Difference Between Poststructuralism and Postmodernism

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Postmodernism and poststructuralism both describe theoretical movements in the late 20th century that focused on ideological structures of society and personal identity. Postmodernism is more associated with art and literature, such as Terry Gilliams’ postmodern film “Brazil” or Don DeLillo’s postmodern novel “White Noise.” Poststructuralism, on the other hand, is more associated with theory and philosophy, specifically the works of French theorists Michael Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Poststructuralism is based on the critical evaluation of texts, otherwise known as deconstructive theory, to expose cultural biases in the structure of language.

The Self in Relation to the World

  • The difference between postmodernism and poststructuralism can be seen in how the two schools of thought view the self in relation to the world. In postmodernism, the concept of self is abandoned. The individual becomes fragmented in a crowded, noisy world of endless data and competing ideas. The postmodern individual lets go of selfhood and engages in “play,” or the enjoyment of aesthetic experience itself to combat boredom. In poststructuralism, the critical self becomes more integrated with the world by accepting inherent contradictions in society -- that is, by resisting ideology and only one mode of identity. This poststructuralist self never escapes the structures of society but rather encompasses all possibilities in a new awareness of diversity and interconnectedness.

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