Structuralist Thinking

Patrice Maniglier



La pensée structuraliste
The structuralist thought, which was at its heyday in the mid-1960s, soon became a target of criticism. However, as the article argues, at its inception, structuralism was intended more as a method rather than an all-encompassing mode of thinking. The original inspiration for structuralism came from Russian and Saussurean linguistics and, later, it was explored by Lévi-Strauss as a suitable method for anthropology and related disciplines. In this application, the emphasis is less on the structure conceived as a system of differences and more on its transformative character. Furthermore, not only the internal, but also the external relations of system are highlighted, which implies the use of comparative methods in anthropology. The possibility of studying cultural practices and symbols is enhanced when their similarities and differences are considered in terms of structures and sign-systems. The structuralist thought that denies individual agency thus appears to be a paradoxical misunderstanding of the original purpose of structuralism as a method; a science of cultural facts in their variability remains a contemporary project.


structuralism; method; cultural facts; Jakobson; Trubeckoy; Lévi-Strauss

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: