Social Sciences


The structuralism is a type of human sciences approach to the study of language, culture and society.

This perspective, which is more philosophical than scientific, proposes that every sociocultural system has a set of structures that determine everything related to the system. This concept analyzes those structures and helps to understand the connection that exists between them, which finally describes and explains the different human activities.

History of structuralism

Ferdinand de Saussure, considered the father of semiotics , was the forerunner of this concept since the publication of his work «Course in General Linguistics» in 1916.

The Swiss author described in his book that linguistics includes various structures, such as language and speech, among others. The work shows how these structures are related to each other and how important it is to understand them to understand the complete system.

In the 1960s, structuralism began to be considered as a method of analysis for social sciences such as psychology, economics, anthropology or philosophy .

Some of the prominent authors who studied and applied structuralism in their areas of work were Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropologist), Piaget (psychologist), Noam Chomsky (linguist), Roman Jakobson (linguist), Louis Althusser (philosopher), Roland Barthes (literary) and others.


The following are main characteristics of the analysis of different structures in social sciences.

  • It is not based on direct observation, since in that way language or other human science is not seen as a “whole”, as established by structuralism.
  • Structuralists consider language as a system, with relationships between its various structures.
  • It has a descriptive approach.
  • The inductive method is used to ignore the context.

Examples of structuralism

  • The language with which people communicate, any language and in any of its versions: spoken or written. Language has a defined structure that includes symbols and signs (alphabet and other special characters), to ways of speaking according to geographical location. These structures shape a system that makes sense to humans as part of their daily lives.
  • Another example to explain structuralism can be the culture of a people or community. It is the traditions, customs, myths, dialect, beliefs and more that make up such a culture. If each of these structures is understood, a model of behavior of one and other members can be defined.
  • The experimental sciences are another example. These must be organized and structured in such a way that the results are understandable and verifiable.

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