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Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Structuralist View of Social Life as the Product of Hidden, Unconscious, Forces and Its Relevance to Important Aspects of Contemporary Society

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  • December 2011
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Introduction
Originating in the study of languages, structuralism has exerted a vast amount of influence in the social sciences especially in the work of Saussure, Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes. Although these theorists may disagree with the exact view of structuralism, there is, on the other hand, a broad consensus that a structuralist approach to the study of human society and culture involves the notion of wholes. The purpose of this essay will be to develop the points of structuralism and the product of its strengths and weaknesses in relevance to important aspects of contemporary society. This will include the works of Saussure who was an expert on languages and talks about the rules of language. Levi Strauss who suggested that cultural phenomena such as myths, art, kinship systems and language display certain ordered patterns or structures and work of Roland Barthes

Sociology of Saussure
The founder of modern structuralism was Ferdinand de Saussure. An expert on Indo-European languages, Saussure worked on a general theory of languages during the 1980’s and he followed Durkheim in regarding language as an example of a social fact. For Saussure, language constituted a collective representation, an abstract system of linguistic rules which governed concrete language use and a formal and coherent structure. In explaining how languages function, he distinguishes between signifiers and the signified which together constitute a sign. Saussure concentrated instead on the patterns and functions of language in use today, with the emphasis on how meanings are maintained and established and on the functions of grammatical structures. (Barry P. 1995. Beginning Theory, an Introduction to Literacy and Cultural Theory. Manchester University Press: Manchester.p.41) What he looks at is the social meaning which is embedded into the language. The key point for when we talk about social meaning is that we have to look at language and the ordering of language. But...

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