Post-structuralism is a body of work that followed in the wake of structuralism, and sought to understand the Western world as a network of structures, as in structuralism, but in which such structures are ordered primarily by local, shifting differences (as in deconstruction) rather than grand binary oppositions and hierarchies (as in structuralism).
Post-structuralism is most clearly distinct from structuralism in its rejection of structuralism's tendency to seek simple, universal, and hierarchical structures. Post-structuralists challenge the structuralist claim to be a critical metalanguage by which all text can be translated, arguing that a neutral omniscient view outside the realm of text is impossible. Instead, they pursue an infinite play of signifiers and do not attempt to impose, or privilege, one reading of them over another. Consequently, within the discipline of post-structuralism there are few theories in agreement, though all take as their starting point a critique of structuralism. Post-structuralist investigations tend to be politically oriented. Many of them believe the world we think we inhabit is merely a social construct with different ideologies pushing for hegemony.
Key post-structuralists include the historian Michel Foucault and the philosophers Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida. The works of Roland Barthes straddle the divide between structuralism and post-structuralism. Also important to the movement are Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Frederic Jameson.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04