"... he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity."
James Joyce, Ulysses
There is too much fuss over the difference between structuralist and poststructuralist approaches. This is a problem of secondary literature (it means only that less gifted thinkers will always make money out of more gifted ones by creating pseudo-problems, which is how the monopoly of academic philosophical priesthood works).
In their own works, authors such as Derrida, Deleuze and Julia Kristeva often recognize the importance of the works of their illustrious “predecessors”: Lévi-Strauss, Lacan and Barthes.
The point at issue is this: structuralism focuses on the dimension that Kristeva calls “thétique” which comprises l’ordre de la langue. This dimension emerges only after one reaches the threshold of Lacan’s mirror stage (and Freud’s Verneinung), when the real is symbolically organized (through what Saussure calls langue) (Kristeva, La révolution du langage poétique, p. 41-49, 70-71; cf. Deleuze, Logique du sens, p. 99). Poststructuralist authors are more interested in how this dimension emerges (genealogy), and in what remains “behind” it, its “inside-out” (psychoanalytic primary processes, lignes de fuite, corps sans organes, differences, singularités, événements). But the two perspectives are in no way incompatible: a structure is nothing but the articulation of two heterogeneous series (of irreducible differences) connected by a signifiant flottant (Deleuze, Logique du sens, p. 65-66, cf. 88-90).
***The concept of a “sorgente” [data source], introduced by Umberto Eco in La Struttura Assente (p. 353), is also not incompatible with this scenery, but it impoverishes it pretty much. This is because it reduces the idea of a signifiant flottant to a merely positive, productive source, thereby erasing (covering up) its more paradoxical features (the irreducible heterogeneity of the series lying behind it). This happens because Eco’s semiotics operates, again, merely in a “thetic” dimension—but in a much more old fashioned way (hermeneutically, dialectically, phenomenologically), actually betraying the most daring implications brought up by structuralism since Saussure. Eco’s “operative hypothesis” (La Struttura Assente, p. 380) depends on naively assigning to historical subjects precisely the kind of “autonomy” that structuralism (and psychoanalysis) uncovers as illusory to a great extent.
- Liste des figures du chaos primordial;
- Umberto Eco about Nietzsche;
- L'affirmation de l'âne;