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Structuralism – another ‘religious’ belief?

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Ferdinand de Saussure founded linguistics, sem...

Ferdinand de Saussure founded linguistics, semiotics and structuralism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Structuralism is an approach found in the Social Sciences. Its adherents maintain that human beliefs, practices and interactions follow natural, universal patterns.¹

In psychology, structuralism is usually contrasted with functionalism. Structural approaches also appear in anthropology, linguistics, sociology and religious studies.

A good example of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach can be found in Wendy Doniger‘s monumental work, Siva: The Erotic Ascetic. Here Doniger talks about her reading of the intricacies of Hindu mythology, trying to place the countless myths into some kind of Western intellectual framework. Interesting, but one also gets the impression that she doesn’t really understand how these myths could apply to transpersonal dynamics and real life mysticism as practiced not only in India but around the world today.

In fact, some structuralists seem so caught up in their belief in structure that to suggest otherwise elicits an immature, emotional response. So in this sense structuralism could be viewed in the same light as a longstanding religious tradition. The certainty that structuralism seems to provide gives meaning and comfort to those not ready or able to step out of into the light of a more comprehensive, realistic position.²

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mostly on intellectual grounds, structuralism has also been challenged by postmodern and poststructural thinkers like Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida

¹ Wikipedia gives us a history of structuralism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuralism

² We see a similar dynamic with science and particularly, scientism, where many people blindly believe in a science which, itself, enjoys no universal definition as to what it actually is. See Daniel N. Robinson PhD, http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/great-ideas-of-psychology.html (Lecture 1).

Related » Claude Lévi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure, Semiology/Semiotics

 

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