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Post-structuralism primarily encompasses the intellectual developments of certain mid-20th-century French and continental philosophers and theorists. The movement is difficult to summarize, but may be broadly understood as a body of distinct responses to structuralism, which argued that human culture may be understood as a series of signs or symbols; or, put differently, that human culture may be understood by means of a structure -— modeled on language —- that is distinct both from the organizations of reality and the organization of ideas and imagination -- a "third order."[1] The precise nature of the revision or critique of structuralism differs with each post-structuralist author, though common themes include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of the structures that structuralism posits and an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute those structures.[2] Writers whose work is often characterised as post-structuralist include Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Julia Kristeva.

The movement is closely related to postmodernism. As with structuralism, anti-humanism, as a rejection of the enlightenment subject, is often a central tenet. Existential phenomenology is a significant influence; one commentator has argued that post-structuralists might just as accurately be called "post-phenomenologists."[3]

Some have argued that the term "post-structuralism" arose in Anglo-American academia as a means of grouping together continental philosophers who rejected the methods and assumptions of analytical philosophy. Further controversy owes to the way in which loosely-connected thinkers tended to dispense with theories claiming to have discovered absolute truths about the world.[4] Although such ideas generally relate only to the metaphysical (for instance, metanarratives of historical progress, such as those of dialectical materialism), many commentators discredited the movement as relativist, nihilist, or simply indulgent to the extreme. Many so-called "post-structuralist" writers rejected the label and there is no manifesto.[5]


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