R.M. SNOW considers structuralism "as the continental variant of systems thinking" (1993, p.138).
This seems a somewhat excessive view. Systems thinking has many roots, even in Europe. The Gestalt movement (KOHLER, KOFFKA), for instance, is no less important than linguistic structuralism (SAUSSURE, JAKOBSON) or psychological or anthropological structuralism (PIAGET, LEVI-STRAUSS).
It is however true that: "Structuralists emphasize the systems elements and their interrelationships, and how these are transformed in surface/conscious structure. Structure and any change therein are considered sufficient means for exploring both individual and collective behavior. The question of function or purpose is rarely adressed. When it is considered, systemic action toward a goal is viewed as constrained or determined by the structure which produces it" (Ibid., p.139).
This statement makes clear that structuralism does not merely implies a synchronic viewpoint, but altogether a diachronic one.
This point is however not obvious for everybody (not even for some structuralists themselves). As noted by H. SABELLI: "Structure is opposed to change and appearences…
"This implies a danger to dismiss what is evident as mere emergence, overvaluing speculations and rationalizations. Structuralism leads us to overvalue similarities at the cost of differences and stability at the cost of change" (pers. comm., 1994).
M.C. JACKSON retains a practical orientation in structuralism, which: "… in the realist form, is concerned with uncovering and understanding the underlying structures or systems of relationships that generate the surface phenomena perceived in the world. It demands explanation of the phenomena available to our senses in terms of the underlying, unobservable mechanisms that generate them. Structuralists attempt to provide models of the causal processes at work at the deep structural level…" (1992, p.23).
"A movement in social science, originated by CI. LEVI-STRAUSS, which supposes that social structures depend on certain basic characteristics of human brain programs, giving specially attention to binary operations that are used in communication"(J.Z. YOUNG, 1978, p.299).
YOUNG adds: "Structuralism" is also sometimes used to define the type of linguistics that studies surface structures rather than CHOMSKY's more abstract deep structure" (Ibid.)
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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