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Related to poststructuralism: postmodernism
in linguistics, philosophy, and literary theory, the exposure and undermining of the metaphysical assumptions involved in systematic attempts to ground knowledge, especially in academic disciplines such as structuralism and semiotics.
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poststructuralisma widely influential intellectual movement in France from the 1960s onwards, deriving from STRUCTURALISM but reinterpreting the latter's main assumptions about LANGUAGE and society as signifying systems. As such, poststructuralists utilized while also challenging the ascendancy of key structuralist theorists including SAUSSURE and LÉVI-STRAUSS. In the course of a root-and-branch questioning of traditional modes of philosophical and linguistic theorizing, they also challenged other major social theories, notably MARXISM. The major theorists most usually associated with poststructuralism are DERRIDA and FOUCAULT (see also LACAN). Central aspects of previous linguistic theory ‘deconstructured’ by poststructuralism, especially by Derrida, include:
- a questioning of the implications of linguistic conceptions of DIFFERENCE, seen especially in Derrida's challenge to what he regards as SAUSSURE's still ‘metaphysical’ presuppositions about the SUBJECT and LANGUAGE, the priority given to speech‘ over ‘writing’ – see DECONSTRUCTION;
- a view that writing, too (see TEXTS), is also questionable as a source of any ‘grounding’ for objectivity or culture, the major reason for this being that, in addition to the ‘arbitrary’ connection between SIGNIFIER AND SIGNIFIED (as for Saussure), the relation between signifiers (via ‘differences’) is equally suspect, given that signifiers are always 'slipping under other signifiers‘, with no final definition possible.