, syntagmatic, etc. – common to many (but not all) structuralists (and post-structuralists). Indeed, it was also Saussure who called for the development of a new science of the study of signs (a semiology) that would be applicable not only in the field of linguistics but also directly or indirectly applicable to all aspects of human cultures and social institutions as systems of signs.

For PDF and Handwritten

WhatsApp 8130208920


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.