Random Notes on Structuralism and Post-Structuralism

2 posts

Niccolo and Donkey

Two views of Structuralism:

1. a method of studying language and society and the works of artists and novelists
2. an overall worldview that provides and organic as opposed to atomistic account of reality and knowledge

-the second take leads to the view that reality is not composed of things but RELATIONSHIPS.
-all objects have a presence and an absence
-claims to discover permanent structures behind or beneath things
-analyses tend to be 'synchronic' (ahistorical) rather than 'diachronic' (historical)
-extremists will deny the importance of history, many are nostalgic for primitive cultures that were oblivious to the existence of change

Jacques Lacan's "Symbolic Order" - the universal, unchanging order of things.

-this makes Structuralism opposed to the Existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre or to any other form of Humanism that emphasizes the individual.

-in Structuralism, there is a 'disappearance of the subject' as it is spawned by and absorbed back into the general structure.

-Structuralism is therefore more tied to 17th century continental rationalists rather than British empiricists.

Niccolo and Donkey
A bit on Marxism and Structuralism

-Empiricists believed that knowledge of the world was IMMEDIATE i.e. mind is a blank slate and reality imposes itself in the form of the five senses
-Rationalists believed that knowledge was MEDIATE i.e. mediated by innate ideas or innate structures

-therefore a universal structure of reality can be deduced that will contradict the reality encountered simply through the five senses

-Karl Marx took the view that the underlying structure was economic and divided it into six areas:

1. natural resources
2. means of production
3. means of distribution
4. cultural facts
5. legal and political facts
6.socio-economic facts

-numbers 4 and 5 together form superstructure
-number 6 forms the foundation

-the underlying structure is tantamount to the sum total of all the relations of production.
-everything else in society is built upon the foundation.
-the superstructure is a reflex of that underlying structure.

-it is therefore simply an ideological reflection of the forces at work in the socio-economic foundation as exemplified by political constitutions which simply legalize the privileges of the social class or classes that own the economic foundation of society.
-it follows that state security are thugs who enforce the 'rights' of the ruling class

-like structuralism, Marxism is organic and focuses on underlying structures, but what separates the two is Marxism's focus on history which structuralism rejects as it is ahistorical.