What is structuralism


A philosophical current which, in its research on the constituent elements of any subject area, proceeds from fundamental systemic relationships and structures. Structuralism does not think of subjects and objects in terms of their supposed nature, but of the characteristic connections (between them, with their environment, in relation to the system in which they develop, ...). In contrast to existentialism and the philosophies about the human subject, structuralism thus affirms the primacy of structures over figures, of the system over the individuals that make it up. This stream of thought was initially inspired by Saussure's linguistics (which shows that a single word can only be understood in the context of others) and, in its investigations, prefers the formalistic approach to the historical approximation of the objects with which it is concerned. This approach has proven to be very fruitful in the human sciences, especially in anthropology with Levi-Strauss (whose work deals with the elementary structures of kinship), in psychoanalysis with Lacan (for whom “the unconscious is structured like a language ”), In semiology with Barthes (who viewed structuralism as an original method of literary analysis and at the same time radicalized it), in philosophy with Althusser, Foucault and Deleuze, the latter two not always recognizing themselves in this movement. Structuralism reached its peak in the 1960s and lost its importance again towards the end of the 1970s with the emergence of a new philosophy that once again placed the human subject in the foreground. Ultimately, it is difficult to unify and characterize, except for the lively debates that it initiated (such as the controversy over humanism that, against his will, Foucault started when he came to the end of his book The order of things spoke of the "death of man"). Movement can be defined as the attempt to create “a transcendental field without a subject”, i.e. to examine the activity of the mind and the products of culture without assuming as a prerequisite that a conscious subject is their originator.