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Sarnoff, C.A. (1973). Introduction to Structuralism: Edited by Michael Lane. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1970. 456 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:153-154.
(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:153-154
Introduction to Structuralism: Edited by Michael Lane. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1970. 456 pp.
Review by: Charles A. Sarnoff
The British title of this volume, Structuralism—A Reader, fits better than the current title. Essentially a compilation of articles illustrating the applications of structuralism, the papers are loosely grouped into linguistics, history, mythology, mathematics, science, and literature. There are no section headings, but the book contains an excellent bibliography and good notes.
The definition of structuralism as used in this book varies with the discipline to which it is applied, in accord with intrinsic characteristics of the discipline. In general, the definition concerns the concept that 'there is in man an innate, genetically transmitted and determined mechanism that acts as a structuring force'. This 'determines the limits within which the structure of all types of social phenomena can be formed' (p. 18). Social structures are 'genetically rather than socially or culturally determined' (p. 31). Specifically, in psycholinguistics Chomsky has suggested that there may be a genetically determined fixed schema which provides 'the mould in which language itself is cast' (p. 29). There is 'a sort of innate grammaticality, a genetic code "which in its turn, determines the semantic interpretation of an undefined group of real phrases"'. This structuralist theory, based on clinical research (see p. 57), seems akin to the psychoanalytic concept of universal symbols. In brief, structuralism is the study of the effects of a postulated genetically determined innate structuring mechanism which guides, shapes, and limits the creative efforts and characteristics of man in society. Both psychoanalysis and structuralism explain observed phenomena with concepts and theories expressed in abstractions of a high order. The concepts of one cannot be easily translated into the abstract conceptualizations of the other, but many areas of research interest are shared in common. In the present collection, individual papers have observational material germane to psychoanalysis. This review can merely point to some of these pertinent articles.
In the historical section Ferdinand de Saussure (1878) is described as the method's founding father to whom all current workers acknowledge allegiance. The author would have done well to have given some thought to the contributions of S. T.
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