I have a couple questions:

  1. Does the act of categorization or classification always reflect a structuralist mind?
  2. Like wise, does the act of de-categorization (or re-categorization) reflect a post-structuralist mind?
  3. Can one really escape the categorism/structuralism mind?
  4. Does the concept arborescent of Deleuze refer to categorism or structuralism?

I think the answer is quite obvious (yes - yes - no - either), but I want to check my understanding.

Meta discussion: Why is the question about structuralism and categorization unclear?

  • 1
    "categorization" and "classification" are quite old: Aristotle, Linnaeus Jul 19 at 9:28
  • What is a "structuralist mind"? Assuming it has to do with "structuralism" as described at the link, what does that have to do with categorization or classification? Jul 19 at 10:55
  • @DavidGudeman Yes it's just the same with structuralism. I think the act of categorization or classification essentially makes a structural. And one cannot make a structure without having a structuralist mind. Does that answer your question?
    – Ooker
    Aug 2 at 9:26
  • I'm still confused. "Structuralism" refers to a specific sort of research program in social sciences. It's very restricted. Classification/categorization are mental tools used throughout human experience, predating structuralism by millennia. It sounds like you are suggesting that anyone who classifies or categorizes is engaged in a specific sort of research project in the social sciences. But you can't mean that, because that is absurd. Aug 3 at 5:02
  • 1
    @ooker, I mean that "structuralism" does not mean what you seem to think it means. It does not mean "thinking in structures" or anything like that. The word does not just mean what it seems to mean based on how it was formed. There is a particular group of academics who call themselves structuralists. They have ideas of what views make you one of them. No matter how much you may think in terms of structure, if you are not one of those social scientists, you are not a structuralist, just like no matter how objective you may be, if you are not a follower of Ayn Rand you are not an objectivist. Aug 4 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


Structuralism is an ambiguous term. The positive side of it to shift analysis/critique towards looking at how physical and social relations shape ideas and language, rather than assuming they can have a priori causa suis. The negative side, is a kind of linguistic determinism, that'remeniscent of historical materialism.

  1. A Structuralist is most of all trying to reveal hidden structures, like say Lacan uses psychoanalysis to understand social forces. I would describe that as looking for new or previously unrecognised patterns. Categorising and classifying are just tools that may help find, or provide evidence for patterns. To say all so doing is Structualist would be to extend the meaning of that term vastly beyond how it is actually applied (a category error, ironically).

  2. I would describe Post-Structuralism as the rejection of the universality or absoluteness, of implications drawn from analysing the influence of languave and the structures of our thoughts, on culture. A rejectiin of linguistic determinism. Not of categories.

  3. There are certainly traditions which so aim: Philosophers or philosophical traditions that reject symbolic reasoning

  4. Deleuze was specifically targeting the implicit idea of a binary discourse making up the dialectic, a pure thesis meets a defined antithesis, with a single coherent result. He wanted a live mapping including many aspects of connection, rather than a tracing which imposes a specific dimension to the abstractions and discards the rest. His picture of the rhizome, is like what we now call intertextuality, a refusal to accept a single set of typologies or relationships.

I would relate Structuralism and Post-Structuralism to the ghost of Hegel. There was an appealing simplicity and certainty to it that led to believing in a kind of 'psychohistory', a hidden cultural determinism philosophers can reveal. But the problem was, picking one way to view the historical/cultural narrative as the only significant one, closes off other stories. It is the tension between holding up the significance of a lesson we should learn, and recognising there are lessons we are not yet ready to learn from the same history. Good historians probe and reframe the categories of their discipline, how we group events together, and so on. I would describe Structuralists as believing there will in the end be one history, even if it's a rhizome not a tree, and Post-Structuralists as recognising the historian is part of history too.

  • The tree is at least partly linguistic and lexical structure — even the form of the book (central taproot of the spine, pages/leaves…) reflects a hierarchical structure — not just binarization and dichotomy but also assignment of a negative value to difference, subordination or subjugation of every movement the tree cannot overcode…
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 19 at 20:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .