Structuralism as method of study in fields such as anthropology, biology and sociology relies on relating aspects of a culture or system to a larger, more universal structure. It is most often based on classifying objects in terms oppositions: for example, a life form is either male or female, animal...
Structuralism as method of study in fields such as anthropology, biology and sociology relies on relating aspects of a culture or system to a larger, more universal structure. It is most often based on classifying objects in terms oppositions: for example, a life form is either male or female, animal or vegetable, insect or bird, etc. Everything fits neatly into a slot
However, in his anthropological studies of incest taboos across cultures, the anthropologist Levi-Strauss noticed that the fundamental binary opposition of "nature versus culture" collapsed or disintegrated in the case of incest taboos. The incest taboo was natural in that it was universal across cultures, but also cultural, in that the details varied sharply from culture to culture in terms of what relationships were and weren't taboo. But how could this be? How could something be both natural and cultural? From this contradiction, Levi-Strauss concluded that the intellectual structures we establish, such as the binary opposition between nature and culture, are in fact kluges. He called these intellectual structures "bricolage" or temporary constructs that we use so we can think and conceptualize. But they are not universal truths, and they need to be replaced when they stop working. In other words, our larger conceptual structures are functional (there to serve a purpose), not absolute.
Post-modernist thinker Derrida took this idea of bricolage and ran with it, making it one of the centerpieces of his work. Our thinking and understanding are not based on universal or transcendent truths, he argued, but on intellectual constructs or scaffoldings we erect that can be dismantled or deconstructed.
The term "logic of disintegration" thus does apply to both structuralist and post-structuralist (post-modernist) thought: both argue that the premises on which we base our thinking can "disintegrate" or become useless to us, at which point we need to discard or re-understand them.