Post-structuralism is associated with the works of a series of mid-20th-century French, continental philosophers and critical theorists who came to be known internationally in the 1960s and 1970s. The term is defined by its relationship to the system before it—Structuralism, an intellectual movement developed in Europe from the early to mid-20th century which argues that human culture may be understood by means of a structure—modeled on language (i.e., structural linguistics)—that differs from concrete reality and from abstract ideas—a “third order” that mediates between the two.

Post-structuralist authors all present different critiques of structuralism, but common themes include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of Structuralism and an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute those structures. Writers whose work are often characterised as post-structuralist include: Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard and Julia Kristeva, although many theorists who have been called “post-structuralist” have rejected the label.

Existential phenomenology is a significant influence; Colin Davis has argued that Post-structuralists might just as accurately be called “post-phenomenologists”.

Post-structuralist philosophers like Derrida and Foucault did not form a self-conscious group, but each responded to the traditions of phenomenology and Structuralism. The idea that knowledge could be centred on the beholder is rejected by Structuralism, which claims to be a more secure foundation for knowledge. In phenomenology, this foundation is experiential in itself. In Structuralism, knowledge is founded on the “structures” that make experience possible: concepts, and language or signs. By contrast, Post-structuralism argues that founding knowledge either on pure experience (phenomenology) or systematic structures (Structuralism) is impossible. This impossibility was not meant as a failure or loss, but rather as a cause for “celebration and liberation”.

A major theory associated with Structuralism is binary opposition. This theory proposes that there are frequently used pairs of opposite but related words, often arranged in a hierarchy. Examples of common binary pairs include: Enlightenment/Romantic, male/female, speech/writing, rational/emotional, signifier/signified, symbolic/imaginary. Post-structuralism rejects the notion of the dominant word in the pair being dependent on its subservient counterpart. The only way to properly understand the purpose of these pairings is to assess each term individually, and then its relationship to the related term.[clarification needed]

Post-structuralism and Structuralism
Structuralism was an intellectual movement in France in the 1950s and 1960s that studied the underlying structures in cultural products (such as texts) and used analytical concepts from linguistics, psychology, anthropology, and other fields to interpret those structures. It emphasized the logical and scientific nature of its results.

Post-structuralism offers a way of studying how knowledge is produced and critiques Structuralist premises. It argues that because history and culture condition the study of underlying structures, both are subject to biases and misinterpretations. A Post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object.

Historical vs. descriptive view
Post-structuralists generally assert that Post-structuralism is the historical context surrounding the arts, while Structuralism is considered descriptive of the present. This terminology is derived from Ferdinand de Saussure’s distinction between the views of historical (diachronic) and descriptive (synchronic) reading. From this basic distinction, Post-structuralist studies often emphasize history to analyze descriptive concepts. By studying how cultural concepts have changed over time, Post-structuralists seek to understand how the same concepts are understood by readers in the present. For example, Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization is both an observation of history and an inspection of cultural attitudes about madness. The theme of history in modern Continental thought can be linked to such influences as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Scholars between both movements
The uncertain distance between Structuralism and Post-structuralism is further blurred by the fact that scholars rarely label themselves as Post-structuralists. Some scholars associated with Structuralism, such as Roland Barthes and Foucault, also became noteworthy in Post-structuralism.

Some observers from outside the Post-structuralist camp have questioned the rigor and legitimacy of the field. American philosopher John Searle argued in 1990 that “The spread of ‘poststructuralist’ literary theory is perhaps the best known example of a silly but noncatastrophic phenomenon.” Similarly, physicist Alan Sokal in 1997 criticized “the postmodernist/poststructuralist gibberish that is now hegemonic in some sectors of the American academy.” Literature scholar Norman Holland argued that Post-structuralism was flawed due to reliance on Saussure’s linguistic model, which was seriously challenged by the 1950s and was soon abandoned by linguists: “Saussure’s views are not held, so far as I know, by modern linguists, only by literary critics and the occasional philosopher. [Strict adherence to Saussure] has elicited wrong film and literary theory on a grand scale. One can find dozens of books of literary theory bogged down in signifiers and signifieds, but only a handful that refer to Chomsky.”

David Foster Wallace wrote:

“The deconstructionists (“deconstructionist” and “poststructuralist” mean the same thing, by the way: “poststructuralist” is what you call a deconstructionist who doesn’t want to be called a deconstructionist)… see the debate over the ownership of meaning as a skirmish in a larger war in Western philosophy over the idea that presence and unity are ontologically prior to expression. There’s been this longstanding deluded presumption, they think, that if there is an utterance then there must exist a unified, efficacious presence that causes and owns that utterance. The poststructuralists attack what they see as a post-Platonic prejudice in favor of presence over absence and speech over writing. We tend to trust speech over writing because of the immediacy of the speaker: he’s right there, and we can grab him by the lapels and look into his face and figure out just exactly what one single thing he means. But the reason why poststructuralists are in the literary theory business at all is that they see writing, not speech, as more faithful to the metaphysics of true expression. For Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, writing is a better animal than speech because it is iterable; it is iterable because it is abstract; and it is abstract because it is a function not of presence but of absence: the reader’s absent when the writer’s writing, and the writer’s absent when the reader’s reading.
For a deconstructionist, then, a writer’s circumstances and intentions are indeed a part of the “context” of a text, but context imposes no real cinctures on the text’s meaning, because meaning in language requires a cultivation of absence rather than presence, involves not the imposition but the erasure of consciousness. This is so because these guys–Derrida following Heidegger and Barthes Mallarme and Foucault God knows who–see literary language as not a tool but an environment. A writer does not wield language; he is subsumed in it. Language speaks us; writing writes; etc.”
Post-structuralism emerged in France during the 1960s as a movement critiquing Structuralism. According to J.G. Merquior a love–hate relationship with Structuralism developed among many leading French thinkers in the 1960s.

In a 1966 lecture “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, Jacques Derrida presented a thesis on an apparent rupture in intellectual life. Derrida interpreted this event as a “decentering” of the former intellectual cosmos. Instead of progress or divergence from an identified centre, Derrida described this “event” as a kind of “play.”

In 1967, Barthes published “The Death of the Author” in which he announced a metaphorical event: the “death” of the author as an authentic source of meaning for a given text. Barthes argued that any literary text has multiple meanings, and that the author was not the prime source of the work’s semantic content. The “Death of the Author,” Barthes maintained, was the “Birth of the Reader,” as the source of the proliferation of meanings of the text. Marshall McLuhan developed an idea very similar to Barthes. During an interview on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder in 1976 McLuhan opined, “The user is the content of any situation, whether its driving a car, or wearing clothes or watching a show.”

The period was marked by the rebellion of students and workers against the state in May 1968.

Major works
Barthes and the need for metalanguage
Barthes in his work, Elements of Semiology (1967), advanced the concept of the “metalanguage”. A metalanguage is a systematized way of talking about concepts like meaning and grammar beyond the constraints of a traditional (first-order) language; in a metalanguage, symbols replace words and phrases. Insofar as one metalanguage is required for one explanation of first-order language, another may be required, so metalanguages may actually replace first-order languages. Barthes exposes how this structuralist system is regressive; orders of language rely upon a metalanguage by which it is explained, and therefore deconstruction itself is in danger of becoming a metalanguage, thus exposing all languages and discourse to scrutiny. Barthes’ other works contributed deconstructive theories about texts.

Derrida’s lecture at Johns Hopkins
The occasional designation of Post-structuralism as a movement can be tied to the fact that mounting criticism of Structuralism became evident at approximately the same time that Structuralism became a topic of interest in universities in the United States. This interest led to a colloquium at Johns Hopkins University in 1966 titled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man”, to which such French philosophers as Derrida, Barthes, and Lacan were invited to speak.

Derrida’s lecture at that conference, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences,” was one of the earliest to propose some theoretical limitations to Structuralism, and to attempt to theorize on terms that were clearly no longer Structuralist.

The element of “play” in the title of Derrida’s essay is often erroneously interpreted in a linguistic sense, based on a general tendency towards puns and humour, while social constructionism as developed in the later work of Michel Foucault is said to create play in the sense of strategic agency by laying bare the levers of historical change. Many see the importance of Foucault’s work to be in its synthesis of this social/historical account of the operation of power (see governmentality).

Different Approaches of Poststructuralism

Jacques Derrida’s Theory of Writing
acques Derrida is a particularly influential author. He calls his method (he himself prefers the term “practice”) deconstruction.

His early main work Grammatology tries to show that it is a baseless assumption to be able to grasp the singular meaning intuition of the other person in direct conversation. In fact, these remain as withdrawn as in the “dead letter” written form. The subject of the study are primarily classical theories of language.

His equally early and fundamental work The Voice and Phenomenon seeks to show that individual (singular intuition) and general (meaning intention) are necessarily immediate. The reason for this is, inter alia, the time-shifted nature of the formulation and evaluation act.

Such differences are also intended to explain why a linguistic discrimination principle can not exist before the subject acquaintances and can serve for theoretical follow-up speculations (as in idealistic system experiments). The early Derrida tries to show this in Descartes ‘s Cogito scene, for example. His early essays also deal with Sigmund Freud, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Ferdinand de Saussure and Emmanuel Levinas. The latter has partly made known to Derrida’s criticism (especially in his text Violence and Metaphysics ).

Derrida’s later work is dedicated to almost all areas of philosophy. After a more experimental phase, his late writings put more emphasis on practical and political issues.

Derrida’s interlocutors included Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Lacan, Ernesto Laclau and Jean-François Lyotard.

Jacques Lacan’s Psychoanalysis
The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who played a central role in the development of psychoanalysis in France, devoted himself to revisiting the writings of Sigmund Freud in the light of the structuralist method, but also incorporated influences from fundamental ontology and the late work of mathematical topology, whose graph models he used for the representation of unconscious processes.

Lacan emphasizes, also against the background of Freud’s theory of dysfunction and wit, that the unconscious is structured “like a language “. The work of the subconscious follows linguistic laws such as metaphor and metonymy, replacement and displacement. He calls the corresponding elements of psychic events signifiers, but besides the language-like structured field of the symbolic, the imaginary and the real also playa central role in the psychic apparatus. The actual structuring performance, and also the psychoanalytic cure, takes place in the field of speech. Lacan also situates phenomena of social norm, of law, of authority and of ideology in the field of linguistic or symbolic, and in this context coined the term ” great other ” (see also name of father ) as a symbolic figure of Authority in contrast to the “little other” or ” object small a “, which plays a decisive role in the context of the drive.

Lacan’s conception of the symbolic was particularly fruitful for Marxist approaches by Louis Althusser in the context of the analysis of ideology and ideological “invocation”. His remarks on the view as an instinctual object as well as the important role of the phantasmatic for the psychic, but also social events are of central importance for newer theories in the field of cultural and pictorial science. The most important representative of Lacan’s thinking today is the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

Michel Foucault’s Discourse Analysis
The partly in the wake of the structuralists, v. a. but discourse analysis developed by Michel Foucault is fundamental to poststructuralist instruments. Following Foucault, the discourse analysis in the 1990s was further developed into a relatively regulated method.

It was initially developed in the methodological main work Foucault, Archeology of Knowledge. This follows his concrete studies on the birth of a ” human scientific ” order of knowledge in The Order of Things and the mechanisms of exclusion and the simultaneous definition of the sick and insane – an act of exclusion, which at the same time only the self-assurance of a society about their own identity, health and reasonableness stabilized. The implicitly already used method became, partly in response to critics, then by Foucault as a discourse analysisexplicated. It involves the analysis of the structure and conditions of the establishment of orders of knowledge, each of which is accompanied by its own conventions on the admissibility and value of knowledge elements, with certain “rules of discourse “. Their epoch-specific total thinking is taken in the term of the ” episteme “. Factors of the context such as rules and norms are understood as fundamental to the fact that meaning is communicable, that is, that communicates can be generated. In particular, pre-discursive framework conditions are taken into consideration, such as the organization of powerRelationships about strategies of establishing stance and tactics of positioning in power relations, a level that Foucault describes as ” micropolitics “.

In the second half of the 1970s, this method was u. a. introduced to the cultural, historical and literary sciences. In doing so, she sets herself apart from a subject- and author-centered concept of cognition of classical hermeneutic approaches. In the center is not an author subject and its intention. The use of an author instance is only for the purpose of marking medium-sized discursive units. The establishment of a subject itself is a discourse bound to historical and cultural changes. In particular, the author term meshes with the concept of property.

In the place of the author Foucault enters the fabric of a knowledge order that provides him with his means of expression in the first place. The relevant concept of discourse integrates precisely the aforementioned pre-discursive constitutional conditions of cultural knowledge, especially systems of control and regulation. “Discourse” is an entire field of cultural knowledge, which, as it is in the form of statements and texts as tips of an iceberg manifested. Thinking and perception are, according to Foucault’s assumption, already shaped by the rules of discourse. Truth and reality are constituted by cultural meansUtterances and practices of truth-setting and a struggle to “make audible” of “voices” (opinions). Basically, knowledge is accessible only in documents, but these are to be analyzed in the context of an entire discourse formation (episteme). The self-understanding and the regulatory mechanisms of a society are therefore at least indirectly tangible. Even society is formed over texts and cultural artefacts.

The methodical inclusion of the author instance can be explained as a special case of Foucault’s subject criticism. According to Foucault, a subject basically designs in the field of available self-positioning discursive strategies, in which it can make various use of creative tactical features of self-positioning. Foucault’s approach to this mobility is narrowed down by a classical, substantialist subject concept. Foucault’s late works focus particularly on the theme of self-design, which he calls “self-care” based on stoic theories.

Poststructuralism has been criticized from all sides, both as a whole and in individual representatives. Well known are, for example, the objections of Jürgen Habermas and Manfred Frank and an experiment undertaken by Alan Sokal. In a journal devoted to poststructuralist theories, he published a text based on the style of some poststructuralists was, but contained only nonsense, which according to Sokal the lack of intellectual integrity of the entire movement prove.

See also the criticism sections in the main articles Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and Jean Baudrillard.

Structuralism tried to find a level of self-sufficient and generalizable metalanguage capable of describing the configurations of anthropological, social literary, linguistic, historical or psychoanalytic variable elements to analyze their relationships without getting bogged down by the identity of these elements in themselves.

On the other hand, poststructuralism shares a general concern to identify and question the hierarchies implicit in the identification of binary oppositions that characterize not only structuralism but Western metaphysics in general. If there is a point in common between poststructuralist criticism, it is the revaluation of the structuralist interpretation of Ferdinand de Saussureabout the distinction between the study of language through time versus the study of language at a given moment (diachronic vs. synchronic). The structuralists affirm that the structural analysis is generally synchronic (at a certain moment) and therefore suppresses the diachronic or historical analysis. It is also said that poststructuralism is concerned to reaffirm the importance of history and to develop at the same time a new theoretical understanding of the subject. Hence it is also stated that the emphasis of poststructuralism consists in a reinterpretation of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. For example, Nietzsche’s genealogy serves as a theoretical reference point in Michel Foucault’s historical work of the 1970s, including his critiques of structuralism.

It is grandiloquently said that this reductionism is violent, and that poststructuralism identifies it with Western civilization and objectionable excesses of colonialism, racism, misogyny, androcentrism, homophobia and the like. The element of “play” in the title of Derrida’s essay is often misunderstood as a linguistic game, based on a tendency to play on words and humor, while social constructionism, as it was developed in the later work of Michel Foucault, is considered as the creation of a kind of strategic organ when exposing the levers of historical change. The importance of Foucault’s work is for many its synthesis of this historical social account of the mechanisms of power.

It is also commonly said that poststructuralists are more or less consciously postmodern, but not a few of them have shown concern for these terms or even have defined themselves as modernists.

Source from Wikipedia