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How do both post-modernism and structuralism contribute to the logic of disintegration?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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. 

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While post-modernism can contribute to the logic of disintegration, structuralism cannot. Post-modernism examines and illustrates the ideas of deconstruction. disintegration, and multiculturalism (acceptance of a greater whole based upon the multiple individuals involved). Structuralism, on the other hand, examines and illustrates how the individual acts and reacts based upon the decisions and ideologies of the surrounding culture as a while. Disintegration looks to break down the whole and examine the pieces themselves (apart from the whole). 

Since post-modernism does exactly what disintegration defines itself as, it contributes to the logic of it. Structuralism, since it regards only the whole, fails to adhere to the logic of disintegration. Instead, it goes against it completely. 

Post-modernism, for example, will look at how the language, literary devices, dialogue, or theme says about the text. Structuralism, on the other hand, looks at the language, literary devices, dialogue, and theme as all speaking to the text's message. 

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