Giddens "Structuralism, Post-structuralism and the Production of Culture"


Giddens/Turner: Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Production of Culture


  1. Giddens and Turner consider structuralism, post-structuralism, etc. dead-ends, but not without some contributions to theoretical discourse
  2. Even main figures don't embrace "structuralism" as concept but enough mutual influence to try to elucidate.
  3. Categorization
    1. Structuralists
      1. Saussure, Levi-Strauss,
    2. Post-structuralists
      1. Barthes, Foucault, Lacan, Althusser and Derrida
  4. Main ideas
    1. linguistics important social theory
    2. an emphasis upon the relational nature of totalities (arbitrary character of the sign and primacy of signifiers over signified)
    3. the decentring of the subject
    4. concern writing and texts
    5. temporality as constitutive of objects and events.


  1. langue - abstract, idealization of rules and associations of sound and meaning
  2. parole - what people are actually doing
  3. For Saussure, langue is "just" compilation of idealizations. Two "reactions"
    1. (more psychological) Chomsky offered intermediate idea of creative structuring, competence of speaker
    2. (more sociological) Prague school (Jakobson, etc.), communicative competence of community
  4. Levi-Strauss and Barthes "apply" these ideas to other social/cultural phenomena
  5. Linguistics contributes
    1. rigor
    2. powerful general concepts
    3. programmatic directions
  6. But NOT source of "linguistic turn" in theory: rather than linguistics being a model for the study of the social, the recognition that linguistic competence already involves social competence points to the CO-CONSTITUTIVE relationship between language and social praxis. (cf. Wittgenstein, Garfinkel)

Relational Nature of Totalities

Decentring the Subject

Basic idea: ego not omnipotent even in itself.
If meaning of sign only comes about through difference, this will be true of "I" and such — no primordial, essential, or absolute ground on which self can stand. The subject is not before everything else.

"Consciousness is made possible by structures of mind that arc not immediately available to it."

Removes the author from the meaning of texts. The I in a text is just a grammatical phenomenon and so what a text means to us does not involve the author.

Writing and the Text (207)

Derrida big on writing, Wittgenstein not.
Since meaning of signs depends on signs not actually there, there must be a sense in which presence/absence are not simple opposites.
Writing as spacing and timing experiences. What's not written falls aside from history.
Constant return to "texts" as sources. FBOW. B=sophisticated analyses. W=fiction v. fact; ignoring everyday talk. W=in ignoring the author we overlook agency and the situatedness of creation.

History and Temporality (211)

Saussure: langue out of time, but did distinguish synchronic and diachronic
Levi-Strauss - time not same as history (Marx's "humans make history" just describes what they do not that history is a human product)
Derrida - time tied up in the very process of signification, not available as separate dimension
Foucault - human subjectivity as product of history not other way round - history with no subjects, "the agency is removed"

Signification, Cultural Production and Writing (214)

Big contribution of structuralism is undoing the presumption that we can start from point of an unexamined agent.

In Hymes's words, "he or she acquires competence as to when to speak, when not, and as what to talk about with whom, when, where, in what manner" (Hymes 1972, 277).

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