What is structuralism?

Structuralism is aphilosophical movement and a psychological current, emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, which then becomes a research method used by the social sciences to analyze society and its components, from a systemic perspectiveand takes as a model for the analysis of human behavior, the exact sciences, but in itself, It is not a concrete school of thought. (1)

For structuralism, structures are comprised of thoselaws, rules or invisible norms, which govern the economy, language among othersand that dominate human behavior in society, and it is their purpose to identify and understand them to give reason for how the system that exists within the object of study operates.

From this point of view, there are a series of structures that condition the behavior of the individuals who relate and operate under them, andthe behavior of the individualsthat make up a society can be understood because within that system these structures exist.

Note: Unlike structuralism that proposes the analysis ofthe system and its elements,psychoanalysis(2) proposes the analysis of the unconscious of people.

What does structuralism propose?

Structuralism has createdseveral approacheson which it bases its postulates and which we mention below:

1. Every sociocultural system is made up of structures

One of the characteristics of structuralism is that it focuses its proposal on the existence of structures that condition everything that happens within aSocio-cultural system. In this sense, a structure is the way in which a system is organized.

For structuralism, these forms of organization that are presentand that are typical of each social group are the ones that condition human behavior. From this perspective,the organization is what gives ownership, meaning and reason to human activity from the social and cultural point of view.

To highlight: Both structuralism and Functionalism , propose the synchronous study of social reality .

2. Structures establish location within the system

Structuralism also states that the structures or ways of organizing determine the position of the elements within the system.

In this sense, for the system to work and the human being to show a behavior adjusted to the system with which he cohabits, the structures locate the elements that make up the system in a synchronized manner and position them according to priority and importance within it.

In this way, it guarantees that some elements do not stand out from others and create disorganization within the same system.

You should know: Unlike structuralism, Behaviorism has human behavior and the stimulus-response relationship as its object of study .

3. Structures lie at a deeper level

The structures comprise the base of the functioning of the elements of any system, but these structures must understand that the elements that integrate society and cultures are not only physical presence nor are they found there by chance.

In this sense, the structures are born or are designed taking into consideration the most intimate aspects of those elements that make it up,to understand their operation and why they are there. That is why these structuresare found at a deeper level, where those who make up society must accept it.

Note: Structuralism proposes that things have meaning in a system, thanks to the existence of an internal structure.

4. The underlying structures of a human phenomenon are analyzed

Human behavior is very diverse and complex, motivated in this case by the action of existing structures in society.

From an analytical point of view, considering that structuralism is based on the exact sciences, such structures are studied from behavior as a changing phenomenon, which comes from the individuality of each individual’s cognitive processes, since the human being is the one who gives meaning to the functioning of the system.

Who is the representative of structuralism?

Structuralism does not have a defined representative, since there were many who contributed structuralist approaches from their own perspective,Enriching this research method of the social sciences.

The first of them was the Swiss Ferdinand de Saussure , who thanks to his studies was able to conceive that language is like a “system of elements and rules of combination between them, acceptable to the community of speakers who use it to communicate” . (3)

Then Claude Lévi-Strauss (4) is added , with a broader and more dynamic approach to language and whose foundations were based on what was previously developed by Saussure, creating structural linguistics (5)tag. However, his contributions to structuralism were also approached from the anthropological perspective.(6)

To highlight:Another exponent for structuralism is the philosopher Roland Barthes(7), whowas the only researcher registered in structuralismand continued Saussure’s project to build semiology. (8)

Key Conclusions

  • Structuralism is aphilosophical movement and a psychological currentthat then becomes a method of research.
  • For structuralism, structures are comprised ofthose invisible laws, rules or norms that dominate the system.
  • The purpose of structuralismis to identify and understand these structures.
  • Structuralism as a research method uses the exact sciences for the analysis of human behavior.

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