chapter  7
21 Pages

Understanding structure and its dismantling: structuralism and poststructuralism

Structuralism developed in the mid-1900s, spreading to a wide range of disciplines, particularly in the social sciences. Having emerged in linguistics, it influenced architecture, economics, literary criticism, social anthropology, sociology and psychoanalysis. Previously, the French philosopher Sartre’s popularisation of existentialism had been pre-eminent, in which a self-directing individual could shape his own world (Sartre, [1947] 1957). In some respects structuralism was a reaction to this, giving the structures of society a more determining role. In France, under the influence of the anthropologist LéviStrauss and the psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, the intellectual centre of interest shifted from existentialism to structuralism (Dosse, 1967).