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Main Characteristics of Structuralism and Post-Structuralism

Structuralism is a theory of analyzing phenomena chiefly characterized by contrasting the elemental structures of the phenomena in a system of binary opposition, contrasts, and hierarchical structures. Structuralism emerged as a dominant intellectual paradigm in France in the late 1950s in response to the existentialist emphasis on subjectivity and individual autonomy—personified in the work and person of Jean-Paul Sartre. Structuralism attempts to analyze a specific field as a complex system of interrelated parts. Broadly speaking, structuralism holds that all human activity and its products, even perception and thought itself, are constructed and not natural, and in particular that everything has meaning because of the language system in which we operate. It is closely related to Semiotics, the study of signs, symbols and communication, and how meaning is constructed and understood.

There are four main common ideas underlying structuralism as a general theory: firstly, every system has a structure; secondly, the structure is what determines the position of each element of a whole; thirdly, "structural laws" deal with coexistence rather than changes; and fourthly, structures are the "real things" that lie beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.

Structuralism is widely regarded to have its origins in the work of the Swiss linguistic theorist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857 - 1913), but it soon came to be applied to many other fields, including philosophy, anthropology, psychoanalysis, sociology, literary theory and even mathematics. In the early 20th century, Saussure developed a science of signs based on linguistics (semiotics or semiology). He held that any language is just a complex system of signs that express ideas, with rules which govern their usage. He called the underlying abstract structure of a language, "langue", and the concrete manifestations or embodiments, "parole". He concluded that any individual sign is essentially arbitrary and that there is no natural relationship between a signifier (e.g. the word “dog") and the signified (e.g. the mental concept of the actual animal).

The philosopher Michel Foucault, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 - ), the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901 - 1981), the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980), the linguists Roman Jakobson (1896 - 1982) and Noam Chomsky (1928 - ), the literary critic Roland Barthes (1915 - 1980), the Marxist theorists Louis Althusser (1918 - 1990) and Nicos Poulantzas (1936 - 1979) were all instrumental in developing the theory and techniques of Structuralism, most of this development occurring in France.

In the 1960's, the structuralist movement attempted to synthesise the ideas of Marx, Freud and Saussure. They disagreed with the existentialists' claim that each man is what he makes himself. For the structuralist the individual is shaped by sociological, psychological and linguistic structures over which he/she has no control, but which could be uncovered by using their methods of investigation.

A positivism of structuralism soon came under fire by post-structuralism, a wide field of thinkers, some of whom were once themselves structuralists, but later came to criticize it. Post-structuralists criticised structuralism for its rigidity and ahistoricism. Structuralists believed they could analyze systems from an external, objective standing, but the post-structuralists argued that this is incorrect, that one cannot transcend structures and thus analysis is itself determined by what it examines, that systems are ultimately self-referential. Despite this, many of structuralism's proponents, such as Jacques Lacan, continue to assert an influence on continental philosophy. Many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's critics who have been associated with "post-structuralism" are a continuation of structuralism.

Originally labelled a structuralist, the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault came to be seen as the most important representative of the post-structuralist movement. He agreed that language and society were shaped by rule governed systems, but he disagreed with the structuralists on two counts. Firstly, he did not think that there were definite underlying structures that could explain the human condition and secondly he thought that it was impossible to step outside of discourse and survey the situation objectively.




Monotheism (from Greek μόνος, monos, "single", and θεός, theos, "god") is the belief in the existence of a single god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Judaism, Islam, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.

While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still include plural concepts of the divine. For example, the Christian Trinity, in which God is a triune spirit of three eternal persons - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox venerate the saints, as human beings who had remarkable qualities, lived their faith in God to the extreme; however, Catholics do not worship them as gods.

The concept of monotheism in Islam and Judaism rejects this distinction. Other forms of monotheism include unitarianism and deism. It is difficult to delineate monotheism from beliefs such as pantheism and monism as in the Advaita traditions of Hinduism. Some scholars such as Wilhelm Schmidt argued for primeval monotheism: a monotheistic Urreligion, from which polytheistic religions developed.

Monotheism is the belief in a Singular God, in contrast to polytheism, the belief in several deities. The distinction between monotheism and polytheism isn't clear-cut or objective. Henotheism involves devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods.

Monotheism can involve a variety of Conceptions of God:

§ Deism posits the existence of a single god, the Designer of the designs in Nature. Some Deists believe in an impersonal god that does not intervene in the world, while other Deists believe in intervention through Providence.

§ Monism is the type of monotheism found in Hinduism, encompassing pantheism and panentheism, and at the same time the concept of a personal god.

§ Pantheism holds that the universe itself is God. The existence of a transcendent being extraneous to nature is denied.

§ Panentheism is a form of monistic monotheism which holds that God is all of existence, containing, but not identical to, the Universe. The one God is omnipotent and all-pervading, the universe is part of God, and God is both immanent and transcendent.

§ Main point of monotheism, found in some indigenous African religions, holds that many gods are different forms of a single underlying substance.

§ Trinitarian monotheism is the Christian doctrine of belief in one God who is three distinct persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.


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