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What is Post-structuralism and how does it affect Psychology?

What is Post-structuralism and how does it affect Psychology?

April 22, 2024

In some scientific and philosophical traditions it is proposed that reality is something objective and neutral that exists outside our minds and independently of our social activity; therefore, it is proposed that we can access it by a set of methods that represent it as it is (for example, through scientific models).

Given this, there are currents of thought and human sciences that have made some criticisms, for example, the current called poststructuralist . It is a controversial and constantly debated term, which has had repercussions in the way of doing human and social sciences.

Next we will see in a general way what poststructuralism is and how it has affected psychology .

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What is poststructuralism? General definition and background

Poststructuralism is a theoretical and epistemological movement (relative to how knowledge is constructed) that arises mainly within the human sciences of the French tradition and that has repercussions in the way of doing philosophy, linguistics, science, art, history, psychology (in general in the human sciences) in the West .

It arises from the second half of the twentieth century, and the term "post" does not indicate the passage from one era to another but the emergence of new ways of doing human sciences. That is to say, that poststructuralism makes a strong criticism of the structuralist current , but without completely leaving it.

It is also a term that generates much debate since the limits between structuralism and poststructuralism are not clear (as well as between modernity-postmodernity, colonialism-postcolonialism, etc.) and generally the intellectuals who have been classified as post-structuralists refuse to be enrolled in said stream.

At the theoretical level originates mainly from linguistics with psychoanalysis influences of structuralist roots ; as well as from the feminist movements that question how women had been represented both in literature and in general culture.

To a very large extent, the rupture that poststructuralism establishes before structuralism has to do with meaning and meaning, that is, with the position that the subject acquires in the face of language.

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Two key concepts: meaning and subjectivity

Poststructuralism applied to the human sciences pays attention to the meanings and the way in which a subject produces itself, especially through language (a language that is understood not to represent reality as it is, but at the same time). builds it). Because, two of the concepts that most appear in the poststructuralist current are the subjectivity and the meaning , although many more could be mentioned.

There are occasions when post-structuralism is described as a way of exposing the hidden meaning of the texts. However, it is not so much about revealing the hidden meaning, but about studying this meaning as a product of representation systems (of the ways and processes we use to order and describe reality).

That is, it is a movement that questions the logic of representation on which the human sciences were based; because the latter is a logic from which the idea that there is a reality that is neutral, as well as a series of possibilities to know it "objectively" has been constructed.

Through how he understands the meaning, poststructuralism is positioned as a challenge for realism that had marked the way of doing human sciences, relativizes the traditional way of knowing the world, and tries to avoid essentialism (the idea that a thing, for example a human being, is what it is by the existence of a true essence that can be apprehended).

Specifically in linguistics (although this has repercussions in the way of doing science) poststructuralism is also defined as a critical practice that seeks plurality; arguing that the meaning or meaning of a text is not given only by the author, but is also constructed through subjectivity, during reading, by the reader and the reader.

From there also arises the concept of intertextuality , which indicates that a text of any kind is a heterogeneous product, a result of many ideas and many meanings, which in turn implies a logic of subversion that makes it difficult to define it with logic and traditional languages.

Has it been relevant to psychology?

Psychology is a scientific discipline that has been nourished by many other disciplines, that is why it is not a homogenous science but has generated many currents and many different practices. Being a discipline that seeks to understand the processes that constitute us as human beings, in a network that is both biological, psychic and social, psychology has been constructed by different philosophical and scientific currents over time.

The post-structuralist approach transformed a part of psychology because opened the door to create new research methods , other options for understanding reality, and with this, new theories and identification models, some of them even with political repercussions. It allows paying attention, for example, to the relationships between identity and otherness, and redefining concepts such as identity, subjectivity, subject, culture, among others.

To take a more concrete example, scientific practice became more heterogeneous when feminist theories related to poststructuralism proposed that social and individual reality (and science itself) are processes that have been constructed from apparently neutral experiences. , but which are actually male experiences and blind positions before other experiences, such as those of women.

Even though poststructuralism escapes a single definition and its elements are constantly debated, in short we could say that it is a theoretical tool that has served to understand some processes, especially in the field of human and social sciences, which has allowed to create political alternatives during its study.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castellanos, B. (2011). The reception of psychoanalysis in the poststructuralist thought of Lyotard: the question of desire and the unconscious. Nomads Critical Journal of Social and Legal Sciences, 31 [Online] Retrieved April 10, 2018. Available at //
  • Sazbón, J. (2007). Reason and method, from structuralism to post-structuralism. Think, epistemology, politics and social sciences. 1: 45-61.
  • Carbonell, N. (2000). Feminism and poststructuralism. In Segarra, M. & Carabí, A. (Eds). Feminism and literary criticism. Editorial Icaria: Spain.


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