chapter  6
18 Pages

Leisure, signification, and power

In recent years, this whole line of reasoning has come under fire. 'Structuralist' and 'post-structuralist' writers no longer look for­ ward to the reconstruction of society and the realization of the 'all round development of the individual'. Instead, these approaches express the view that 'the goal of the human sciences is not to constitute man but to dissolve him' (Levi-Strauss 1962: 326). The writers that I shall examine in this chapter, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, are often referred to as representatives of this position. Certainly, their work draws attention to the problem­ atic nature of the categories of 'subjectivity', 'meaning', and 'social order'. The human subject is indeed studied as a 'de­ centred' being, which has 'meaning' only in reference to 'the laws of desire, the forms of its language, the rules of its actions, or the play of its mythical and imaginative discourse'.1 The individ­ ual 'exists' in the slipstream or the 'play' of these structures. Barthes's work on 'mythology' and Foucault's discussion of the successive historical 'atmospheres of discourse' (episteme), that supported some forms of knowledge and suffocated others, clearly have structuralist and post-structuralist overtones.2 Even so, neither academic label embraces the full capaciousness and sheer incongruity of these writers' lifelong intellectual exploits.