(3) Yet another criticism of structuralism is made by Pierre Bourdieu. His point is about the neglected aspect of objectivity. He says that there is something more to social life than the subjective consciousness of the actors who move within it and produce it. Levi-Strauss explains structuralism only in terms of the format of mind. Bourdieu contests it.
He was motivated to move beyond this by a realization that the behaviour, the practice of the people about whom structuralist models were constructed, was at variance with the rules of conduct which those models formulated.
His strong argument is that “structuralism had little or no explanatory or predictive power”. Thus, the criticism is that structuralism cannot predict the future course of social reality.
(4) The greatest weak point of structuralism is that it draws heavily from the individual and rejects society. The micro theorists such as Mead, Goffman and others have also relied much on individual, self and mind but there are efforts today to integrate micro and macro theories. Viewed from this perspective, structuralism does not stand the test of general theory.
(5) A general criticism against structuralism is about linguistic structuralism. It is said that the linguistic theory has been borrowed as an analogy for structural explanation. So far so good. But there have been technical advances in linguistics itself and the structural theorists have not kept pace with these advances. Randall Collins raises this point:
In general, it is peculiar that the structuralist thinkers have borrowed linguistic theory as an analogy, or rather as an inspiration, but they have neither kept up with the technical advances in linguistics itself, nor have they contributed in any important way toward unifying sociological principles with those of linguistics.
(6) The post-modern theorists such as Lacan, Derrida and Foucault have criticized the structuralism of Levi-Strauss. They have developed the concept of post-modern structuralism.
This is different from general structuralism and is, interestingly, rejects general structuralism though it draws heavily from it. Commenting on the nature of post-modern structuralism George Ritzer (1997) observes:
Post-structuralism tends to be more abstract, more philosophical and less political than post-modernism. Darrida’s post-structuralism is a good example of post-structural thinking, even though he seems to be post-modernist sometimes.
(7) Ritzer and Derrida call structuralism mere grammatology or a theory of the science of writing.
All said and done, structuralism has certain positive contributions also. It is this theory which provides a valuable distinction between the empirical surplus and the underlying structure. It helps us solve some of the social science problems of explanation in a world which is changing, complex and particular.
At a time when prevailing intellectual fashion tends to go in the direction of relativism and idealism, structuralism provides a midway point. To conclude this discussion on structuralism, we can do no better than quote Collins:
Structuralism programme is still valid, although it’s substantive results (except perhaps for aspects of Levi-Strauss’ theory of kinship) are not. Fortunately, there is a sociology which can fill in the spirit of this programme.