John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 10 Apr 1994 09:59:26 JST

John O'Brien writes,

"Please define `post-structuralism.' The concept is interesting; what
makes it `post' any why do you think that structuralism has failed?"

As I understand it, structuralism assumes that all of culture is like language
and language is language as understood in Saussure, Chomsky, etc. This
warrants a search for cultural grammars which stand in relation to observed
behavior as language (langue) to speech (parole). Done well the result is
. The
inevitable cost is abstraction from particular (historical, ethnographic, etc.)
situations; a picture of behavior as governed by rules which ignores context.
Post-structuralism reasserts the importance of process, change and
circumstance, and sees human beings as active creators of culture instead
of passive automotons who obey cultural rules. Personally, I approve of
this shift in perspective, but I don't thinkg that "structuralism has
failed." We've just reached a point where the basic notion is getting trimmed
down to size and we're starting to figure out where it works as well as where
it doesn't. Here again, allow me to recommend Grant McCracken's Culture &
Consumption, where there is a lucid and very readable discussion of the
limits of seeing commodities as constituting a "language."

"Making Symbols is My Business"--John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)