Post-structuralism is a term for philosophical, theoretical, and literary forms of theory that both build upon and reject ideas established by structuralism, the intellectual project that preceded it. Though post-structuralists all present different critiques of structuralism, common themes among them include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of structuralism, as well as an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute its structures. Accordingly, post-structuralism discards the idea of interpreting media (or the world) within pre-established, socially constructed structures.
|Preceded by Modernism|
|Criticism of postmodernism|
Structuralism proposes that human culture can be understood by means of a structure that is modeled on language. As a result, there is concrete reality on the one hand, abstract ideas about reality on the other hand, and a "third order" that mediates between the two. A post-structuralist critique, then, might suggest that in order to build meaning out of such an interpretation, one must (falsely) assume that the definitions of these signs are both valid and fixed, and that the author employing structuralist theory is somehow above and apart from these structures they are describing so as to be able to wholly appreciate them. The rigidity, tendency to categorize, and intimation of universal truths found in structuralist thinking is then a common target of post-structuralist thought, while also building upon structuralist conceptions of reality mediated by the interrelationship between signs.
Writers whose works are often characterised as post-structuralist include: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard and Julia Kristeva, although many theorists who have been called "post-structuralist" have rejected the label.