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Structuralism

Klaus Bruhn Jensen


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Structuralism is a tradition in the history of ideas that rose to special prominence during the twentieth century within the humanities and social sciences. A shared assumption of structuralist approaches to communication, culture, and society is that interactions, discourses, and social groupings are best understood as relatively self-contained systems or structures. Their formation and transformation are accounted for by certain general, immanent principles, rather than by their concrete constituents, or by any external influences. In his review of the development of structuralism, Jean Piaget (1971 , 5) identified three distinctive features of a structuralist perspective. First, it emphasizes the wholeness of a structure of elements; compare the common saying that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Second, structures are subject to transformations : the rules governing them are simultaneously structured and structuring . Third, structures are self-regulating , bounding and maintaining the system in question. To exemplify, an ordinary conversation amounts to a whole, accomplished by two speakers; it represents a contextual selection and transformation of particular linguistic resources; and, to succeed, it requires continuous adjustments, regulating the contributions of the two speakers. Responding to the likely criticism that structure might be a vacuous concept ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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