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van den Daele, L.D. (1979). Discussion of “Structuralism in Psychoanalysis”. Am. J. Psychoanal., 39(4):353-357.
(1979). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39(4):353-357
Discussion of “Structuralism in Psychoanalysis”
Leland D. van den Daele, Ph.D.
Structuralism identifies an approach to the investigation and description of organized configurations, groups, or systems.1-3 Such organized configurations occur in many fields of study as natural objects, the compound in chemistry, the organism in biology, and kinship networks in anthropology. Such structures appear to behave in ways that are not reducible to the component behavior of parts. On the contrary, the behavior of parts depends intrinsically upon the relation of the parts to the whole. Structuralism strives to understand this whole—its properties, rules of regulation, and its formation. In a general sense, structuralism provides the major explanatory alternative to the various forms of reductionism which guided the “program” of nineteenth century physics.4 Although this atomistic approach was abandoned in contemporary physics with the advent of relativity theory and theories of duality, reductionism still thrives in psychology in the various “black-box” learning paradigms and in psychoanalysis in the instinct-drive theory.5
In his paper, Dr. Rendon appears to identify structuralism in the general sense with a type of structuralism represented in the works of Levi-Strauss. However, the structuralism of Levi-Strauss is only one variety of structuralism, with other major varieties represented by the mathematical logic of Bourbaki, Piaget's constructivism, and Chomsky's phrase grammer, to cite a few.6-8 Viewed from this enlarged perspective of structuralist method and theory, the unconscious is neither intrinsic in the structuralist approach nor excluded, for that matter, from a “systems” approach.9The unconscious occurs as a content, domain, or field superimposed on structuralist models by those theorists who embrace an explicit or implicit topographical view of consciousness.10
Although structuralist formulations seek to explain the behavior of a system by reference to its elements and the rules of regulation which govern that system, the theoretical problem of the formation of structure is historically coincident with the application of the structuralist framework.
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