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Structures can be seen, examined and created, but they can also be ignored, changed and destroyed. Every structuralism that studies structures always emphasises the whole over individual sections (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts), with a crucial role ascribed to the organisation of structures and the functional relationships between their elements (constituent parts). The same principle forms the basis of Hermann Haken’s (1927) synergetics1 and my fractal analysis2 of structures in quantitative linguistics – which, like the majority of structuralist movements, was preceded by Swiss linguist and semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913). However, this approach deliberately highlights the inadequacy and limited applicability of Descartes’s analytic method (Discourse on the Method, 1637).
The French today understand structuralism or post-structuralism primarily as a monumental philosophic movement represented by Michel Foucault (1926–1984), Roland Barthes (1915–1980), Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007), Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995), Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) and others. In Czech circles, structuralism is justifiably often associated with the Prague Linguistic Circle, whose core members were Roman Jakobson (1896–1982), Jan Mukařovský (1891–1975) and Vilém Mathesius (1882–1945). The Prague structuralists’ aesthetics evaluated a work semiotically as a sign whose parts and whole are bearers of meaning.3
Structuralism in Morellet’s and Sýkora’s Structures