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REVIEW ARTICLE

Piagets Structuralism

Genetic Epistemology. JEAN PIAGET. mental data. After more than fifty years of
Eleanor Buckworth, trans. New York & research by himself and a small army of
London: Columbia University Press, assistants, Piagets theory is extensively
1970. 84 pp., index. $5.00 (cloth). elaborated, consistently integrated, and mas-
sively supported by empirical research. In
Le structuralisme. JEAN PIAGET. Que Genetic Epistemology and Structuralism, he
sais-je? Le point de connaissance actuel- sums u p many of his general ideas and offers
les. 1311. Paris: Universitaires de France, trenchant criticisms of a wide variety of
1968. 1 2 5 pp., short bibliography. [Third structuralist approaches in psychology,
ed. 1 linguistics, and t h e social sciences, as well as
illuminating accounts of allied developments
Reviewed by TERENCE TURNER in mathematics, logic, physics, and biology.
University of Chicago Genetic Epistemology consists of a set of
four lectures delivered a t Columbia in 1968.
Jean Piagets theory of the development I t presents an admirable and concise account
and structure of the intelligence unquestion- of the general concept of genetic episte-
ably represents the greatest intellectual mology and some of its most interesting
achievement of any living behavioral scien- applications. The translation is excellent.
tist. Together with the general conceptual Genetic epistemology is essentially an
perspectives and epistemological considera- attempt t o explain human knowledge (par-
tions upon which it rests, it has implications ticularly formalized knowledge such as
that extend far beyond psychology t o the science, mathematics, and logic) by studying
other behavioral sciences, philosophy, and the correspondences between the structure
logic. The publicalion of Piagets Structurul- and historical development of particular
ism (1970a) and Genetic Epistemology scientific o r mathematical concepts and the
(1970b) in English translations affords an structure and genesis of their psychological
opportunity to reflect upon the general counterparts in individuals. A number of
significance of Piagets work, especially its instances of research of this kind that are
implications for the concept of ~tructure, briefly alluded to in Structuralism are here
now as inconsistently employed and poorly described much more fully: the three
understood as it is fashionable. mother structures of the Bourbaki
Psychologists and social scientists of the mathematicians and their psychological
English-speaking world have known of Piaget counterparts; the research of Piaget, Sinclair,
almost exclusively as a child psychologist, and others o n the relation between the
chiefly preoccupied with the formal aspects origins of logical thought and the origins of
of the development of cognitive processes. language; the genesis of the notion of iden-
The two books under review clearly demon- tity as a fundamental logical principle; and
strate the inadequacy of this conception. the development of the childs concepts of
Piagets thought is in fact nothing less than a number, speed, and time as evidence for
general theory of the structure of natural their logical composition and structure.
and artificial (logico-mathematical) systems, Piagets hypotheses regarding the structure
c o n c e i v e d as dynamic, constructive of time and other basic categories are sugges-
(genetic or homeostatic) processes. Since the tive of new approaches in the anthropologi-
system in which Piaget is primarily in- cal analysis of cultural categories and cos-
terested is the human mind and its knowl- mological systems. The concept of time, for
edge, his theory is also an epistemology, the example, is shown to be compounded of
first t o be systematically grounded in experi- simpler notions of speed and work accom-
351
352 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST 175,19731
plished or events elapsed. Number is is neither private, individualistic, nor childish
similarly shown to be constructed on the in character, but collective and cultural.
basis of a coordination of primitive notions It is an interesting question what in
of class inclusion and seriation. Piagets theory has led him to discount or
Piaget rests his model of intellectual overlook the overwhelming evidence for the
development, which forms the foundation of inadequacy of his conception of figurative
genetic epistemology, upon a sharp distinc- thought. The answer appears to lie in his
tion between what he calls the figurative basic conception of the nature of intellectual
a n d operative modes of thought development itself. For Piaget, this consists
(1971b:14f). The former comprises a broad essentially of three parallel and intercor-
category including perception, imitation, related transformations in the nature of the
and mental imagery or symbols (in the cognitive relations of the subject to its objec-
Saussurian sense of motivated or iconic tive environment: from the concrete and
signs), Piaget dismisses figurative thought particular to the general and abstract, from
as a whole as the imitation of states taken the static to the dynamic, and from ego-
as momentary and static. Operational centric to decentered. The latter terms
thought, on the other hand, is defined as denote the passage from a condition in
consisting essentially of logical manipula- which the subject is incapable of separating
tions of a dynamic character, e.g., inverse or objective reality from the particular condi-
re c i p r o c a I transformations (1971b: 14). tions of its own immediate relationship to
Operational thought relies upon non-figura- that reality to a more sophisticated and
tive signs, i.e., arbitrary, collectively relativistic perspective in which reality is no
standardized tokens that typically denote longer seen as revolving around the ego. In
general concepts. The collective cultural the latter, decentered state the subject is
character of signs is opposed to the able to comprehend the independence of
private, individual nature of symbols (for objective reality from his perspective upon
a full discussion of Piagets views on symbol- and affective involvement with it, and thus
ism, see Piaget 1962). becomes capable of imaginatively assuming
Just as operative thought consists other points of view than his own toward
essentially of dymanic operations, Piaget the same objective situation. The acquisition
treats it as the sphere of dynamic intellectual of these capabilities coincides with the
development: his model of the genesis of the mastery of dynamic logical operations (i.e.,
intelligence is for all intents and purposes transformations). Dynamics in mental op-
exclusively a model of the development of erations are therefore directly correlated
operational thought. Figurative thought is with the mobility of the ego, i.e.,
passed over as a lower form of mental activity the ability of the subject to realize the
which plays no active role in mental develop- relativity and contingency of its position and
ment after early childhood, and which, be- mentally to assume other relationships to
cause of its personal, individualistic nature, the object than the one it actually stands in
lacks any cultural significance (1971b314). at the moment. The decentered system of
This formulation seems inadequate in two cognitive operations made possible by these
respects. In the first place, it begs the ques- developments is integrated around a set of
tion of the viability of de Saussures sharp ego-independent principles of conserva-
distinction between sign and symbol. tion or invariance, which constitute the
Specifically, Piagets attempt to deny all constant parameters of the relationships be-
dynamic operations to figurative or symbolic tween the dynamic mental operations of
thought flies in the face of massive evidence which the mature intelligence is composed.
for the dynamic qualities of much figurative This view of intellectual development
imagery (e.g., symbolic forms such as myth, lends itself readily to a theory of the evolu-
ritual, and the arts). Symbolic farms in these tion of science, logic, and mathematics. All
categories can be dynamic both in the of the problems and examples discussed in
sense of representing transformations or Genetic Epistemology and other works on
temporal processes and in the sense of pro- the same topic by Piaget and his collabora-
ducing affective, conative, and motivational tors are drawn from these three fields.
effects. In the second place, as the examples Genetic epistemology is thus in effect pre-
just cited attest, much figurative symbolism sented primarily as a philosophy of science.
R E VIEW ARTICLE 353
It is obvious, however, that the same model (depending on the nature and function of
does not lend itself as easily, at least in the the form) more than the definition of the
same terms, to the analysis of art, religion, object as a projection of the egocentric
or other symbolic forms of a non-scientific affective and cognitive aspects of the sub-
nature (i.e., those that characteristically ject. In other words, the symbolic structure
employ figurative symbolism or modes of of a myth, ritual, painting, o r poem, inter-
thought). preted as a figurative model of an objective
Piaget has shown that ethical judgment is situation, functions as much as an objective
to a considerable extent capable of treat- template for the molding of subjective ex-
ment in terms of his genetic model (see The perience and the restructuring of subjective
Moral Judgement of the Child, 1965), yet a identity as a projection of subjective states
genetic aesthetics, for example, along the onto the objective environment (for a bril-
same lines seems almost a contradiction in liant treatment of Australian Aboriginal
terms. There seems to be some crucial miss- ritual from this point of view, see Munn
ing element which the progressive decentra- n.d.). Even if, in many cases, the figura-
tion model fails to capture that forms the tive symbolic form itself has a static char-
essential principle of symbolic structures of acter, the creative process of which it is the
the figurative type, both at the cultural level end result, and the process through which it
and that of individual psychological behavior is experienced, decoded, and reacted to by
(e.g., fantasy and dream). the members of the culture of which it
It is widely recognized that traditional forms a part are of a profoundly dynamic
forms of art and religion, including myth, and transformational character. Both en-
ritual, magic, poetry, painting, etc., consist coding and decoding processes exemplify the
essentially of the imposition of forms upon principle of recentering. Like the dynamic
objective reality which serve, at the same logical transformations of decentered
time, as models for the subjects affective thought, figurative symbolism may facilitate
and cognitive orientation to that reality. the reciprocal coordination of subject and
Such forms are often apparently fixed and object and the creation of a balance of
static in character, yet they typically con- assimilative and accommodative relations. It
sist of combinations or condensations of may also serve as a vehicle for creating a
elements which represent either transforma- stable equilibrium between experiencing
tions of reality or the principles of in- actor and experienced object. It achieves
variance or conservation (to use Piagetian these ends, however, by means of a pro-
language) upon which such transformations cedure which is the opposite of that of
are based. In both senses, figurative logical operations. Instead of interposing
symbolic forms are capable of encoding and between subject and object a flexible and
expressing dynamic principles and relations. relativistic system of transformational rules
In other words, figurative symbolism can capable of responding to a wide variety of
assert a determinate paradigm of relation- pragmatic variations in the relations between
ships as a dominant principle ordering a the two, figurative symbolic forms transform
series of variations or contrasts, in a way such systems of variations into determinate,
that expresses, at the same time, a particular non-relativistic structures by imposing upon
sensibility or subjective relationship to the them patterns of a higher order, which
phenomena it represents. Such forms might dictate the outcomes of their transforma-
therefore be said, in Piagets terms, to effect tions and prescribe specific sets of relations
a kind recentering of the subject-object among their components. The imposed pat-
relation. This recentering is in many ways terns thus assume the role of the principles
the opposite of the decentering process of conservation or invariance in Piagets
which constitutes the leitmotiv of Piagets decentered operational structures: like
model of mental development, but it should their operational counterparts, they are
not be confused with the primitive ego- defined and expressed as the fixed principles
centricity of childhood. On the contrary, it underlying a series of related transforma-
presupposes that decentering has already tions at the level of concrete form or sur-
occurred, and stresses the reflexive defini- face structural relations.
tion of the subject by reference to the Although decentering and recenter-
objective model it provides as much or ing are opposites in a structural sense, they
354 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]
are by no means conflicting or mutually tive symbolic structures before it can
exclusive. The comparative cultural evi- provide a comprehensive account of cultural
dence, on the contrary, suggests that the two and psychological structures. The process of
represent complementary principles which decentering does not operate in isolation,
are in some sense mutually interdependent but seems everywhere to proceed in com-
(since all cultures appear to possess symbolic plementary interdependence with the re-
forms of a figurative type). What is the centering function. Neither process has a
nature of this complementarity? Decenter- monopoly on dynamics, and all cultures (as
ed thought in its mature, operational well as individual psyches) seem to require,
form is essentially abstract and generalized or at least to possess, both types of symbolic
in character. Its basic premise is the in- structure.
dependence of the objects upon which it is While anthropologists will find much that
focused from the identity, feelings, and pur- is fascinating in Genetic Epistemology (and
poses of the subject. The identity (in the full the other works of Piaget and his collabora-
sense of the personality of self) of the tors in this area), they will be struck by the
subject, on the other hand, exists at a rela- complete absence of comparative cultural
tively concrete and particular level: its considerations in an enterprise devoted to
essential functional property is the integra- studying the development and conceptual
tion of cognitive world-picture and logical composition of the basic categories of
operations with affect and value in the forms human thought. In place of cross-cultural
of purposive action. Affect is inherently comparison, and performing roughly the
concrete, particular, and associated with the same functions within Piagets theoretical
unique relationship of the self to its objec- perspective, is what appears to be a relatively
tive environment. For this reason the in- simplistic form of psychological reduction-
tegration and shaping of the personality or ism, coupled with evolutionistic assumptions
subjective self, on both conscious and un- based upon an equally simplistic ontogeny-
conscious levels, cannot be achieved by a recapitulates-phylogeny argument. The fol-
decentered, abstract, and generalized mode lowing passage is typical:
of thought alone. A more concrete symbolic
medium, centered upon the particular posi- The fundamental hypothesis of genetic
tion of the subject and capable of con- epistemology is that there is a parallelism
densing affective with cognitive associations, between the progress made in the logical
is required. It is this need that is filled by and rational organization of knowledge
figurative imagery and symbolic forms. and the corresponding formative logical
Figurative symbolism and decentered processes. Well, now, if this is our hypo-
logical thought thus fulfill complementary thesis, what is our field of study? Of
coume, the most fruitful, most obvious
functions and ideally reinforce one another. field of study would be reconstituting
Recentered forms such as ritual or myth, human history-the history of human
for example, afford mechanisms by which thinking in prehistoric man. Unfortunate-
the structural principles of decentered ly, we are not very well informed about
cognitive systems (e.g., social or moral the psychology of Neanderthal man. , .
norms) can be invested with affective and Since this field of biogenesis is not avail-
motivational power. Alternatively, re- able to us, we shall do as biologists do
centered forms can compensate for the and turn to ontogenesis [ 197Ob:13].
depersonalization of decentered structures
of social or cosmic reality at either the A closer examination of Piagets argu-
collective or the individual level by creating ment, however, reveals significant dis-
concrete, affectively charged worlds of crepancies between it and more familiar
meaning of a subjectively centered char- forms of psychological reductionism and
acter. evolutionism, which compel a quite different
Piagets theory of the structure of the assessment of Piagets work. These aspects of
intellect and its processes is a theory of Piagets thought are, however, more fully
decentered logical structures. What I am expounded in Structuralism, and it will ac-
suggesting is that this theory must be supple- cordingly be more convenient to discuss
mented by a theory of recentered, figura- them with reference to that work.
REVIEW A R T I C L E 355
I. THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF oncile and integrate the two main types of
PIAGETS CONCEPT OF STRUCTURE functional activity (accommodation and
assimilation). In assimilation, the subject
A. The Process of Construction acts toward the environment so as to bring it
and the Functional Invariants into accord with, or at any rate modify its
relationship to, its existing structures. The
Piagets essentially dynamic approach to structure of the subject is, in other words,
the concept of structure is reflected in two taken as the independent variable and that
rep re se n tative statements from Struc- of the object as the dependent variable.
turalism: Accommodation, as we have already seen,
represents the complementary opposite of
the being of structures consists in their this procedure. The two functions must be
becoming, that is, in their being under coordinated or equilibrated for the subject
construction [ 1970a:139].
to attain a measure of stability in relation to
There is no structure apart from construc- its environment. Equilibration and reflective
tion [1970a:140]. abstraction, then, form the two comple-
construction, or the process through mentary aspects of the process by which
which structures are formed, is thus the structures are generated and maintained.
most important concept in Piagets theory of Equilibration is the locus of the functional
structure. Construction consists of an adap- or adaptive aspects of the process, reflective
tive interaction between a system or entity abstraction of its organizational and struc-
already organized at some level, which plays tural aspects.
the functional role of subject, and its Equilibration, or the adaptiue coordina-
objective environment. The adaptive orienta- tion of the actions of the subject with
tion of the subject is toward the achieve- reference to its objective milieu, is only
ment of a more stable equilibrium within the possible on the basis of the organization of
total system constituted by itself and its its accommodations to that environment
environment. To achieve this goal, it must into a coherent pattern or structure. Piaget
make a series of accommodations to the therefore considers organization and adapta-
objective conditions imposed by its environ- tion (the latter defined as comprising the
ment, and incorporate these accommoda- two principal functions of accommodation
tions into its own structure as the basis of its and assimilation) as the functional in-
future behavior. The subject attempts to variants or basic factors indispensable to
encompass each new set of accommodations the genesis and maintenance in being of any
on the basis of its capacity to assimilate structure, at any level of development.
objective reality at its existing level of struc- Function (adaptation) is inseparable from
tural development. Should this prove impos- structure (or, more broadly, organization)
sible, adaptive pressure leads the subject to for Piaget because of the primacy of be-
attempt to subsume the new accommoda- havior and its dynamic, processual aspects in
tions together with its old structure under his thought. Here it should be noted that
principles of a higher order, abstract and Piaget does not treat all behavioral processes
general enough to serve as common denomi- as of equal theoretical interest or structural
nators for both. These principles in turn significance. He gives the overwhelming bulk
become the basis of a new and more power- of his attention to genetic or logical pro-
ful structure. cesses that lead from weaker or less
The process of abstracting the common developed levels of organization to strong-
properties of operations performed upon er and more complex levels. Nothing in his
distinct sets of objects as the basis of a new basic conceptual scheme, however, limits its
or higher level of structure is one of the two application solely to such processes: it can
major aspects of the constructive processes. be applied equally well to homeostatic, re-
Piaget calls it reflectiue abstraction to distin- generative, or restitutive processes involving
guish it from the simpler and more direct the interaction of hierarchically related
form of abstraction of the properties of levels within a relatively stable social or
objects. The other major aspect of construc- cultural system. The reasons for Piagets
tion is equilibration, or the attempt to rec- almost exclusive concentration on genetic
366 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]
developmental processes and his comparative attribute of operations). The formal aspects
disinterest in homeostatic systems will are characteristic of Piagets later thought, in
occupy us later. It will be more useful at this which he has increasingly striven to isolate
point to clarify a few further aspects of the generic forms that characterize all struc-
Piagets concept of structure. tures. These generalizing and formalizing
tendencies, however, arose directly from his
B. Structure earlier attempts to formalize his own
empirical findings. There is an impressive
Piaget uses the term structure in a rela- continuity between Piagets observational
tively restricted sense to denote a mature data, the descriptive and quasi-formalized
or developed form of organization. A struc- models he at first developed to fit them, and
ture is an organization which has reached a his later more generalized logico-mathe-
level of equilibration which the necessary matical models. The trouble is that this
accommodations to its environment do not continuity is not so immediately obvious
call for further changes of a fundamental or with the models or data of other fields:
genetic character. Such a system is a self- Piaget does not always help matters by
regulating system of reversible transforma- leaving portions of his model in relatively
tions that forms a totality (i.e., a whole that ungeneralized psychological terms, while
is greater than the sum of its parts). Struc- other portions are treated at the highest level
tures, identified in terms of these three basic of logico-mathematical abstraction (the treat-
criteria, consist of operations, related to each ment of the concept of operations is a
other on the basis of coordinations. case in point). The use of Piagetian models
Operations are internalized (i.e., symbolic) in other disciplines is thus likely to require a
actions. They are reversible, but at the same complex effort of translation, calling for the
time are based on a principle of conservation adaptation of both formal and psychological
or invariance that specifies an immutable elements to the requirements of a particular
aspect of the reversible relationship (for field. The effort is by no means impossible
example, the volume of water remains in- or necessarily unrewarding in itself, as many
variant as its shape is varied by being poured examples from both Structuralism and
from a tall thin glass to a shorter, wider Genetic Epistemology go to show.
one). Finally, operations are always grouped Structure, in Piagets conception, is es-
into sets on the basis of determinate prin- sentially a mediatory code. This inter-
ciples of interrelationship, or coordinations. mediary role is, at the same time, defined on
Coordinations are, as it were, second-order several different dimensions. Structure is, to
operations, or operations upon operations. begin with, interposed as a deep structure
They take the form of reversible transforma- betweeri what might be called the surface
tions of various types. A structure, at the structure of behavior and the fundamental
highest level of organization, can always be infra-structure represented by the function-
represented as a group of such transforma- al invariants of organization and adapta-
tions, correlated on the basis of invariance tion. In a diachronic, developmental sense, it
rules that render the transformations is suspended, so to speak, between its own
mutually commutative, and therefore jointly past and future. A basic implication of
applicable to the same situation or problem. Piagets conception of the constructive pro-
The holistic character of structures thus cess as the primary structural datum is that
arises directly from the relationships among any given level of structure must be ex-
their component parts (which are themselves plained with reference to the immediately
elementary relationships), rather than being preceding level, which formed the basis for
imposed upon the parts by virtue of some the particular set of adaptive responses that
emergent principle (a position Piaget gave rise to it. By the same token, any
ascribes to Durkheim, among others). structure must be seen as already engaged in
Two striking aspects of this conception of adaptive interactions that pose challenges
structure are its extreme formalism and its which can only be resolved by further modi-
uneven mixture of generalized, formal ele- fication and development. In a somewhat
ments with specifically psychological con- parallel sense, a structure at a given level
cepts (e.g., internalization as a criteria1 (say, the psychological) owes much of its
REVIEW ARTICLE 357

specific character to its intermediary posi- The object, insofar as it can be acted
tion between the lower and upper adjacent upon, and therefore known or related to
macro-levels in the hierarchy of structures by the subject, is also an indeterminate
(in this case, neuro-physiology, on the one entity whose definition is always relative to
hand, and sociology and culture, on the the actions of the subject and the level of
other). Finally, and most importantly, a structure upon which they are based. The
structure is a code for the regulation of the object imposes limitations upon the subjects
interaction between a subject and its actions. Its reality for the subject at any
objective milieu. It is on this point that given time is the product of the subjects
Piagets thought departs most widely from cumulative accommodations to these limita-
other current structuralist approaches, and tions, and the manner in which the subject
where its implications are perhaps the most has been able to organize them in structural
profound and far-reaching. form. Since the subject defines itself (and in
the process elaborates structures) by acting
upon objects and accommodating itself to
C . Subject and Object the resistance they offer to its actions, the
object enters reflexively into the organiza-
Piaget defines the subject as the center tion of the subject. The system of operations
of functional activity (1970a:59). It is, in and coordinative principles (i.e., assimilated
other words, the locus of the functional accommodations) that constitutes a struc-
invariants of the equilibration process, or- ture is thus itself an indirect reflection of the
ganization, and adaptation. These invariant structure of the objective behavioral environ-
factors are, in a sense, prestructural: they are ment.
not identified with any particular structure, Behavior (that is, purposive action
but constitute the basic components of the directed at external or internalized objects)
process by which structures are formed or is for Piaget always prior to structure, even
constructed. The subject is thus conceived though any given act of behavior always
by Piaget as the locus of the dynamics of the itself pre-supposes a structural foundation
constructive process. Its structure is (poten- (which may be, however, of a simpler order
tially if not actually) in flux and relative at than the structure that is the eventual result
any given time to the circumstances of its of the action). Behavior, in turn, must al-
interaction with its objective situation, as ways be defined in relation to objects. The
conditioned by the level of structure it has object, however, never imposes its own
attained. Yet it is never wholly identical structure directly on the subject or on struc-
with its own structure, since it also embodies tures; as Ding an sich it remains as struc-
the infra-structural capacity to transform turally and epistemologically inexhaustible
itself by internalizing its responses to new as the subject.
external or internal stimuli, which it can Structure, in other words, simultaneously
generate through its own activity. The sub- constitutes a reflection of the pattern of
jects relation to its structure at a particular interaction between the subject and object
time in Piagetian thought is thus closely and the code of rules and categories by
analogous to the relation between the I which the subject regulates its activities in
and the me in G. H. Meads theory of relation to the object. As a sort of abstract
symbolic interaction, or between the living, model of the reciprocal interplay of assimila-
spontaneous, and creative self and the dead, tion and accommodation between subject
static self composed of accumulated past and object, it comprises the rules that gen-
experience in the Realdialektik of Dilthey erate the structure of each in terms of its
and Ortega y Gasset (Mead 1934; Ortega y relations to the other: at the same time, it
Gasset 1936). There are, however, important serves as the medium through which the two
differences between Piaget and these think- are interconnected.
ers, especially with regard to the identifica- Structure in Piagetian theory is thus a
tion of the concept of subject with con- category composed of two complementary
sciousness, lived experience (Lebenswelt, and directly related aspects. There is, on the
uecu) or individuality. We shall consider one hand, the subjective component: the
some of these differences in a moment. set of operations and coordinations that
358 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]

regulate the subjects orientation and behav- objective situation) whose orientation it re-
ior toward the object. On the other hand, flects, and whose practical behavior is the
there is the objective component, consist- source of the generative principles and co-
ing of a representation of the object (i.e., a ordinations of which it consists. Structures,
set of categories), derived from the accom- in sum, are invariably to be understood as
modations forced upon a subject of determi- internalized representations of the field of
nate structure by the real (but ultimately interaction between particular subjects
inexhaustible and undefinable) structure of and specific systems of objects: in the case
the object. It is a fundamental proposition of cultural structures, these internalized (i.e.,
of Piagetian theory, following directly from symbolic) models are, of course, re-external-
the basic concepts that have just been dis- ized or objectified in the form of com-
cussed, that these two complementary municative codes, systems of classification,
aspects of structure are generated by the myths, etc. The lack of obvious surface-
same set of rules. Both the system of opera- structural correspondences between a
tions (constituting the effective structure of symbolic structure and its referential con-
the subject) and the system of categories text is no grounds, from this point of view,
making up the representation of the object for asserting the independence or lack of
are, in other words, complementary pro- systematic relationship between structure
ducts or reflections of the same set of and referent. Quite the contrary: the relative
assimilated interactions between the two. independence of structure from context at
These interactions, in their assimilated form, the level of surface structure is achieved only
constitute a set of generative rules. Such a through the success of the subject in assimi-
set of generative rules or transformations, in lating, at the level of deep structure, the
turn, represents a model of the construc- underlying principles responsible for gen-
tive process briefly described in the begin- erating the surface phenomena of its
ning of this section. It is the direct expres- objective environment.
sion and product of the subjects efforts to In spite of the conventional associations
equilibrate (i.e., integrate within a stable of the term subject with the consciousness
organization) its accommodative of individual human beings, it is clear that
responses to its objective situation with its Piagets concept of the subject has nothing
assimilative behaviors toward the object to do with either individuality or conscious-
(in its accommodated form). The necessary ness-or, for that matter, humanity. Piaget
level of organization is constructed by the has coined the term epistemic subject to
reflective abstraction of the principles denote his special use of the concept of the
common to the actions and reactions of the subject; he defines it as the mechanism
subject in the equilibration process. These common to all subjects at a certain level,
abstracted principles become the operations those of the average subject (1970a:69).
and coordinations which form the elements A certain level may denote mathematical,
of the new structure, i.e., the set of genera- physical, biological, or sociological levels of
tive rules that produce the system of cate- analysis. On none of these levels would the
gories making up the subjects representation mechanism of coordination of structure
of the object and the pattern of orientations and function, or subject, correspond to an
and actions that underlies the behavior of individual human psyche. Even on the
the subject. psychological level, where this correspon-
Structures, therefore, whether they be dence occurs, the subject does not cor-
myths, kinship systems, languages, or respond to the conscious sector of the
psyches, can be neither understood nor ex- psyche. As the source and focus of the
plained (though they may for certain pur- regulatory mechanisms governing the sub-
poses be described) out of relation to the jects actions, it pertains directly to behav-
objective situations to which they refer and ior, which for Piaget is always prior to, and
whose structures they incorporate, albeit in largely independent of, consciousness:
a mediate and partial manner. For the same it is necessary to differentiate between
reasons, any adequate analysis of a structure consciousness, which is always in-
must take account of the particular sub- complete and often distorting, and that
ject (i.e., the set of operations upon the which the subject actually does in his
REVIEW ARTICLE 359

intellectual activity, of which he only What we all dread most is a maze with
becomes aware of the results, while re- no center. That is why atheism is only a
maining unconscious of its mechanisms. nightmare, once remarked G. K. Chester-
But if one dissociates the subject from tons wise detective, Father Brown. If Father
the self and its world of conscious Brown were to become a structuralist, he
experience, there remain its operations,
which it derives by reflexive abstraction would doubtless find Piagets position (for
from the general coordination of its all its secular materialism) most congenial.
actions. Now it is precisely these opera- Gvi-Straussian structuralism, on the other
tions that are the constitutive elements of hand, would presumably strike him as an
the structures that form the basis of i t s intellectual nightmare. Father Brown might
mental activity [my translation, cf. also find himself at home with the peculiar
1970:139], tone of some of Piagets more abstract
Since the construction of cognitive struc- theoretical passages, which possess an unmis-
tures is a function of, and pertains to takable ring of moral conviction which makes
the subjects operational behavior and not them sound as much like prophecy as
its consciousness) its world of conscious scientific generalizations. The following (un-
experience can have only a small place in fortunately mutilated almost beyond rec-
it [1970a:69]. ognition in the published English transla-
In his insistence on the inseparability of tion) is a good example:
structure from behavior and the objective To maintain that the subject must dis-
context of behavior, and above all in his appear to make way for the general and
emphasis on the central importance of the the impersonal is to forget that on the
subject as the focal point of integration of cognitive level (as well, perhaps, as with
the set of categories, transformations, and morals, aesthetic values, etc.) the activity
principles of invariance (coordinations) of of the subject entails a continual process
which any structure must consist, Piaget is in of liberation from his spontaneous intel-
direct conflict with most other struc- lectual egocentrism. This process is not
determined by any preexisting or external
turalist approaches that have gained cur- universal principle. It is the direct out-
rency in the social sciences and humanities come of the subjects unceasing struggle
(chiefly anthropology, linguistics, and liter- to coordinate his actions and to bring
ary criticism). The difference is perhaps them into reciprocal relationship with
most marked between his system and that of one another. Now it is this very process
Levi-Strauss. The latters penchant for that gives rise to structures both in the
stripping the concept of structure of all phase of original construction and the
subjective and functional associations subsequent unceasing process of recon-
reaches perhaps its fullest expression in his struction [my translation, cf. 1970a:
1391.
assertion that structures have no center or
focal point, save for that supplied by the
anthropologist as an analytical convenience 11. THE EPISTEMOLOGY O F
STRUCTURALISM
(Lkvi-Strauss 1965:13). By firmly linking his
concept of structure to the epistemic sub- A. Theory, Explanation, and Reality
ject, on the other hand, Piaget has devel-
oped a theoretical system of unique syn- I t is a crucial point for Piaget that reflec-
thetic power. In contrast to the intellectual tive abstraction as the process essentially
exclusiveness of many structuralist positions, responsible for the construction of struc-
Piagets approach integrates structuralist tures, takes as its point of departure not the
concepts and methods with the pragmatic relations between elements or aspects of the
materialism of Marxism, on the one hand, objective environment but the operations
and the dynamic orientation and insight into performed (or capable of being performed)
the reciprocal nature of subject-object rela- upon sets of environmental objects by the
tionships which Marxism shares with sym- subject. It is symptomatic of the power and
bolic interactionism and substantial elements inter-disciplinary breadth of Piagets ap-
of Kantian, Hegelian, and post-Hegelian proach that the conception of structure he
idealism on the other (see previous refer- derives from this emphasis on operations and
ences to Dilthey and Ortega y Gasset). the rule of the subject is identical with the
36 0 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]
definition of structure prevailing in con- forms for entities they include, and
temporary mathematics and physics: forms being, in turn, contents for
the set of possible states and transforma- entities that include them). He links this
tions of which the existing system is a conception of the nesting of forms to
special case [my translation, cf. 1970a: Godels proof of the limitations of the
381. axiomatic method, and thus of formalist
The genesis of physical (and by extension approaches in logic and other disciplines.
all natural and mathematical) structures, Godel conclusively proved that no self-
and, by the same token, structuralist analysis consistent formal deductive system rich
itself thus consists essentially in enough to contain elementary arithmetic
could demonstrate its own consistency on
taking account of the possible and lo- the basis of its own axioms. Godels proof
cating the existing situation within a showed that, contrary to the claims of
system of virtual possibilities [my transla-
tion, cf. 1970a:43]. formalists like Whitehead and Russell that
mathematics and science could be reduced
The correspondence between structuralist to exhaustively formalized logical systems
analysis and explanation and natural or (or languages), the formal integration of
real structures is a fundamental principle any logical system is inherently incapable of
of Piagets epistemological position, which being derived from its own basic formal
h e defends not only with theoretical argu- principles. No axiomatic system, in other
ments but with his own massive experi- words, can generate itself and simultaneous-
mental data on the genesis of human ly demonstrate its own validity. Piaget gives
thought and intelligence. He draws a strong special emphasis to the ability of his form of
distinction between structuralist explanation structuralism to bypass the limitations of
and logico-mathematical deduction on f o r ma1 ist approaches demonstrated by
precisely this issue. Formal deductive sys- Godel. Godels findings, while inimical to
tems cannot break through to causes and formalism, are fully consistent with Pia-
thus cannot provide explanations, since getian structuralism, above all with its dy-
they are only capable of demonstrating a namic, constructive quality.
fit between their operations and the real, Godel showed that deductive systems
thus remaining within the realm of laws. could be arranged in a hierarchy of relatively
Both the idea of causality and the nature of weaker and stronger structures, on the
explanation, meanwhile, presuppose a sub- basis of their ability to demonstrate one
stantial correspondence between the theo- anothers internal consistency and thus to
retical model and reality. include one another. Piaget points to the
correspondence between this idea and his
own concept of the nesting of forms and
B. Structure and Form the relativity of the content-form distinc-
tion. An important corollary of this pro-
Piaget thus makes a strong distinction position of Godels is that the construction
between formalism and the concept of of a relatively complex and demonstratively
form, on the one hand, and structuralism consistent theory requires not merely an
and the idea of structure, on the other. analysis of its presuppositions but the tenta-
Form is for Piaget a weaker, vaguer, and tive construction of the next higher the-
more inclusive category than structure, be- ory (i.e., the logical system that includes
cause it lacks the crucial and specifically it). Piaget draws from these profound in-
structural component of a self-regulating set sights a conclusion basic to his concept of
of transformations. Taking logic as the structure:
formalist discipline par excellence, Piaget
contrasts the basic premise of formal logic,
the distinction of form and content, with This means, in effect, that the idea of
structure as a system of transformations
the working assumption of the natural becomes consistent with that of construc-
logic of structuralist analysis. This is that .
tion as continual formation . . there can-
form and content are not absolute op- not be a coherent structuralism apart
posites but correlatives (contents being from constructivism [1970a:34, 1351.
REVIEW ARTICLE 361
Piagetian structuralism, through its com- position that assumes a fundamental identity
bination of an open-ended formal perspec- between the process of structural analysis
tive and a dynamic, constructivist orienta- and the form of structuralist explanation, on
tion to the relationship between the succes- the one hand, and the real process of the
sive levels of the Godelian hierarchy of genesis of natural structures, on the other.
relatively weaker and stronger struc- The ability of human symbolic thought to
tures, thus circumvents the limitations of generate models that correspond with na-
formalist approaches pointed out by Godel, tural structures can, in Piagets view, best be
and integrates the latters findings into its explained by recognizing that symbolic
own theoretical and epistemological struc- thought itself is, in its origins, merely an
ture. extension of presymbolic psychological,
A possibly more profound form of neurological, and organic processes, which at
Piagets objection to formalist approaches is all levels are shaped by constant interaction
that the axioms upon which formal logical with objective reality even as they par-
systems rest must inevitably have an arbi- ticipate in it. The harmony between the
trary and ad hoc character. They cannot be human operator as body and mind and
reflexively derived from, or related to, any the innumerable operators in nature is
reality external to the systems they generate. thus itself a product of an integral natural
Formalist systems therefore lack any means process: it is, in Piagets words. the most
of connecting themselves, by operations beautiful example of biological adaptation
proper to themselves, to a ground in objec- we know of (because both physico-chemical
tive or natural reality. In contrast, asserts and biological a t the same time)
Piaget, whether this be openly acknowl- (1970a:41).
edged or not, what structuralism is really
after is to discover natural structures 111. SYNCHRONY AND DIACHRONY:
(1971a:30). Piaget takes a strong and un- THE PROBLEM OF LINGUISTICS
equivocal epistemological position that such
natural structures exist at every level of The central question that can be raised
inorganic, organic, and human reality, that with respect to Piagets structuralism arises
they share common properties, and that directly from his pervasive emphasis on the
their existence and properties are prior to intimate relation between structure and
and independent of the formal models built genesis. The nub of the problem is the
up after them by the theoretician. Structure relation between the process by which a
is therefore prior to formalization, and struc- structure is originally formed and the pro-
turalism itself represents, in the last analysis, cess or processes by which it is maintained in
only the formalized extrapolation of the being or modified (in a non-progressive
natural tendency for human thought to sense) in the course of its subsequent his-
adapt itself to the properties of natural tory. Although he often calls upon the prin-
structures. The most striking evidence for ciple that ontogeny (the generation or
this proposition adduced by Piaget is the regeneration of a structure of a given type)
dramatic correspondence between the three recapitulates phylogeny (the genetic process
mother structures to which the group of by which that structure was originally de-
French structuralist mathematicians veloped), Piaget is the first to recognize that
known collectively as the Bourbaki had it has serious limitations. From a theoretical
reduced all of mathematics and the three point of view, the most relevant of these is
basic cognitive structures which Piaget had the relative independence of the laws of
isolated as the basic components of the equilibrium (according to which any struc-
development of human intelligence, The dis- ture, once developed, tends to maintain it-
covery of this correspondence by Piaget and self in being) from the laws of development
a member of the Bourbaki group some years (1970a:77). The variable and potentially
ago at a joint conference in France surely independent relationship between genetic
represents one of the great moments of and self-maintaining or homeostatic pro-
twentieth century thought. cesses would seem to imply the possibility of
For Piaget, then, structuralism is a purely synchronic constructivism, based
inseparable from a robust epistemological upon the cyclical or self-regulating processes
362 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]
of systems considered as maintaining them- cluding psychology, sociology, and anthro-
selves in equilibrium over virtual or relatively pology) deal with the expressed (that is,
short periods of time, which could dispense in Piagets terms, with realities which have
with diachronic (historical, development- intrinsic value and normative power
al, and genetic) considerations. It would also [1970a:79]).
leave room for a diachronic (historical) but It is unnecessary to list more than a few
non-genetic structuralism, that would con- of the more obvious objections to this
cern itself with temporal modifications in curious formulation. In the first place, the
structural systems resulting from conflict, distinction between conventional and
maladaptation to changing circumstances, normative systems is untenable in any
contacts with other systems, or other forms social science, once it is recognized that
of relative disequilibrium, without binding conventions such as those of language
itself to any overall scheme of genetic have binding force as norms (Piaget him-
development or evolution. self recognizes their coercive, collectively
Piaget, however, is clearly reluctant to imposed aspects [1970:74]), and that
accept such alternatives as general possi- many normative rules and symbols, to-
bilities for constructivist structuralism. gether with the cultural entities which they
His ambivalence with respect to both L<
express, turn out upon analysis to owe
synchronic and historical, non-genetic dia- their supposedly intrinsic value to cultural
chronic approaches is most clearly re- and social conventions. It is, at any rate,
vealed in his discussion of linguistic struc- impossible to draw an absolute distinction
turalism. In the first section of his chapter between means of expression and ex-
on linguistics, Piaget attempts to make a case pressed when talking about language or any
for linguistics as a privileged domain of other cultural (or even personal) symbolic
synchronic structuralism on the basis of code, since it is characteristic of the human
an untenable distinction between language as use of such codes that they themselves often
a conventional system, and other social become the objects, rather than merely the
and natural systems as normative systems. means, of expression. In the second place,
According to Piaget, norms, defined as pos- the principle of the relative independence of
sessing an intrinsic value deriving from laws of equilibrium from laws of develop-
their obligatory, binding character, are ment, invoked by Piaget earlier in the same
necessarily dependent upon antecedent his- discussion, calls for serious qualification of
tory, for the distinctive character of their his assertion that the equilibrium of
development is that it is always directed norms must in every case depend upon
toward.. . equilibrium (1970a:79). Con- their past history. The norms of social
ventional signs, such as words, on the other or cultural systems can hardly be understood
hand, have no intrinsic value, since they without reference to the systems of which
bear, by definition, only an arbitrary rela- they are components at a given time, and
tion to the entities they signify. Conven- their structural and functional properties can
tional systems, as such, are at opposite be studied in this synchronic perspective
poles, as regards the relations between without reference to the vicissitudes of their
synchronics and diachronics from norma- past histories, as anthropologists have rec-
tive systems, because ognized since Radcliffe-Brown. In this they
the history or rather chronicle of a do not differ from the conventions or
word . . . may consist simply of a series of elements of symbolic codes such as language,
changes of meaning without any mutual nor indeed from the organs of biological
relations except such as result from the systems, whose functions in a particular
necessity of answering to the expressive organism may be quite different from, and
requirements of the successive synchronic relatively independent of, the functions the
systems to which the word belongs same organ fulfilled earlier in its evolution-
[ 1970a:79]). ary history. Finally, an objection must be
Linguistics, Piaget asserts, is unique in that, raised to Piagets use of De Saussures con-
alone among the sciences, it deals with con- trast between synchronic and diachronic ap-
ventional systems (or the means of ex- proaches in linguistics. When De Saussure
pression), whereas others (presumably in- argued that the question of a words place
REVIEW ARTICLE 363
and functions within the synchronic lin- normally accepted usages of these terms in
guistic system of which it forms a part is his discussion of transformational grammars
independent of the diachronic history of its (entitled Transformational structuralism
previous meanings and forms, he was arguing and the relations between ontogenesis and
for the independence of structural linguistics phylogenesis). In this section, he hails the
f r o m n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y historical
generative approach of Chomsky and
philology. Piaget attempts to generalize Harris as an escape from the synchronic
directly from De Saussures contrast (that is, confines of traditional linguistics (1971a:
the contrast between the study of the func- 81). The implication is that syntactic trans-
tion of a linguistic element in its systematic formations as formulated by Chomsky are
context and the study of the history of that somehow diachronic. This is simply not
element as an isolated datum) to make a true in terms of the ordinary definitions of
quite different point, to wit that the struc- these terms. Syntactic transformations are
tural study of conventional (e.g., lin- unambiguously components of langue, i.e.,
guistic) systems qua systems is of necessity the synchronic structure of language, in De
confined to the synchronic plane, to the Saussures terms. The fact that a syntactic
exact contrary of normative structures. transformation involves a sequence of opera-
The opposition between synchronic struc- tions with a temporal extension and dura-
ture and diachronic anti-structure in lin- tion does not make it diachronic, for it
guistic analysis is, however, false. As Roman involves no irreversible modification of the
Jacobson has said (in a footnote most help- system of which it is a part. It is an element
fully provided by the translator of the of the repertoire of expressive devices avail-
English edition, who however mistakenly able to a speaker of a language at a given
cites it as an example of some of the points (synchronic) time. Piaget would have done
Piaget presumably has in mind), better to substitute terms such as dynamic
o r generative for diachronic, and
synchronic investigation should be of static for synchronic.
primary interest, but that does not mean There is at stake here a great deal more
that the history of language should be than a mere quibble over the definition of
excluded . . . History of language acquires
its real sense if the evolution of a lan- terms: the essence of Piagets concepts of
guage is seen as the evolution of the structure and structuralist explanation is in-
system as a whole [Piaget 1970a:80, n. 6; volved. Piaget is committed to the essentially
italics mine]. diachronic nature of both structure and ex-
planation because he identifies both, in
Conventional systems, in short, are the practice if not completely in theory, with
outcome of systematic processes of the same genetic processes. He accordingly tends,
type as normative systems: both can be again in practice if not completely in theory,
the objects of diachronic structural analysis. to be committed to the corollary proposi-
The real difficulty is that it is impossible to tion that any dynamic or generative explana-
treat the history of language as a genetic tion must necessarily be diachronic. The
process in the sense of a progressive evolu- result is to exclude the possibility of dy-
tion of higher levels of structure. This is, of namic or generative synchronic models. Piaget
course, ultimately a question of the of course recognizes the existence of equi-
temporal scale of the investigation: the his- librium systems based on generative (trans-
tory of a particular language, insofar as we formational) principles: his own model of
can have access to it, cannot be genetic in the mature human intelligence is exactly
Piagets sense, but the history of language as such a system (i.e., a structure). But
a whole, could it be known, presumably Piaget wants to preserve his causal-genetic
would have genetic aspects. The same prob- explanatory perspective on such structures by
lem of the scale on which problems are treating them as stages (albeit the final stage)
posed complicates the relationship between of developmental (and therefore diachronic)
Piagetian theory and anthropology, as we processes. Confronted with the synchronic
shall see below. structuralism of De Saussure, the Prague
Piagets use of the synchronic-diachronic School, and American linguistics, Piaget
opposition departs even further from the therefore attempts to treat it as the excep-
364 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [ 75,19731

tion that proves the rule, by arguing that all the known phenomena are more or less
language is a structure of a unique type on the same structural level, genetic
which is objectively the opposite of those hypotheses must be posed on a grand scale
dealt with by all other sciences. The advent far removed from the relatively microscopic
of transformational grammar presents him level of analysis of particular societies, cul-
with a special problem from this point of tures, or languages at which most analytical
view precisely because of its similarity to his work in these fields is carried on. Piagets
own conception of structures as generative, attempts to subsume problems of structural
hierarchically organized transformational analysis and comparison in these fields with-
systems. He is therefore led to attempt the in a genetic o r evolutionary perspective thus
anomalous task of separating transforma- often appears as a violation of relationships
tional syntax from the remainder of lin- of temporal o r structural scale, ignoring the
guistic theory on the grounds that it is importance, or even the existence, of
basically diachronic. micro-level synchronic processes, and
attempting to assimilate them prematurely
to an overall genetic or evolutionary per-
IV. SOME LIMITATIONS OF PIAGETS spective.
GENETIC APPROACH AND Piagets tendency to apply the genetic
ITS APPLICABILITY TO SOCIAL AND frame of reference of his work on psycholog-
CULTURAL STRUCTURES ical development to structural analysis in
other areas is at once the most distinctive
Piagets difficulties with linguistics are characteristic of his variant of the struc-
instructive because they point to certain turalist approach and the greatest obstacle to
inherent limitations of his general model its acceptance and application in fields
with respect to its application to social and where developmental questions are less
cultural phenomena. To some extent these salient and the central problems are bound
limitations spring directly from the success up either with the analysis of synchronic
of the model in dealing with psychogenetic systems or historic processes. Three broad
processes. In the development of the intelli- areas of difficulty can be readily defined in
gence, for example, the transformations and Piagets approach to social and cultural ques-
coordinations of transformations that con- tions. Above all there is his tendency to
stitute the structures of the higher levels of subsume synchronic functions or relations
mental functions directly embody the nature under diachronic processes, and then to limit
of the developmental processes that give rise the field of significant diachronic processes
to those levels. There is, in short, a minimum to genetic development. This seems, on the
of differentiation between genetic (dia- face of it, to rule out most of the analyses of
chronic) transformations and the synchronic social and cultural systems carried out by
transformations that constitute the regula- anthropologists, as well as the greater part of
tions of the operations of a structure at a the work of historians. A second major
given point in time (or stage of develop- difficulty, which follows directly from the
ment). Such considerations help to explain first, is that Piagets model of the genetic
Piagets tendency to consider all transforma- process is formulated in unswervingly uni-
tions as essentially diachronic and his linear terms which, however appropriate they
reluctance to grant the existence of dy- may be to the growth of biological organisms
namic, transformational, generative, or pro- or the development of the intellect, are notor-
cessual components within the synchronic iously ill-suited to the development of human
domain. To some extent also, as we have societies and cultures. The third problem is
already suggested, the problem is one of the the lack of a social or cultural dimension in
scale or level upon which questions are Piagets psychological theory of the develop-
posed. Piaget approaches all structural mental process of the intellect itself. As it
phenomena within a genetic perspective be- stands, Piagets model of psychogenesis is
cause he is committed to total causal ex- formulated in an artificial sociological
planations of all the features of a given vacuum; he has never confronted the ques-
level. If, however, as in the case of lin- tion of the socio-cultural components of the
guistics (and, for most purposes, the cases of mind at the level of the basic structure of
sociology and social anthropology as well) the psychogenetic process itself.
REVIEW ARTICLE 365
In discussing the limitations of Piagets his own disinterest in non-genetic problems
approach with respect to these three ques- rather than any inherent limitations of the
tions, it is essential to distinguish between applicability of his theory. The same can be
Piagets idiosyncratic intellectual interests said of the absence of any attention by
and the implications and potential applica- Piaget to the non-genetic aspects of the
tions of his general theoretical concepts con- historical vicissitudes of structures. Piaget is
sidered in themselves. Piaget is interested in uninterested in histoky per se for the same
the genetic aspects of structures because he reasons that he is not primarily concerned
is interested in causal explanations of why with structural variation or dynamics at the
they exist. From a logical point of view, this synchronic level (i.e., variations or trans-
is the most powerful question and it sub- formational operations that cannot be
sumes all others: in order to explain a things ascribed to different stages of genetic de-
existence one must first analyze and describe velopment or the passage between them).
it. As Piagets painstaking analysis of logical Piagets dictum that the nature of structure
processes at each stage of mental develop- consists in the continual process of becom-
ment bears witness, he does not oppose or ing structured does not lead him to history
exclude synchronic analysis: he merely sees because for all important purposes of dia-
it as a Stepping-stone to the solution of more chronic analysis h e identifies the concept of
challenging and interesting problems of a structure with that of stage or level. He
diachronic nature. Similarly, Piagets genetic is, in other words, interested in the coming
approach seems at first glance to eschew the to be of each level of generalized structural
analysis of hierarchically stratified syn- properties. Variations in the expression or
chronic systems, and to dismiss the problems combination of these properties that do not
presented by the maintenance of equilibrium lead to the next higher level are of no
in such systems on the basis of feed-back theoretical interest to him. This, however,
mechanisms between levels as structurally does not foreclose the possibility of treating
insignificant. Piaget characteristically prefers either historical processes or synchronic
to formulate the question of hierarchical variations in structures of the same level
relationships between structural levels in from the perspective of Piagets concepts of
terms of the diachronic relations between structure and equilibrium. Piaget himself
successive developmental stages. The truth calls attention to this possibility by stressing
is, however, that Piaget bases his model of the independence of homeostatic from
the genetic sequence of stages of mental genetic processes (1970a:77). This, of
development on a sophisticated and detailed course, leaves the problem of defining the
model of the hierarchical structure of intel- concept of level in operational terms,
lectual processes at each stage. It was the which is one of the most controversial
attempt to relate the hierarchical relations of aspects of Piagetian theory within psy-
each stage to its antecedent and subsequent chology itself.
stages of development that led Piaget to his It must be admitted that Piaget himself
most important insight into the nature of has been slow to recognize the applicability
the hierarchical organization of psychologi- of his general structuralist model outside the
cal and other systems. This is the principle purview of his own genetic interests. The
of reflective abstraction, which has al- possibility of a relatively synchronic, non-
ready been discussed. By this principle, genetic constructivism, which would focus
higher system-levels are seen as consisting on homeostatic and regenerative cyclical and
essentially of sets of rules or procedures for restitutive processes (e.g., as a basis for the
coordinating the actions or operations of structural analysis of social or cultural sys-
lower levels, while these coordinating prin- tems) seems not to have occurred to him.
ciples themselves are seen as consisting of Instead, he repeatedly states the alternatives
generalized or abstracted properties of the for structuralism as if they were limited to a
operations they regulate. There is no in- choice between his own orientation
trinsic reason why this principle, like the rest (genetic constructivism) and the static
of Piagets basic theoretical concepts, could p reformationism of Lbvi-Strauss and
not be applied to the analysis of synchronic others, who regard structures as essentially
systems outside of a genetic context. The fixed, static, and atemporal, so that dynamic
fact that Piaget does not do so reflects only questions of a diachronic or genetic char-
366 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]
acter cannot arise. Piagets exclusion of the 57, 69). It is hardly accidental that Piagets
possibility of a dynamic constructivist ap- most extensive treatment of feedback
proach based on regenerative and homeo- models comes in his discussion of Wadding
static rather than developmental processes, tons application of them to a prototypically
in the absence of data of a genetic type, is genetic process, viz., genetic modification
implicit in statements such as the following, in biological evolution.
intended to explain the static, anti-func- The reason for Piagets relative neglect of
tional character of LBvi-Strauss approach cybernetic models and feedback systems
(note the implicit equation of dynamic, is thus only partly that, as a general cate-
functional, genetic, and diachronic factors): gory, they represent homeostatic rather than
It is only natural that, in areas where the genetic processes. It stems in equal measure
genetic data are unknown and beyond from his overriding concern with the prop-
recovery, as in ethnology, one puts a erties of the limiting case of the perfectly
good face on a bad situation and pretends coordinated, generalized, formalized, and
that genesis is quite irrelevant [1970a: above all fully reversible structure. This
1401. interest forms the corollary and complement
Piagets disinterest in synchronic con- of his interest in genetic processes: the
structivist (perhaps reconstructivist would strongest form of the problem of how struc-
be a better term) analyses or diachronic but tures are generated through diachronic pro-
n o n-genetic (i.e., historical) approaches cesses is the question of how such processes
where either cannot be subsumed within a can give rise to structures that succeed in
genetic framework presumably accounts for transcending time itself through the attain-
the curious lack of any concerted discussion ment of perfect reversibility. Piaget, as al-
of cybernetic models or any of the various ways, reserves his primary attention for the
forms of systems theory in a book strongest form of the problem. The mathe-
devoted to a critical survey of major struc- matical group is the prototype of the com-
turalist developments in mathematics and pletely reversible and therefore timeless
the natural and social sicences. Piagets scat- structure, and Piaget points to several
tered references in Structuralism to cyber- natural instances of groups in the
netic models and principles such as feed- logico-mathematical sense. The most im-
back seem somewhat ambiguous in relation portant of these examples is the structure of
to his own concept of structure, no doubt the mature intelligence, Piagets model for
as a result of their extreme brevity and the which is a group of four mutually commuta-
lack of any attempt at synthesis. At some tive transformations. In spite of such ex-
points he contrasts cybernetic systems, amples, however, Piaget recognizes that most
defined as comprising temporally irreversible natural structures never attain perfect rever-
regulations, with structures, which ideally sibility and remain at the level of time-
consist of temporally reversible opera- bound irreversible processes. Cybernetic
tions, which are defined as perfect regula- models are the most appropriate conceptual
tions. forms for such systems:
Cybernetic systems, then, except for the
limiting case of perfect regulations, are there is, of course,-an immense class of
structures which are not strictly logical or
intermediate or imperfect structures (1970a: mathematical, that is whose transforma-
15). There are nevertheless many obvious tions unfold in time: linguistic structures,
points of correspondence between cyber- sociological structures, psychological
netic theory and Piagets thought. For ex- structures, and so on. Such transforma-
ample, Piaget refers to computer simulation tions are governed by laws (regulations
of artificial intelligence as the best model in the cybernetic sense of the word)
for his concept of the epistemic subject, which are not in the strict sense opera-
since it is based on a generalized set of tions, because they are not entirely
reversible (in the sense in which multipli-
operations and not on a model of con- cation is reversible by division or addition
sciousness (1970a:69). Elsewhere he praises by subtraction). Transformation laws of
Waddingtons feedback model of the rela- this kind depend upon the interplay of
tion between evolutionary adaptation and anticipation and correction (feedback)
genetic modification in biology (1970a:50, [1970a:16-16].
REVIEW ARTICLE 367

It is not that Piaget is unconcerned with flexibility of the organizational forms of


this immense class of structures or that his successive stages. Piagets anthropological
theoretical system is incompatible with the problems are somewhat simplified by the
type of model required to analyze them. On limitation of his interest to the progress of
the contrary, Piaget has concentrated on s c i e n t i f i c k n o w l e d g e a n d logico-
developing a model of the strongest case, mathematical thought. In this sector it is
that can subsume less powerful (i.e., less easier to speak of cumulative and progressive
i n t egra t e d , generalized, or reversible) development of a unilinear type than in
instances in the same way that it subsumes other areas such as social or political organ-
anterior stages in the genetic process of the ization. It remains true that anthropologists
development of a fully reversible structure. have failed to agree on criteria for ranking
Just as Piaget bases his concept of struc- societies and cultures in evolutionary terms,
ture on the strongest and most fully de- and have turned up a wealth of evidence for
veloped instance (the fully reversible group the multilinearity of the historical develop-
of transformations), his conception of the ment of human culture. Piaget cannot be
genetic process and of genetic construc- said to help his case as an evolutionist, where
tivism as an analytical perspective applies anthropologists are concerned, by formula-
directly only to the most powerful sub-class ting his great enterprise of genetic epis-
of genetic processes: those that give rise to temology, the study of the development
structures of a higher level of structural of human scientific and logico-mathematical
integration. Processes leading to variations knowledge, in terms redolent of the
within the same level (however defined) or ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny notions
even a disintegration and decline to lower of the speculative evolutionists of the nine-
levels, are also genetic processes in the teenth century (see passage quoted on page
general sense of giving rise to new struc- 354). Piagets suggestions that primitive peo-
tures or states. Piagets conception of the ples may have logically less developed levels
genetic process as a unilinear progression of mental functioning than contemporary
from lower to higher states (the strongest Westerners, and that they may in this sense
form of the process) is adapted to his be more childlike, certainly reinforce the
interests and problems but also arises direct- parallelism. On such ground as these anthro-
ly from his primary research experience, the pologists are likely to dismiss Piagets eth-
s t u d y of biological and psychological nological remarks (and no doubt in many
growth. Both of these cases afford relatively cases his theoretical system as a whole)as of
clear-cut examples of unilinear development little relevance to contemporary anthropolog-
toward a final mature state, in which all ical problems.
aspects of the biological or psychological Such a judgment would be ill-considered,
entity develop in a functionally integrated to say the least. The basic concepts of
manner. Piagetian theory are not intrinsically bound
A distinction should perhaps be made up with Piagets evolutionist perspective and
between Piagets model of unilinear genetic can be applied quite independently of a
development as a tool that serves to define genetic framework. It is also worth remem-
and focus the interesting aspects of any bering that much of the difference between
diachronic sequence of structural stages and Piagets approach and that of social anthro-
the conviction that all things naturally de- pologists derives from Piagets interest in
velop in such sequences, to which Piaget different questions, and the fact that he is
has never subscribed. The relevance of such asking those questions on a different
distinctions in Piagets case notwithstanding, temporal scale. Piagets questions are also
it cannot be denied that at least some of not those of traditional evolutionist ap-
Piagets forays into anthropological territory proaches. He is interested in the develop-
bear an uncomfortable resemblance to uni- ment of the formal principles by which
linear evolutionist theories of the nineteenth human knowledge is organized, the logical
century variety. This remains true after due structures men have developed to deal with
allowance has been made for Piagets far their experience. He has never attempted to
more sophisticated criteria of progress in generalize his ideas in this field to other
terms of the complexity, generality, and areas such as the development of social or
368 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [76,1973]
economic systems, religion, etc. He has might appear at first glance. Finally, it is
never, in short, presented his ideas as a worth mentioning that some field data
general theory of social or cultural evolu- reported by observers trained in Piagetian
tion. The formal structures in which he is techniques seems to support Piagets conten-
interested, meanwhile, are defined at such a tion that certain logical structures may be
high level of generality that they can be less developed, or developed later, in primi-
treated independently of particular cultural tive cultures such as the Arunta of Australia
considerations. It is not that Piaget denies (1970a:118). Whatever the value of these
the validity of questions involving the rela- data, many students are now going to the
tion of such structures to their particular field to test Piagets hypotheses with non-
social and cultural contexts; on the contrary. Western groups, and anthropologists would
It is simply that he is interested in a differ- do well to prepare themselves for the possi-
ent level of problems, involving the order of bility that their findings will tend to bear
appearance of particular conceptual struc- out at least some of Piagets contentions.
tures in cumulative scientific, logical, or If this does happen, it will present per-
mathematical traditions, and the relations haps a greater challenge to basic Piagetian
between developments within a given science theory than to anthropology. Anthropolo-
or body of thought with those in other gists will easily be able to accommodate
areas. He has, upon occasion, demonstrated their cultural perspective t o the proposition
a sophisticated grasp of the socio-cultural that some cultures encourage the develop-
underpinnings of particular scientific or ment and internalization of certain general-
philosophical structures (1950). ized abstract mental processes more than
Piagets work on the historical develop- others. They will be likely to object only if
ment of logical structures and the parallel- mature, culturally well-adapted adults in
isms between it and the genesis of intellec- such cultures, with the relatively low level of
tual structures in the individual in fact development of formal operational processes
presents a challenge to contemporary social their cultures demand, are directly compared
anthropology of an entirely different kind or considered on the same footing with
from the nineteenth-century speculative retarded individuals or children with a
evolutionism which it superficially resem- similar low rating from societies where
bles. It is, to begin with, based on a far more such capacities are culturally encouraged, in
sophisticated and conceptually elaborated a way that could appear to give support to
theory of the nature of progressive genetic popular prejudices about the innate mental
development. This theory, however, as capacities of primitives. Piaget, on the
Piaget and his collaborators have demon- other hand, has never confronted the funda-
strated in their psychological and historical mental implications for his own theory of
work, is capable of being operationalized the possible existence of significant cultural
and tested. There have, in fact, already been differences in levels of logical or intellectual
some impressive results (published in the development, even though he has for long
series Etudes dEpistemologie Genetique, suggested the possibility of such differences
Presses Universitaires de France). With in the context of his ideas about the histori-
respect to the ontogeny-phylogeny argu- cal development of logic and the sciences.
ment, it is necessary to remember that Piagets basic model of the genetic devel-
Piagets basic model of the genetic process is opment of the intelligence is formulated as it
not, in its present state of development, a were in a social and cultural vacuum. While
specifically psychological theory. It is a recognizing Godels lesson that
formal logical model, capable of being
applied to developmental processes of any the construction of a demonstrably con-
kind or level, whether ontogenetic or sistent relatively rich theory requires not
phylogenetic, psychological or cultural. In simply an analysis of its presupposi-
pointing to parallelisms between the devel- tions, but the construction of the next
higher theory. . . the pyramid of knowl-
opment of the individual psyche and the edge no longer rests on foundations but
history of the sciences and mathematics, hanp by its vertex [ 1970a:34],
therefore, Piaget is not making the sort of
psychological reductionist argument that Piaget has never attempted the theoretical
REVIEW ARTICLE 369
task of hanging his psychological theory ters because he treats the social sciences only
from its vertex in socio-cultural phe- from the standpoint of whether they parallel
nomena. He has, in other words, not yet or differ from his own theoretical concepts
come to grips with the problem of the and problems, not as partners in a creative
specific social and cultural mechanisms dialogue-which is, in itself, an important
through which cultures and societies par- insight into Piagets theoretical perspective.
ticipate in and control the genetic develop- Piagets brief commentary on the work of
ment of the individual psyches of their Talcott Parsons is an example of his failure
members. Here there is a possibility for to bring the best in his own thought to bear
fruitful collaboration between social anthro- in a constructive critique of one of the
pologists and Piagetians. The latter have principal figures he chooses to discuss. He
developed a theory of the stages and com- hails Parsons for going beyond the too
ponents of the developmental process of the modest empiricism of Anglo-Saxon soci-
intellect; the former have begun to analyze ology in his conception of social structure as
the basic developmental processes of the a deductive system of abstract and general-
social groups that form the immediate con- ized variables. He singles out for special
text for this psychological development (the comment Parsons treatment of the relation
domestic group and family). It would be between functions and values, which he
interesting to see whether the formal prop- regards as implying the necessity of distin-
erties of such developmental processes on guishing and connecting structure and func-
the sociological level might not turn out to tion, which is of course a fundamental
correspond in important respects to the tenet of Piagets own approach (1970a: 103).
formal structure of the developmental Parsons manner of relating structure to
process of the mind as analyzed by Piaget function is, however, radically different
(Turner n.d.). This would provide a basis for from Piagets. The differences are important
the social and cultural relativization of and highly revealing of the relative power
Piagetian theory that it has heretofore and utility of the Parsonian and Piagetian
lacked and better enable it to incorporate approaches.
the results of the cross-cultural research now Parsons structural-functional model is a
beginning to be carried out by Piagetian wholly deductive construct. It is based on
students. the definition of a set of general functional
invariants, conceived as generic properties
VI. PIAGETS CRITIQUE OF of the interaction between an actor and
STRUCTURALISM IN THE an object or objective situation of action.
SOCIAL SCIENCES So far, Parsons basic concepts are virtually
identical with Piagets. Parsons, however,
Piaget devotes the last two chapters of proceeds to identify this functional para-
Structuralism to a discussion of structuralist digm directly as the fundamental structural
approaches in social psychology, sociology, paradigm of systems of action in general
economics, jurisprudence, Marxism, and and social organization in particular. There is
above all anthropology, as represented by thus no differentiation between structure
LQvi-Strauss. Compared to the earlier chap- and the actor or subject. Structures are
ters on mathematics, physics, biology, and conceived as actors or systems of action
psychology, fields of which Piaget has a engaging directly in functional activity. As a
broad command and from which he has result, there is no basis for treating structure
drawn heavily in constructing his own as either the product or the regulatory
theories, the treatment of the social sciences mechanism of a conceptually distinct func-
is relatively disappointing. It is obvious that tional process (i.e., the activity of a sub-
Piaget approaches them as an outsider, try- ject or actor that cannot be wholly iden-
ing to find some points of correspondence tified with the structure itself). For this
with his own ideas, rather than as a fully reason, Parsons has no other alternative than
involved participant and critic. This does not to construct his model of structure by iden-
mean that his criticisms are not often tren- tifying the components of his functional
chant and valuable: it is simply that his paradigm directly with distinct structures or
discussion lacks the edge of the earlier chap- sub-structures on a one-to-one basis. This in
370 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [75,1973]

turn necessitates the deductive equation of tions of these structures directly with the
particular components of the structural generalized functional invariants of the con-
model with particular substantive functional structive process, however, Piaget avoids the
contents. Structure, in other words, is numerological rigidity of the Parsonian
treated as a direct expression of function: model of structural differentiation, in which
there is no way of distinguishing in practice each successive level of the hierarchy of
between the structure of function and the differentiation has four functionally special-
function of structure. ized structures, each one of which is in-
For Piaget, on the other hand, the con- ternally differentiated according to the same
cept of function (and the generic paradigm fourfold pattern, and so on ad infinitum.
of functional invariants) applies, not to The differences between Parsons and
structures directly, but to the constructive Piaget are fundamental. In Piagets terms,
process by which they are generated or Parsons model is actually not structural
maintained. This process is conceived as the at all, but formal: its self-regulatory and
activity of the subject, which is con- abstract character is an artifact of the defini-
ceptually distinguished from structure. tion of its components rather than the in-
Piaget further distinguishes between the corporation of generative or transforma-
functional aspects of subjective activity tional elements. Piaget is in an excellent
(equilibration) and the aspects leading position to have provided a valuable and
directly to the generation of structure (re- much-needed structuralist critique of Par-
flective abstraction). structures, in turn, sons. Instead, he offers only uncritical com-
are not conceived as directly fulfilling func- ments on points in common between the
tions, or, indeed, as acting. They consist, two models and takes no notice of the major
rather, in generalized codes or mechanisms discrepancies between his and Parsons
for regulating the functional activities of handling of the issues he mentions.
subjects. These distinctions provide Piaget approaches LBvi-Strauss in much
Piaget, in contrast to Parsons, with impor- the same spirit as he does Parsons, with the
tant degrees of freedom in conceptualizing declared intention of finding some points of
the relation between function and structure, correspondence between L6vi-Strauss con-
and between the formal aspects and substan- cept of structuralism and his own. It is a
tive contents of both. The formal aspects of hard job. Although Piaget is extravagantly
structure can be seen in this perspective not generous and goes to great lengths to stress
as reflecting a pattern of functions but the such parallels as he can find, by the time he
pattern of a given subjects operations in finishes his review of the more glaring and
fulfillment of those functions with reference unavoidable contradictions between the two
to a specific empirical situation. The formal systems it is clear that very little remains in
properties of structure thus lose their deduc- common. The tone of the discussion is set
tive primacy and assume the role of empiri- by Piagets deferential characterization of
cal variables, dependent upon the existing LBvi-Strauss position at the outset of his
structural level of the subject and the partic- critique as this grand doctrine-after in-
ular circumstances of the objective situa- sisting earlier that structuralism is essentially
tion of action. Piagets model, in contrast a method and can under no circumstances be
to Parsons, thus makes a stronger distinc- understood as doctrine!
tion between function and structure: func- The outstanding quality of LBvi-Strauss
tion is not considered to have structure, thought for Piaget (and virtually the only
nor is structure considered to fulfill func- one that in the end survives his criticisms), is
tions. There is no formal parallelism between its commitment to a deductive concept of
them, as in Parsons theory, nor are particu- structure (the most strongly deductive so
lar formal aspects of structure identified far developed in an empirical human sci-
with particular functions. Piaget, of course, ence). By deductive Piaget means the
allows for the possibility of the existence of idea that structure cannot be found at the
an indefinite number of functionally special- level of overt, observable relations, but must
ized structures in the overall constitution of be deductively attained through the con-
a given subject or system. Because he does struction of models of the system of organ-
not attempt to equate the specialized func- izational principles that underlies, regulates,
REVIEW ARTICLE 371
or generates surface behavior. Piaget also as one among a number of the effects of
gives tentative approval to LQvi-Strausscon- mental life. Rather, it is itself the form of
tention that the logical operations of the equilibrium of all cognitive functions [my
mind are prior to mental phenomena such translation, cf. 1970a:114].
as the laws of association, and his inversion
of Durkheims pervasive emphasis on the These are, however, relatively minor
primacy of the social by giving the intellect issues beside the fundamental points of dis-
primacy over social and cultural factors. He sonance between Piagets theory and that of
notes approvingly LBvi-Strauss precise L4vi-Strauss. L4vi-Strauss concept of struc-
placement of his concept of structure ture, as Piaget notes, is static, atempord,
midway between infrastructures and super- anti-functionalist, and leaves no place for
structures or practices (which Piaget the activity of the subject. In all of these
defines as conscious systems of conduct or respects it stands in direct contradiction to
i d e o l o g y ) ( 1 9 7 1 a : l l l , 138). Piaget Piagets own position. Piaget observes that
endorses LQvi-Strauss position, thus in- Uvi-Strauss concept of structure as the
terpreted, since expression of an invariant, static and pre-
determined human mind (which is none-
as psychogenetic studies have shown, the theless conceived as prior to mental phe-
mechanisms on which the individual sub- nomena) leaves open the question of the
jects acts of intelligence depend are not ultimate nature of structure. If the latter is
in any way contained by his conscious- neither social nor organic, nor mental, what
ness, yet they cannot be explained except
in terms of structures (that is, only by then is it? Piaget offers his own reply: there
appealing to the [formal and mathe- exists a process at all three levels capable of
matical structures previously discussed] - generating the major characteristics LBvi-
groups, networks, semi-groups, and so Strauss ascribes to structure (the integration
on-can we make sense of the intel- of form and content, reversibility, and syn-
ligence of intelligent behavior) [1970a: chrony). This process is equilibration,
1381. defined as the location of a system within
It is at once apparent that Piagets endorse- its group of possible transformations (my
ment of LBvi-Strauss contention that eth- translation, cf. 1970a: 113).
nology is first of all a psychology is in fact As Piaget observes, to accept the notion
based upon a complex misunderstanding of of equilibration as the basis of structure is
LQvi-Strauss position. Piagets statement immediately to render most of the distinc-
proceeds from the assumption that con- tive features of LBvi-Straus position un-
sciousness, supen tructu res, and social tenable. To begin with, once structure is
(or cultural) structures are equivalent and conceived as the product of a genetic
interchangeable terms-something Lkvi- process, it can no longer be treated in isola-
Strauss himself has never maintained. Else- tion from function. Piaget therefore insists
where in his discussion, in fact, Piaget deals that social structure must be conceived
with the same point in precisely the opposite along cybernetic lines, as consisting of
terms: commenting on LQvi-Straussassertion responses to problems. Even primitive
of the primacy of the logical structures of the systems of classification, such as those dis-
intellect over both mental functions and cussed in The Savage Mind,should be recon-
socio-cultural structures, he vigorously main- ceptualized as the products of the applica-
tains that a dynamic and genetic structuralism tion of sets of generative principles to prob-
(i.e., his own position) leads to quite different lematic phenomena rather than merely as
conclusions: the reflections of a static repertoire of
mental structures (1970a:115-116). Most
From [the genetic-constructivist] point important of all, the human mind cannot be
of view, the problem of the primacy of regarded as static or finite. The reversibility
the intellect over the social or vice-versa
does not arise: the collective intellect is of the mature intelligence (and thus the
simply the social, equilibrated by the play measure of atemporality it achieves) is
of operations involved in all cooperations. always itself the outcome of a complex and
[Similarly ] the intelligence does not irreversible temporal process. The mind must
precede mental activity, nor result from it therefore be regarded in evolutionary per-
372 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [ 75,1973 J

spective as the yet-open end-product of a thought being a kind of theoretical


continual process of auto-construction. practice which is not so much the work
Piaget generously grants that LBvi-Strauss of an individual subject as the outcome of
decision to focus his attention only on cer- interactions between the subject and his
tain types of cultural materials partly personal environment [1970a:126-126].
accounts for the distortion of his conception Piaget also gives a sympathetic account of
of lesprit humain: Althussers interpretation of Marxs idea of
Because LBvi-Strauss analysis installs it- contradiction as the result of over-
self from the start in finished products, determination, which is in turn a necessary
the traits which are perhaps the most consequence of the inseparability of inter-
characteristic of human activity, even in actions in a productive process (1970a:
its cognitive aspect, tend to be over- 126). Here, however, the implications of the
looked . . . man can structure himself by Althusserian-Marxist concept of contradic-
constructing structures; and these struc- tion for Piagets conception of structures as
tures are his own, for they are not self ,regulating equilibrium systems seem
eternally predestined, either from within
or from without. So, then, the history of problematic, t o say the least. Perhaps Piaget
intelligence is not merely an inventory of feels that his own system incorporates the
elements; it is a bundle of transforma- concept of contradiction through over-
tions [1970a:1191. determination in its account of the passage
from one stage of mental development to
Piaget follows the implications of this the next (a process that always involves a
position to their conclusion by insisting on disruption of the prevailing state of equi-
retaining the idea of genuine differences in librium by attempts to accommodate to
logical development between members of objective conditions that are incompatible
primitive and modern Western societies. with its assimilative structure). The resolu-
Piaget takes, in effect, a modified LBvy- tion of the crisis for Piaget, however, is
Bruhlian position, which he defends against always another state of equilibrium or near-
Levi-Strauss contention that no qualitative equilibrium, with no inherent contradic-
differences exist between the natural logic tions. It would have been interesting to
of La pensee sauvage and that of the con- have had a more extended discussion of this
temporary scientist. He presses what he calls crucial point by Piaget, rather than the
the real problem of the logical level of laconic summary he provides.
individuals in primitive societies as they Piaget makes up for his relatively
manipulate their collective cultural repre- diplomatic treatment of LBvi-Strauss with a
sentations and institutions, but admits that withering destruction of Michel Foucault,
the question must still be regarded as open whose work he treats as the embodiment of
for lack of conclusive evidence. the negative aspects of contemporary struc-
Finally, Piaget takes up the debate be- turalism. These he lists as the devaluation
tween LBvi-Strauss and Sartre over the of history and genesis (i.e., the static charac-
nature of dialectic thought and dissents for ter of Foucaults structures of epistemes);
different reasons from the positions of both the contempt for functional considera-
(roughly, because LLBvi-Strauss misunder- tions; the radical ouster of the subject;
stands the dialectic while Sartre mis- and the complete lack of a method. On the
represents analytical thought). He then latter point, Piaget complains that Foucault
firmly identifies his own constructivist ap- provides
proach with dialectical thought, while in-
sisting on the fundamental continuity be- no canon for the selection of an epi-
tween analytics and dialectics. From this dis- stemes characteristics, important ones
cussion he moves on to a brief discussion of are omitted, and the choice between al-
the contemporary French school of struc- ternative ones is arbitrary [ 1970a:132].
turalist Marxists, notably Althusser and Finally, Foucault neglects to account for the
Godelier. He strongly identifies his own mechanisms that unite the elements of his
theory of intelligence with their interpreta- epistemes, so that
tion of Marxs concept of thought as pro-
duction. Indeed, in the end, his structures are mere
REVIEW ARTICLE 373

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