Structuralism in Sociology

People often use the word “structuralism” to describe a certain type of sociological work, even though it is not at all unique. At its most basic, it just means a sociological point of view based on the idea of social structure and the belief that society is more important than the individual. But the term has also been used in a more specific way to describe theorists who believe that there is a set of social structures that can’t be seen but that cause things that can be seen in society.

The anthropologist Levi-Strauss is best known for taking this view. He was part of an intellectual movement in France that included anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and literary criticism. He thought that most cultural forms, especially myths, are made up of two opposite things. These are called binary oppositions, and they include things like sweet and sour, or red and green.

Myths, and by extension, literary texts, are analyzed by showing how they show up as pairs of opposites. Levi-Strauss thought that the same structures of the human mind could explain how myths are put together.

Some Marxists, especially Althusser, used a structuralist framework to try to explain social phenomena by looking at the way the mode of production works. People have said that these structuralist positions are not based on history, can’t be proven, and don’t take into account the creative work of people.