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Structuralism, History of

Le! vi-Strauss C 1962 La PenseT e Sau age. Plon, Paris Todorov T, Ducrot O, Sperber D, Safouan M, Wahl F 1968 Quest-ce que Le Structuralisme? Editions du Seuil, Paris Vernant J P 1965 Mythe et PenseT e chez les Grecs, 2nd edn. Maspero, Paris

F. Dosse

Structuralism, Theories of
Structuralism is an intellectual tendency that seeks to understand and explain social reality in terms of social structures. Inuenced by the rising prestige of midnineteenth century science, theories of structuralism focused on structural form as an organizing principle underlying whole cultures and societies. Structural form is analytically distinct from cultural content such as meanings and norms, although culture and structure can be dened in terms of each other as, e.g., in cultural structuralism or in the idea of structure as a cultural pattern or model. In contrast to both culture and the reductionist view of society as an aggregate of individuals, social structure is dened as the forms of social relations (e.g., dierence, inequality) among a set of constituent social elements such as positions, units, levels, regions and locations, and social formations (see Structure: Social). Structuralism proceeds on two analytic levels: (a) as a method of analysis or procedure of knowing (epistemology), and (b) as an ontology or metaphysical design of social reality. It approaches its subject matter in terms of two meta-theoretical perspectives on social reality: (a) social structure as an empirical or historical reality, and (b) social structure as a model or representation of reality (see Sociology, Epistemology of; Theory: Sociological). The conceptual property space created by these analytical dimensions generates a fourfold typology that accommodates the major theories of structuralism existing today: (a1) sociological structuralism, (a2) symbolic structuralism, (b1) historical structuralism, and (b2) orthodox structuralism. Since the major symbolic and orthodox structuralist theories privilege simultaneity and synchrony over history and diachrony, b1 will only be discussed briey in contrast to genetic structuralism in Sect. 2.

in the study of society and believed in the necessity of empirical evidence and the importance of establishing objective causal connections between the phenomena to be explained and the structures explaining them. Both oered an analysis of the structural features of modern societies and were centrally concerned with the transition from premodern to modern forms of social organization. However, they developed dierent structural concepts and theories of historical and structural transformation. 1.1 Marxs Materialist Conception of History Marx formulated the transition from feudal to capitalist society as a historical and structural shift in the mode of production, a high-level structural concept comprising the productive forces as the active source of continuous change and the social relations of production as the historical outcome of conscious human productive activity or self-transforming praxis. The developing contradictions between ever-changing productive forces and increasingly constraining social relations generate the possibility of the transformation of a given mode of production and the emergence of a new mode of production. Structural features such as the division of labor, the ownership and control of capital, the class structure of society, and the ideological representation of class conict constitute a sociohistorical totality which tends to change with the progressive transformation of the mode of production. Resistance to change by social classes invested and interested in the status quo is the most proximate cause of class conict and the possibility of social revolution. Marxs ([1859] 1904) reliance on the Hegelian causal mechanism of dialectical contradiction and on the internal dynamics of the mode of production led him to overestimate the likelihood of revolutionary change and to underestimate the relatively autonomous role of the state, legal institutions, and social movements in mediating between pressures for change and the collective accommodation to the status quo. The use of a self-transformative principle of dialectical causality intrinsic to the economic sphere to explain historical social change led to the charge that Marxs theory is one-dimensional, self-conrming, and not independently falsiable or testable, hence worthless as a scientic theory. It can be argued, however, that the rise of the regulatory state in the twentieth century as well as specic forms of radical state intervention under state socialist or national socialist regimes interrupted global capitalist expansion, thus providing the negative evidence necessary to test and refute Marxian economic predictions. By the same token, the collapse of state socialism and the worldwide decline of regulation and intervention under neoliberal auspices have spurred the resumption of globalization. These historical processes, in turn, are likely to conrm certain Marxian expectations and to contribute to the theoretical rehabilitation of

1. Sociological Structuralism
Marx and Durkheim are the two most important theorists to introduce structural concepts into the study of society. Both conceived of social structure in holistic and nonreductionist terms, i.e., not as an aggregation of individual actors, but as social facts sui generis, explainable only by other social facts. For Marx, the central social fact was the political economy; for Durkheim it was social ties and norms. Both were committed to the use of positivist scientic procedures 15230

Structuralism, Theories of Marxian theory (see Marxism in Contemporary Sociology). 1.2 Durkheims Sociological Realism (Holism) Durkheim ([1893] 1964) undertook to explain the transition to modern industrial society by invoking a dierent set of structural forces: population growth due to the agricultural revolution, the resulting rise of population density, the increase in the rate of social interaction, competition, and division of labor among dierentiated and specialized social functions, and the emergence of social relations and associations among social groups and occupations. This transition from the mechanical solidarity of segmented but undierentiated societies to the moral density and organic solidarity of highly dierentiated ones implied a structural theory of social change which was perfected in his work on the social causes of suicide. The resulting theory of social integration continues to be tested by empirical research. Durkheim formulated a set of methodological rules designed to put sociology on a scientic footing. His conception of social structure as a nonreducible social fact was paralleled by culturalist notions of collective representations, collective conscience, as well as cognitive and normative constraints which he referred to as ways of acting, thinking, and feeling. This formulation implied a theory of institutions combining structural and normative elements as social facts, a theoretical framework transcending the distinction between structure and culture, just as Marx acknowledged the constant interplay of collective action, consciousness, ideology, and structure. Elements of Durkheims and Marxs structuralism reappear in contemporary approaches, e.g. Bourdieus (1989) constructivist structuralism and Giddenss (1984) theory of structuration. 1.3 Modern Network Structuralism An important development in contemporary sociological structuralism is social network analysis (Scott 1991). Social networks, dened as the patterns of social relations among a set of actors or nodes, are generic social structures. Networks dier from organizations and institutions in that they are informal, private, self-organizing, noncontractual, unregulated, unaccountable, nontransparent, and typically of limited focus, size, and duration. Networks are the least structured social forms that can be said to possess any structure at all, yet whose structural congurations aect the behavior of their members. While networks are typically seen as real, empirical structures, they can be represented by formal models. As such, they are closely related to concepts like intersecting social circles and the web of group aliations in Simmels (1971, p. 23) formal sociology and Blaus (1998) theory of structural sociology (see Networks: Social).

2. Symbolic Structuralism
Sociological empiricism and positivism gave rise to a countervailing epistemological tendency claiming that the holistic structures identied by the new social sciences were nothing but cognitive models of reality since they necessarily had to rely on categories that represented, constituted, or constructed reality. This resurgence of neo-Kantian philosophy inuenced Weber, Simmel, and Le! vi-Strauss, among others, and served to justify the rejection of positivist causality and historical materialism. Symbolic structuralism is a method of analysis that conceives of structure as a model or representation of reality. Typical is Saussure ([1915] 1966), who introduced certain methodological innovations into the study of language that would move linguistics from a descriptive historical discipline to an analytical, scientic one. The linguistic sign was seen as a holistic combination of two structural elements: a form that signies (signier) and a concept to which the form refers (signied). The relationship between signier and signied is not natural or xed, but social and arbitrary, hence innitely variable. Linguistic symbols are meaningful only insofar as they produce identityin-contrast, binary oppositions (dierence), and formal distinctions. This method shifts the analytic focus from such metaphysical concepts as object, reality, or thing-in-itself to the formal properties and the internal structural relations of sign systems. The content and use-value of symbols and objects are subordinated to their relational identity, their position, function, and exchange value within a given system. A little-noted aspect of Saussures linguistic structuralism is its origin in the categories of the capitalist economy, especially the radical duality of economic history and the political economy as a system (1966, p. 79). Both economics and linguistics are confronted with the notion of alue; both are concerned with a system for equating things of dierent orderslabor and wages in one and a signied and signier in the other (Saussure 1966, p.79, italics in original). Saussure elevates the duality of system and history to central principles of linguistic analysis: the distinction between language and speech, and the priority of synchrony over diachrony. This methodological imperative entails the epistemological precedence of the code over its application, of the structure of the system over its origins and transformation, of exogenous over endogenous change. The linguist who wishes to understand a state must discard all knowledge of everything that produced it and ignore diachrony (Saussure 1966, p. 81). Historical change involves merely the displacement of one form or structure by another. History becomes eventless history. Piaget (1970) showed that these structuralist methods spread from linguistics to other disciplines, 15231

Structuralism, Theories of e.g., gestalt psychology, psychoanalysis (e.g., the structure of the unconscious in Freud and Lacan), and structural anthropology (Le! vi-Strauss). Piagets (1970) own genetic structuralism replaces the historical study of social change with the notion of structure as a system of transformations. Three key elements here are the idea of wholeness, of structured wholes as determined by internal rules of transformation, and of the relative autonomy and self-regulation of structures. Piaget tacitly acknowledges the transition of structuralism from a method to an ontology by asserting that even though structures consist in their coming to be; that is, their being under construction, they nevertheless depend on higher-level structures; i.e., on a prior formation of the instruments of transformationtransformation rules or laws (1970, pp. 1401). Distinct from genetic structuralism, historical structuralism (Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre, Fernand Braudel and the Annales School) assumes the determinative inuence of historical deep structures such as the longue dureT e. The epistemological ambiguity of structures as models of reality or as pregiven structures appears in other sociological approaches, for example Georg Simmels (1971) social forms and social types, Max Webers ideal types of religion and rationality, and Alfred Schutzs typications, the rst-order constructs (the primary, common-sense construction of social reality by participants) and second-order constructs (the secondary, derivative social construction by the scientic observer) of the structures of the lifeworld (see Dosse 1997, p. 42 and Phenomenology in Sociology). group of models of the same general type, ascending from the order of elements in the social structure to the order of orders, and ultimately to some universal order (Le! vi-Strauss 1967, pp. 3029). For Le! vi-Strauss, the advantage of structural models is that they make it possible to arrive at general laws and to specify the internal logic of social systems such that all the observed facts are immediately visible, an assumption shared with gestalt psychology and other approaches based on a coherence concept of truth rather than on a positivist correspondence concept of truth. The search for general laws leads Le! vi-Strauss to shift his attention from the study of conscious phenomena (speech, opinions, ideology) to that of the unconscious infrastructure of cognitive forms, basic codes, and myths. Here, then, the reality of social structure is but the surface manifestation of the deep structure of the mind. Ultimately, Le! vi-Strauss can be said to take the structuralist model of reality from the agnostic dualism of Kants a priori categories back to the pre-Socratic belief that reality can be found only in timeless, changeless Being. Thus, it would be logically absurd to see history and social change as anything other than the recurrent rearrangements of internal relations and structural building blocks.

3.2 Althussers Marxist Structuralism The immediate textual source for the adaptation of Marxism to structuralism is Frederick Engels formulation of historical materialism in terms of the complex interaction between the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure of society. In this tripartite distinction between relatively autonomous regions of a given social formation, each representing its own form of practice, the economic element nally asserts itself as necessary (Engels, in Heydebrand 1981, p. 88). Althusser adapts Engels dialectical concept of interaction among levels of social structure by developing a deterministic (rather than probabilistic) scientic model of contradiction and overdetermination. This model rejects empiricism, construes dialectics as a dualism of opposites, separates science from ideology, and asserts that the superstructure is relatively autonomous but the economy is determinant in the last instance (Althusser 1970, p. 177). Since the structuralist concept of causality is deterministic rather than stochastic, a structure is always the co-presence of all its elements and their relations of dominance and subordinationit is an ever pre-given structure (Althusser 1970, p. 255). For Althusser, theory is the work of transforming ideology into science. This theoretical practice is subject only to its own determinations and is prior to, and independent of, the basesuperstructure problematic. This formulation of materialist structuralism occurs at such a high level of abstraction that it becomes practically indistinguishable from idealist struc-

3. Orthodox Structuralism
The convergence of structure as a model or representation of reality and the ontological view of structure as substance constitutes orthodox structuralism. The analytic dierences between structure and system are blurred. The idealist version is best represented by the work of Claude Le! vi-Strauss, the materialist version by Louis Althusser. 3.1 LeT i-Strauss and Anthropological Structuralism Le! vi-Strausss structural anthropology was inuenced by Saussures structuralist linguistics by way of Roman Jacobson and the phonological school of Prague as well as by Durkheim and Marcel Mauss (Dosse 1997, pp. 212, 2930). In his initial attempt to formulate a method for producing a model of social reality, Le! vi-Strauss develops a systemic concept of social structure implying the internal interdependence of elements or elementary structures as, for example, in kinship systems. This conceptualization set the stage for the idea of a formal structural homology, the reproducibility of structures on dierent levels such that a series of transformations can produce a 15232

Structure: Social turalism. Althusser later recognized this problem and rejected his notion of theoretical practice as a theoreticist error, i.e., as an epistemological quest for categorical constants and orthodox theoretical principles that falsely impose a xed, ontological order on the real object by means of a reied object of knowledge. The controversies surrounding orthodox structuralism as an intellectual and ideological tendency have contributed to the clarication of structural concepts in the social sciences, but failed to formulate testable propositions. Sociological, symbolic, and historical structuralism, however, continue to exercise considerable theoretical inuence in the social sciences and in the post-structuralism of Derrida and Foucault. See also: Durkheim, Emile (18581917); MacrosociologyMicrosociology; Marx, Karl (181889); Networks: Social; Piaget, Jean (18961980); Saussure, Ferdinand de (18571913); Simmel, Georg (1858 1918); Social Networks and Gender; Sociology: Overview; Structuralism; Structuralism, History of anatomic language, to refer to the interdependence of parts and to the corresponding mode of organization in living bodies. What is worth noticing is that the metaphor of construction on the one hand, the analogy with the organism on the other, are plainly involved in the two rst main uses of the term with reference to human societies, in the mid-nineteenth century. The metaphor is clearly used by Karl Marx, when he writes in The Preface to A Contribution to Critique of Political Economy (1859), the well-known sentence according to which the sum total of [the] relations of production constitute the economic structure (Struktur) of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure q (Uberbau). It was a characteristic of Herbert Spencers thought to dwell on the analogy between organism and society, even if he used it mainly as a scaolding: from the Prospectus of a System of Philosophy (1858) on, he worked with a mental scheme associating structure and function, respectively, linked to anatomical phenomena and physiological processes. These two original ideas have deeply inuenced the development of the eld and it should be noted that from the beginning, social structure has been conceptualized in quite dierent ways. Perhaps it may be added that the Marxian conception in terms of a real foundation already implies the assumption of a sort of deep structure. The pronounced growth of (social) anthropology and sociology made social structure a key concept of both sciences but there never was an uncontested agreement about its denition; on the contrary, the term has been used in so many dierent senses that it will be quite dicult to draw up their complete list. Therefore, Merton was quite right in beginning his fourteen stipulations for structural analysis by remarking that the notion of social structure is polyphyletic and polymorphous (Merton 1975). We shall then limit our analysis to some landmarks in the history of the concept and in the more recent developments. Rather than trying at rst to give a general denition, we shall emphasize the main dimensions which are, so to speak, the substratum of the most elaborated conceptions of social structure. Our last section will be devoted on the one hand to the formulation of some theoretical principles which nowadays are (or can be) widely accepted and, on the other hand, to the major open questions scholars in the eld are still faced with.

Bibliography
Althusser L 1970 For Marx. Vintage, New York Blau P 1998 Culture and Social Structure. In: Sica A (ed.) What is Social Theory. Blackwell, Oxford, UK, pp. 26575 Bourdieu P 1989 Social space and symbolic power. Sociological Theory 7(1): 1425 Dosse F 1997 History of Structuralism, 2 vols. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN Durkheim E [1893] 1964 The Di ision of Labor in Society. Free Press, New York Giddens A 1984 The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration. Polity Press, Oxford, UK Heydebrand W 1981 Marxist structuralism. In: Blau P, Merton R K (eds.) Continuities in Structural Inquiry. Sage, London, pp. 81119 Le! vi-Strauss C 1967 Structural Anthropology. Doubleday Anchor, New York Marx K [1859] 1904 A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Charles Kerr, New York Piaget J 1970 Structuralism. Harper Torch, New York Saussure F de [1915] 1966 Course in General Linguistics. McGraw-Hill, New York Scott J 1991 Social Network Analysis. Sage, London Simmel G 1971 Georg Simmel on Indi iduality and Social Forms [Levine D (ed.)]. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

W. V. Heydebrand Copyright # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Structure: Social
The term structure (Latin structura from struere, to construct) has been rst applied to construction and only later on, during the classical period, to the scientic eld of biology. It began to be used, in the

1. Some Landmarks in the History of the Concept and in Contemporary Ad ances


In this area of research as in many others, Emile Durkheims work is a signicant link between the 15233

International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences

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