Reading Reaction on Structuralism and Power Essay

The first text, “structure, sign and play”, was written by Jacques Derrida. In his text Derrida seems to discuss structuralism by arguing that there it is no longer unthinkable to think of structure as one that has no center. He argues that there is no longer a center to culture, as would be seen through a fixed frame which would act as the center presence within it. In example, during the medieval period, God would have been seen as the center since every aspect of society was referred to God and thus all actions, customs and beliefs reflected back to God.

The second text by Michel Foucault, “Panopticism”, discussed Bentham’s Panopticon which was a form of arrangement of cells in dungeons and prisons. This type of prison was seen as the perfect way of building one and is compared to how society should be seen. Bentham perceived power as something that should be visible and unverifiable; this would allow for a sense of consciousness regarding the center which would then assure for a good function of power.

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The power was thus acted out on this invisible omnipresence; everybody would follow it even if they couldn’t see it because they knew it was there watching over them. The third text, “Structure and the Habitus”, by Pierre Bourdieu, describes the Habitus which refers to the basic but important aspects of a society that are acquired on a daily basis through everyday life actions and events. He argues that Habitus is created through a social rather than an individual process and that this leads to patterns.

He believes that people’s thoughts are not the result of complete freedom of thought without any center but also that we aren’t puppets of said Habitus, completely controlled and dependant of it. He perceives the Habitus as being what creates the common sense in society and thus in how the society works and is structured accordingly to what is deemed appropriate and what isn’t. Derrida seems to disagree with Foucault; he believes that there is no need for a center or presence in society that has power over everyone and every aspect of that society.

Foucault on the other hand, This could be how he perceives society and its structure; the best way to have a functioning society is to have a Panopticon within society; this type of “Big Brother” that you can’t see but that sees everything allows for society to come into order by itself; this center has an important power on the people to act as is expected and perceived as being good in accordance to the center. I ould believe that Foucault and Bourdieu could be distinguished seeing as Foucault sees power as being omnipresent and ever important, while Bourdieu perceives power as a culturally created thing that is reassured, in a way, by the Habitus that is present in a society. Bourdieu sees Habitus as something that is created unconsciously. He would thus probably disagree with Foucault’s idea that a “big Brother” or all-seeing-eye actually allows for a functioning society as he sees no necessary conscious center needed to create this Habitus which influences the structure of society.

While Foucault’s description of the Panopticon seems to perceive society as one that needs to be managed in a way under a greater power, Bourdieu would probably believe that while Derrida holds some truth in the idea that there is no need for a center in society, there is still this Habitus that acts as some sort of center, influencing the function of the structure.

If I was to give an opinion on the three different opinions, I would probably have to agree with Pierre Bourdieu on the basis of his idea of Habitus. I think there is much to be criticized about Foucault’s use of the panepticon and the idea that society best functions when it always reacts seemingly in fear of this omnipresence.

On the other hand, I would probably not go as far as to agree with Derrida that a center in society is irrelevant and a thing of the past seeing as many people still practice various religions which would thus mean that their actions are results and impacted by the idea of the omnipresent that is always watching what they do. I would thus agree more so with Bourdieu, as everyone has certain Habitus that influence them and thus their society, whether there be an omnipresent center or simply a culturally influenced and perceived idea of the right and wrong in society.

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