What is post-structuralism? Examine Derrida’s theory of ‘deconstruction’.

What is post-structuralism? Examine Derrida’s theory of ‘deconstruction’.



Post structuralism is based on a member of basic assumptions/positions. These include: 1) putting all phenomena under one explanation, 2) there is a transcendental reality which overarches all other reality. Post structuralism is also critical of the concept of man as portrayed and developed by Enlightenment thought. The Enlightenment view that the individual is separate and whole and that the mind is the area where values evolve on the other hand the poststructuralists felt that the individual was embedded in social interaction. Such symbolic beings are referred to by the word “subject”. We can then say that the subjects are intertwined with society and culture and occupy some place within them, and sociologically based sites. Further subjects are the actors in everyday reality. In fact it is the subjects that make up society and the activities therein, include work and entertainment. We could add here that the subjects meaning and values are embedded in the identities of groups and the activities which lead them to having an identity.

Thus these approaches that we are discussing have often been dubbed “anti-humanist” because post-structuralism is against the divine or transcendental wholeness as was the humanist theories view. However, ‘antihumanist’ is a misnomer and is actually another way of looking at human beings one that is essentially not against individual persons. Further we find that while structuralism presents reality as relations between binary oppositions post-structuralism’s vision of reality is a fragmented one. Social process and cultural relations are not viewed as neat oppositions – on the other hand social and cultural processes are seen in bits and pieces and the nature of reality is not seen as being amenable to total understanding of a whole process. Parts of social process can be focused upon and analysed. Poststructuralists are completely opposed to grand narratives and Meta theory feeling these are equivalent to a fiction and not really apprehending reality. Thus post-structural theories are themselves looking at the specific.

Further the physical self (the body) is studied in the context of time and history, and brought out of the closet so to speak. Similarly it is the details of discourse and cultural actions that are now looked into. Further the role of language in building social and cultural reality is also evident in the work of the poststructuralists (Godelier, 1972). Thus the fact that society and the individual are “linguistically bound” with each other and the relationship between the two is complex. This stand clearly negates the earlier assumptions of social scientists that language was easy to comprehend and use and that there were no ambiguities regarding language – use. This the post-structural theories negate as an erroneous assumption. In fact “reality’’ itself is constructed within the social matrix and continues to reproduce itself over time.

Derrida and Deconstruction

This brief note on structuralism is important for our understanding of the process of “deconstruction” initiated by Derrida. The basics of this structuralism are:? positing of a centre of power or influence which begins and ends all social processes. This could be ‘mind’ or ‘self’ or even ‘God’. All structures are composed of binary pairs or oppositions one of which is more important than the other and often signified thus:  These could be good/evil, god/man and so on.

Thus post structuralism began with Derrida’s critique of structuralism or rather this ‘deconstruction’ of language society and culture. The structuralists felt that man was chained to structures which controlled him. In contrast, however, Derrida feels that language can be reduced to writing which does not control the subjects. According to him all institutions and structures are nothing but writing and incapable of controlling the individual. The structuralists saw order and stability in language, hence in all structures; the poststructuralists on the other hand saw language as essentially changing and quite unstable. This means that the language structure being itself in flux cannot create structures that constrain, restrain, or punish people, because language itself is disorderly, and the underlying laws of language cannot be ‘discovered’. This is what is the process of deconstruction which as the term suggests is a sort of conceptual dissection of the concept or process being studied. Derrida who coined the term deconstruction felt that logo centrism has dominated the Western countries. This way of perceiving has meant that writing has always been suppressed historically speaking. This has also meant that the freedom to analyse and think is taken away in a logocentric system. Derrida wants to dismantle this type of approach as it sets writing free from repression. Under these circumstances what takes place in the art form of traditional theatre is a representation of real life. Such a representation is extremely important, in fact a controlled theological theatre.

Saroj Meher

Hello Friends, welcome to my website BrainyNote.  My name is Saroj Meher, You can call me a Professional Artist, Painter or an Indian Contemporary Artist, a Teacher, Computer Professional and also a You-tuber, who is eager to learn, find new techniques in his fields of works & grow in his life until his name become a BRAND.

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