By D. Howarth
This publication articulates the most important theoretical assumptions of poststructuralism, but in addition probes its limits, evaluates rival ways and elaborates new suggestions. construction at the paintings of Derrida, Foucault, Heidegger, Lacan, Laclau, Lévi–Strauss, Marx, Saussure and Žižek, the booklet additionally presents a particular model of the poststructuralist venture.
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Extra resources for Poststructuralism and After: Structure, Subjectivity and Power
To begin with . Sa ussu re's conception of the sign suggests a rigid sep aration between sign ifier and sign ified, and th en proposes a o n e-to-one correspon dence between these two ele. nlents (Sa ussure, 1974, p . 67). In other word s, instead o f a purely re latio n al connection between the ' ma teri al ' s ignifi er (sou nd-image) and the ' Ideal ' s ignilied (con cept), which wo uld b e in keeping with the logic of Saussure's theo ry, he splits the two aspects in to two distinct entities an d then re-combines them in th e sign itse lf.
Thus the sign dog comprises a sig· nilier that sounds like d-o-g (and appears in the written form as dOf<), and the concept of a 'dog', which the signifier designates. A key principle of Saussure's theory concems the 'arbitrary nature of the sign', by which he means that there is no natural relationship between signifier and signified. In other words, there is no necessary reason why the sign dog is associated with the concept of a 'dog'; it is simply a fun ction and convention of the language we use.
In the same breath, such a view suggests that signifiers a re only ' material' o r 'sensible' carriers that are entirely devoid of conceptua lity or ideality, in which case the articulation of signifier and signified, where the two are cut o ut sim ultaneously, is nullified. Fourthly, tlowing from his critique of expressivism , De rri da q uestions the way Saussure retains the id ea of an auton o m o us sub jec t o f language that stands outside the linguistic syste m . His theory revo lves around the central ro le he co ncedes to language users - human subjects - which seem to pre-exist and are external t o the linguistic system , and he presents the human speaker as the key agent or mechani sm tha t li nks the sign to ideas and then finally to 'reality'.