F. Dosse History of Structuralism Part 5

History of Structuralism
Volume 2: The Sign Sets, 1967-Present
Francois Dosse

Part V

Time, Space> the Dialogic

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Thirty-nine Clio in Exile

Structuralism temporarily orphaned Clio, the muse of history, so as to break with classical philosophy and its essentially historical and etymological preoccupations. When synchrony was given priority, it corresponded to a search for language's inner logic, especially since Saussure's work had furthered linguistic description and eventually helped to rekindle interest in living, spoken languages. Until then, linguists had worked on historically verifiable written texts of dead languages, which is to say on states of language that could be situated within comparative, diachronic studies.

This historical uprooting was the price linguistics was forced to pay to become a method able to deal with contemporary European vernaculars, dialects, regional languages, and other spoken languages of the colonized world, and in particular of Africa. The radical, productive break later became a model for establishing the scientificity of the social sciences.

As the twentieth century opened and turned away from the his-toricism of the nineteenth century, a real crisis in thinking about time occurred. Various disciplines studying man were swept along by this crisis. This was all the more true in that the upheavals of twentieth-century history reinforced the withdrawal from historicity, which was further encouraged by disillusionment with world events, a disillusionment that deepened at each stage.

The End of History?

Science replaced the philosophy of history as the measure of modernity, with the double play of the natural and the social sciences. Some believed that Hegel's analysis and pronouncement of the end of history had been realized. "That didn't mean that history had stopped, but that we had entered into the long process of the end of history, which could last for millenia."1 Taking immobile time unfolding within an infinite present as a measure, structuralism simply expressed this state of historical weightlessness, beyond its creation of a method better suited to synchrony than to diachrony. Thus it was natural that linguistic structuralism met with such a resounding response in speculative structuralism, for, alongside all the disciplines of the social sciences, it implicated philosophical thinking. We might see a relationship between a form of thought that preferred invariants and a society in which rupture no longer belonged to a possible, or even desirable, future. "I don't see what else could happen other than what the French Revolution and German idealism called for: equality and fraternity for all men on earth."? All of the events of the twentieth century seemed to belong to this heritage, without contributing anything significantly new to these founding principles. The century offered little beyond a deluge of cataclysms that ever more deeply fissured the rational optimism incarnated in nineteenth-century history, and destroyed all teleology, whether conservative or revolutionary.

It was no longer possible to believe that the historical process could be axiologically oriented. Given the traumas of the twentieth century, structuralist thinking generated no teleology of decadence with which to replace nineteenth-century faith in progress. Knowledge no longer justified any sense of history for those structuralists who looked to Spinoza on this point, since he had refused any idea of meaning in history. "Althusser's reasons for admiring Spinoza seem excellent to me. The greatest reason for being a Spinozist was that there is no meaning in history."3 Levi-Strauss discernibly negated historicity and felt that it progressively degenerated in the ongoing erosion of the true links and intermediary networks of social life.

This political and heuristically generated crisis of history nourished a current of thinking that favored stability, immutability, the search for invariants, and the rapid evolution beyond what initially seemed to be a simple analytical method about the vision of the world.

History was frozen in a structural crystal in the early days of structuralism. But as it evolved, having radically eliminated the meaning of history for the fixedness of its object, history was taken into account, but only to better deconstruct it from within. This was Foucault's objective, from a Nietzschean perspective, and Derrida's, from a Heideg-gerian point of view. For Levi-Strauss in anthropology and Piaget in psychology, structuralism was an instrument of emancipation from philosophy, a globalizing discourse that diluted the singularity and autonomy of their own fields of scientific experimentation. But philosophers quickly caught up with them, responding to the challenge in order to recuperate their program by changing their epistemological positions and making them into a philosophy. Seen until then as the field of possibilities, history was experienced as the closure if not the slow forgetting of Being, in a Heideggerian perspective.

The Comtism of the Social Sciences

Clio bowed to the ambitions of the social sciences to be a middle-ground discourse between the humanities and the natural sciences. They thus followed in Auguste Comte's path, as forerunners of a new positive era for which progress, philosophically speaking, meant only the progress of order. Consequently, any element of disorder that might disturb balances elicited mistrust. The cold society thus incarnated the ideal object, just as myth, by definition, could not be modified. Of course, for Levi-Strauss, this reference to the opposition between cold and warm-or traditional and modern-societies had provoked many a misunderstanding. "These are notions without any heuristic value. There is a lot of cold in the warm and warm in the cold, in all places and at all times. In the second place, these properties are not intrinsic to societies but were distinctions referring to the manner in which these societies conceive of themselves."4 Yetthe structure being sought was indeed this canonical hierarchization that immobilized time, suspending its movement in its reproduction.

Caught between mirror and smoke, in Henri Atlan's expression, the social sciences chose the mirror-structure-rather than smoke, or nonstructure. Like biologists caught between the ghost and the corpse in their microscopic study of living cells, the sciences of man chose to study a dead and dissected body, whereas man really was closer to a moving and ungraspable ghost. "There is a delightful expression by

George Steiner, 'A tree has roots, man has legs.' There's the whole problem in a nutshell."5

And yet, the structural object of predilection was determined by small and hermetic societies like the Bororos, eternally frozen according to Levi-Strauss's description, having set a very complicated machinery into motion to prevent change, rejecting all forms of het-eronomy, and living in utter independence. This type of society incon-trovertibly served as a paradigm to define the anthropological approach, and at the same time enabled a whole generation to abandon Marxist teleology.

This vision of a reposed time fully corresponded with the linguistic rejection of diachrony in favor of synchrony. "I denied history. From the moment you start dealing with synchronic structures, that's what dominates."6 Antihistoricism was thus a fundamental part of the structural paradigm, which rejoined Karl Popper's remarks along other paths ("Our approach seeks to refute historicism")," Popper also proposed freeing the social sciences from historical tutelage by denying any possibility of theoretical history.

This negation could destabilize a certain number of genetic and somewhat mechanical causalities because it opened up the complex synchronic organizations and made it possible to go beyond simple description. In this respect, nineteenth-century historicism was beneficial, so long as the sense of movement and mobility of structure were recuperated, after the break.

Lacanian Antihistoricism

Freud, as he was revisited by Lacan, was somewhat relieved of his historical dimension in order to ensure that psychoanalysis be elevated to the ranks of a science. For Lacan, history was "this thing that 1 detest for the best reasons."! Yet, in 1945 he had undertaken to consider history while still influenced by Kojeve's Hegel-inspired teaching. The Ecrits were marked by this thinking, as, for example, in Lacan's 1945 article "Logical Time and of the Assertion of Anticipated Certitude."

Lacan restored time's essential value using the fable of the three prisoners. A prison director decides to have three prize prisoners plead before him. He will free the most logical prisoner. Holding fivedisks-three white and two black-the prison director places one disk on each of the prisoners' backs. The first prisoner to logically deduce the color of the disk on his back would be freed. Lacan compared the logi-cal hypotheses that the prisoners could make, and observed the prevalence of "the temporal rather than the spatial structure of the logical process."? In a very Hegelian manner, Lacan saw that time was structured in three successive modulated moments: a time for looking, a time for understanding, and the moment for concluding. Temporality was decisive here in two ways. First, as the necessary succession of moments:

Looking is quickly over, as Lacan says, it's synchronic, that's the structure. The second moment is the one that in Aristotle corresponds to deliberation, and already allows for considering the other moments, without it being the time of the others. In order to come to a decision, there must be a break, an anticipated decision, since it is urgentand the others are there.t?

Next, temporality is present as the determining cause of the urgency of the subject's precipitated action since he must anticipate his certainty, "because of the temporal tension for which he is subjectively responsible." 11

Going quickly from Hegel to Heidegger and from dialectics to phonology, reinforced by Levi-Straussian structuralism, Lacan rejected his earlier position on historicity. Above all, he refused to acknowledge that history had any kind of meaning whatsoever. This was paradoxical, to say the least, for an analyst whose object of study, the unconscious, "implies history." 12 As a test of reality, analytic practice is shot through with historicity and dates certain events as meaningful for the subject. The structure of the historical world as Lacan conceived it was defined by. four existential modes or discourses whose logic implied a revolution, in the literal sense of the word. Yet these discourses were essentially extracted from their contexts. The discourse of the Master was metaphysical, and by definition had no history. Hysterical discourse, or the discourse of science, considered history to be an illusion. University discourse, philosophical or herme-neutic discourse, "again denied history by considering that at the beginning there was fullness, at best reproduced each time by a great author, and at worst lost in an irreversible decadence."13 Only the fourth, analytic discourse, could give voice to the unconscious. It could be historical as an act, but on the condition that it submit "the discourses which it sets to the synchrony of the spoken word."14 It referred only to a pure, dehistoricized Signifier.

If there is any temporality at all in Lacan, it has more to do with a tragic, Heideggerian notion of historicity of the loss of the object, as an always more profound loss of Being in being, or of the Subject of desire with respect to the first Signifier, This temporality has less to do with the particular history of the subject than with an original lack, specific to the human species, an unconscious of language or of topo-logical figures whose reality is transindividual. This was how Lacan parted ways from Levi-Strauss's initial position on mental structures as disincarnated combinations. Such a position, of course, made it possible to reject a certain psychologism and to more solidly establish the bases of psychoanalysis, so long as the future was open. However, the Lacanian subject, enclosed within its structure, could hope for little more in the future than the simple repetition of its past in a syn-chronic universe. "There is an empty and purely abstract time, without any efficacity."15

Once a fervent Lacanian, Elisabeth Roudinesco defected from Lacan partly because of his denial of history. The model of the four circular discourses made it possible "to prevent the historicization of Lacan's ideas, presented as a whole."16 Dehistoricization made the return to Freud possible starting from Lacan's ideas. Lacanians could invert the march of history by looking for the theory of the Signifier or the Real/Symbolic/Imaginary trilogy in Freud. In her History of Psychoanalysis, Elisabeth Roudinesco reacted against this tendency to consider psychoanalysis outside of its context, which made it possible to understand how, in I936, Lacan was not the same Lacan as he was in I950 or in I970. The reader could also better situate the flow of paradigms from one discipline to another, and evaluate the contribution of concepts presented as atemporal once the subject-Lacan became the privileged site of passage.

Rene Major disclosed the very circumstantial and unspoken events, which referred quite precisely to the lived experience of Freudian thinking and to Lacan's position in the history of psychoanalysis. He did this by arguing for an analogy between The Seminar on the Purloined Letter (I955) and The Direction of the Cure (I953). In both cases, Lacan excluded, or neutralized, the narrator's position, about which Derrida had already developed his critique in "The Truth Factor" (1975)!7

Just as Lacan put the interpreter in Dupin's position in The Purloined Letter, he put the analyst in a position of exteriority in The Direction of the Cure. On the one hand, Major considered that Lacan was led in fact to identify with one of the protagonists of Poe's tale, and that no domination was possible from whatever position: "1 tried to show that the interpreter could only successively interpret the different places, by identifying with each of the protagonists and by unidentifying with himself.... 1 spoke about the dislocation of the tale, and of the narrator's or the interpreter's position."18

Major reintroduced the historical context that had been so important for working out the theory.!? Lacan's structuralism had been used to veil the real issues underlying the letter's circulation. But at the same time as it veiled it also unveiled the analogy that Major's decon-struction of Lacan's text brought to light when he argued that something made it possible for Dupin to find the letter despite everything. The key was the women between him and the minister D, just as there was a woman in the commentary on Freud's work between Lacan and Nacht in the fifties-Marie Bonaparte, officially designated as the recipient of the Freudian letter and the only person in France to interpret his work. "The analogy between the events of real life, a series of lectures en abime, and a theory about the analytic cure is perhaps the most 'analogical' thinking about Edgar Poe's writing and the three tales. "20

Major thus demonstrated that deconstruction could recuperate what the structural grid had eliminated. He brought out the hidden signified beneath the resisting bar that separated it from the signifying chain, by historicizing the textual approach. What Lacan in fact wanted to signify when he said that the letter-even intercepted-always reached its destination was that Freudian teaching could rise from the ashes that were suffocating it, which is to say from under Marie Bonaparte's mortifying authority.

ANonteleological Historicity

History became necessary, but not nineteenth-century historicism since it could no longer be teleological after the structural rupture, and had to maintain its universalism. Structuralism had clearly showed the limits of historicism and the impossibility of thinking old categories in the old ways. Recognizing alterity made it possible to relativize scientific knowledge and to situate it historically. But in order to avoid all pure relativism, reality still needed to be anchored in order to imagine a scientific approach, which meant the return of the referent.

Consequently, Sylvain Auroux defined the task of the historical epistemology of the sciences of language as that of establishing "a true theory of correct data. "21 This would not be successive descriptions, but a reconstruction of complex networks of hypotheses and the definition of propositions with some truth value, assignable to specific disciplines. A synchronic study of systems and their connections was quite clearly going to be the first stage in a historicized form of struc-turalized thinking: "Studying systems seems to be a forerunner to the study of their transformations. As long as we limit ourselves to this, however, we will not have any very exact ideas about the production of knowledge. "22 These two moments made it possible to avoid the false alternative of teleological continuity and relativist discontinuity.

The static aspect of early structuralism and neostructuralist discontinuity could also be countered by preserving the contributions of the structural method and endogenous and exogenous logics, which worked at transforming systems and would help create something new, thanks to a qualitative leap, while preserving a good part of the old system in the new organization. Patrick Tort argued for this position in his critique of Classificatory Reason,23 when he examined scientific evolution, the inherent ruptures of its innovations, and the necessary connection with external phenomena that call equilibriums into question.

Tort argued for a heuristic model that could restore historical dynamism, claiming that the issue was central and linked with various antagonistic strategies. Unlike Foucault, who saw immobile discursive anchors, Tort thus located periods of discursive crises that revealed internal incompatibilities and tensions belonging to the contradictions of discursive units invested in external issues: "Agassiz's crisis of fix-ism, the crisis of distinction in the 'human reign' in De Quatrefages, a 'transformationist' subversion of the grand taxonomical project in Adanson's 'natural method,' the external conflict and internal inconsistencies in Comte's and Spencer's scientific classifications, the conflict of the Hegelian and Darwinian models in Schleicher's linguistic evolutionism ... "24

From Suspended Time to Time Regained History, seen from this point of view, could not be reduced to the role of simple external contingency, as Levi-Strauss had done when he suggested that the transition from mythology to philosophy in Greece

could have happened anywhere, and was therefore simply the result of a fortuitous miracle. jean-Pierre Vernant's school of anthropology clearly demonstrated, on the contrary, that this break shed light on the homologies between the birth of philosophical discourse and the formation of the world of the city of equals, where a civic norm broke radically with the gentilic tradition. Negating history or reducing it to pure contingency therefore missed some of the essential coherence of different levels. And yet, this negation was necessary, as Maurice Godelier saw it, for breaking with nineteenth-century historicism and the search for origins-ofthe family, of the state, of property. The trap had to be broken out of: "We cannot put genesis before structure. The classical scientific method begins by studying the structure of objects before understanding their origins."25 This was only the beginning of an approach that had to understand the creative and innovative capacity of change as well as the adaptations that often served to keep the structure in place. For things to remain the same and the structure to repeat itself, constant change was necessary. Mathematicians, physicists, and biologists increasingly integrated temporal variability into their analyses and equations, as we have seen. Today, the high point of knowledge in the United States is represented by the most refined mathematical-logical-symbolic heavy informatics bases known as chaosology, the decoding of chaos seen as the principal figure of the universe. A dynamic interpretation of things is tending to replace the structural static vision, something Georges Balandier congratulated himself on since he had always argued for dynamic anthropology and sociology.P It is in fact symptomatic to read in Philippe Kourilsky, a biologist, something which could have applied just as easily to recent changes in the social sciences: "The fact is that today molecular biology uses static representations above all. I think they will give way to dynamic representations. "27

Some, such as Cerard Genette, saw history's exclusion from structuralism in the social sciences and humanities in the seventies as "temporarily putting things in parentheses, a methodical suspension. "28 Genette favored the approach which considered historicity without arguing for a return to traditional historicism. He distinguished the history of literature as the simple succession of monographs, and literary history as Gustave Lanson had defined it at the turn of the century: restoring the social conditions of literary production and reception. Although this program was never realized, it was staunchly defended later on by Lucien Febvre m 1941, and then by Roland Barthes in 1960.

A third form of literary history studied works as historical documents that illustrated period sensibilities. Lucien Goldmann is the best-known practitioner of this type of literary history. Gerard Genette, however, criticized its very classical notion of reflection and extra-literariness. He preferred another form of historicity that "would have literature as its primary and ultimate object: a history of literature taken in and for itself."29 The work and the author were both rejected as being too singular; this kind of history was not conceived of as a science of successive changes but as a science of transformations. Genette thus remained a structuralist by considering the object of predilection for this new history of literature to be variations of forms: rhetorical codes, narrative techniques, and poetic structures. "This history essentially still needs to be written."30

This meant going beyond the incompatibility of synchronic and diachronic analyses. Genette defended "structural history" as the only true history. It was only later that its analysis could be meaningfully correlated with general history.


A Topo-Logic

The gap between structuralism and history offered the possibility of undertaking synchronic studies. Throughout the period, there were clearly big changes afoot, from an initial preference for the dialectic of temporalities, the search for origins, to a spatial logic with its multiple games of positions. It became increasingly important to delineate the limits of possible spatial relationships.

The abundance of geographical terminology for referring to inside, outside, horizons, limits, boundaries, and borders spawned a whole quasi-theatrical scenography that Roland Barthes used magnificently in analyzing Racinian theater.' But the structuralist landscape was not a pale copy of the geographer's. By definition, it was void of content and meaning. According to Levi-Strauss, this landscape concerned nothing more than the position of the elements coming together to compose its structure. Such a purely abstract universe, empty of concrete sites, was in fact "properly structural, which is to say, topological."2

jacques Lacan, more so than Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, and Claude Levi-Strauss, adopted the combinations of geographical discourse when he combined spatial logics into a more mathematical logic inspired by Frege. Lacan aspired to a psychoanalytic science, by manipulating the Mobius strip, for example, or by using differential topography. He was influenced by that branch of mathematics, growing out of Riesmann's work, that sought to establish notions of limits and continuities by studying the properties of invariable geometric figures.

The Place of the Lack

Structuralist topology cut the nerves of transcendent spatial contents cold. A logic of ties and their possible combinations replaced them and gutted structural elements of any specific meaning, except as the product of the interplay of combinations. Structuralism had imposed a change; from observation the issue had become the conditions that made observation possible. What indeed were the conditions of this possibility whose meaningful logic had to be reconstructed without ever have been visible or reducible to a particular object? Structure was this lack of being, this gaping hole or Thing, this original Signifier, this ever invisible degree zero, this Being that eludes being, a simple virtuality. Substituting a structural Kantian noumenality for phenorne-nality, structuralism looked for its logic not in the vertical depths of an impossible genesis, but in the horizontality of the many possibilities organized by a certain number of operators of generalized exchange: phonemes, incest taboos, the objet petit a. This was the space wherein structural logic was constructed, yet "spacing means nothing, nothing which is, no present to set at a distance; it is the index of an irreducible outside and, at the time time, the index of a movement, a shift indicated by an irreducible alterity," 3

Structuralism's space was the space of the outside, of an elsewhere irreducible to its realization, a womb to be differentiated; only its secondary effects could be perceived. We can thus understand the appeal of the unconscious, in its linguistic, anthropological, and psychoanalytical versions, during the structuralist heyday. Conceived in its original non differentiation, the unconscious was the basis from which structural logics unfolded. The quest for structural causality was legitimated in Althusser, metonymic causality in jacques-Alain Miller, and the causality of a binary system of differences in jakobson or Levi-Strauss. "Structures are unconscious."4 This ungraspable lack, this Derridean difference, was suddenly catapulted to the center of structural space.

As we have seen, "there is no structuralism without this degree zero,"5 whether it be the degree zero of phonology, kinship, myth, or the symbolic. Structural analysis started with this zero position and, because it never identified itself with any particular identity, conditioned the very possibility of the unfolding of structuralism's serial logic.

From this initial void would develop a conception of space with its limits, folds, and connections, linking structure and its realization no longer as the transition from one structure to another, or from one moment to another. "From now on, we can only think in the void of vanished man. For this void neither emphasizes nor describes a lack to be filled. It is no more and no less than the unfolding of a space in which, finally, it once more becomes possible to think."6 From this space voided of all initial content, the search for original meaning has no pertinence whatsoever. What remains are the infinite logics of the sign.

Foucauldian Geology: A Visual Art

For the first issue of Yves Lacoste's geography journal, Herodote, Michel Foucault was invited to answer the questions of the editorial board's geographers. This was not insignificant. We can appreciate the strategic interest of a discipline often presented as the degree zero of thought in aligning Foucault's authority with it. But the encounter happened above all because geographiciry, in the largest sense of the term, was recognized in Foucault's work. Certain of his major concepts extended the inquiry to geopolitics. Herodote observed the profusion of spatial metaphors in Foucault's work (positions, shifts, site, field), as well as his use of specifically geographical terms (territory, domain, horizon, archipelago, native soil, geopolitics, region, landscape), and expressed surprise that, in referring to a cultural area, Foucault did not really specifically justify or determine these.

For fear of being eo-opted, Foucault was initially somewhat defensive. He emphasized that the concepts in question had more to do with legal-political, economic-legal, and military spheres, but he willingly acknowledged that his work was quite influenced by spatial metaphors. "I have been sufficiently criticized for these spatial obsessions, and indeed, I have been obsessed by them."? Foucault explained that he was part of the current protest against the primacy of time because it referred to individual consciousness, whereas spatial terms made it possible to eliminate the subject and look at power relationships without mentioning intentionality. The analysis could focus on the tangible effects of power in discursive space.

A journal like Herodote, which wanted to promote geopolitics, ignored until then by geographers, could only congratulate itself that a philosopher like Foucault would do more than simply use geographical concepts as metaphors, and instead use them as real tools-his use of Bentham's Panopticon as a social model in Discipline and Punish, for example: "You even mention a 'geopolitical imagination' of the carceral city, in your conclusion."8 Foucault had always emphasized the dialectic of knowledge and power based on notions of strategies and tactics. The meeting with geographers who emphasized that geography "is used first of all for making war" could only be fruitful, and disciplinary boundaries fell away once again when Foucault agreed. "1 realize that the problems you raise with respect to geography are essential for me.___Geography should be at the center of what 1 am

dealing with."?

By privileging observation, Foucault resembled a geologist who was attentive to discerning discordances, lacunae, and differences between the stratigraphic levels, analyzed beginning with horizontal cuts. The foundations of Foucauldian archaeology seemed to lie in discursive geology, for just as a geologist studies how topography is organized, Foucault considered the conditions that made his objects of study possible. Thus, the clinic, the prison, madness, and sexuality were not objects whose historicity and organization had to be laid out, but were means for understanding the conditions allowing these objects to be conceptualized, not by using some transcendental depth, but by questioning the way in which visible and invisible were initially established, "at the level of language."10 Foucault elucidated the different distributions of the relationship between the signifier and the signified.

Medicine, as the interplay of space and observation, shifted its interest from symptoms to organs. "Clinical experience arms itself to explore a new space: the tangible space of bodies."l1 Bichat, and the radical transformation of methods of medical observation, reversed the forms of visibility. "What was fundamentally invisible suddenly became clearly visible. "12 Clinical anatomy was born, and illness was detached from the metaphysics of evil. This was still the interplay of visible and invisible, which fundamentally determined spatial organization in the penitentiary, which became a social model for all disciplinary practices. Prisons were born of this concern for scrutinizing social space imagined as transparent. Disciplinary power was imposed "on those whom it subjects to the principle of obligatory visibility."13

Where under the ancien regime, the greatest degree of individualization and visibility were located at the heights of power (the king embodied his own power, as it were, by providing the spectacle of putting a condemned man to death), the modern era configured things differently: individualization and visibility were descending. Power became functional as it became anonymous and invisible. The Panopticon let the prison keeper see everything from the central tower without being seen, and therefore had many applications. "It is a type of implantation of bodies in space."14 Foucault had already used Las Meninas in The Order ofThings to demonstrate the importance of looking as well as the infinite reversal of the spectator and the model, of the subject and of the object. Everything happened on the surface of the painting, in a simple game of folding and enfolding shapes within finite space.

A stratigrapher of discursivity and its discontinuities, Foucault also borrowed geological vocabulary. The Order ofThings raised the question of erosion, of layers, shocks, tables, and levels. "We return the breaks to our silent and naively immobile soil, its instability, and its faults. Our soil worries beneath our feet. "15 The very notion of epis-teme, conceived as a vast transversal anchor that could only shift rather than evolve beneath the quakes, or give way to another layer that would superpose itself on the first and become sediment, found its parallel in the geologist's approach. Moreover, we might recall that in Tristes Tropiques Levi-Strauss had written that his "three mistresses" were Marx, Freud, and geology. For Foucault, however, there was no question of naturalizing culture, but of substituting a horizontal, synchronic, spatial orientation for a genetic, historical approach.

Inside and Outside

The interplay of inside and outside and the combination of the various spatial sites were also an issue for Jean-Pierre Vernant. Vernant defined Greek space as a tension between two poles: Hestia, inside, the enclosure of the human group on itself, and Hermes, outside, mobility, and receptivity. This spatial bipolarity also determined masculine/ feminine roles and made it possible to conceive of the division of labor along these two poles. Hestia represented autarkic, endogamous values, and, "regarding economic activities, women represent thesauriza-tion and men represent acquisition."16

Racinian anthropology, as Roland Barthes defined it, was essentially spatial. In Racinian theater, Barthes saw a topographical logic articulated around a center, the periphery, and an offstage, or outside. Historical space was offstage, whereas the tragedy unfolded in visible space. "The Outside ... includes three spaces: death, flight, and the Event." 17 The tragic unities of time and space were spatially limited by the very contours of what the spectators could see directly of the tragedy. Even the definition of the tragic hero was to be enclosed in this scenic space: "He who cannot leave without dying: his limit is his privilege, and captivity his distinction." 18

Historical events happened backstage, outside. They were felt onstage through language. Held at a distance, they lost their effect, allowing the inexorable tragic logic of the battle between the shadows and the light to be played out in an essentially spatial framework. "The tragic conflict is a spatial crisis." 19 This closure made the weight of history relative, and time immobile. Temporality could only be grasped in a repetition compulsion, for no dialectic can find a way out of the tragic universe, understood in this spatial closure. For Barthes, tragedy was an antimythic scenography, and tended to reduce all mythic mediation in order to maintain the brutal dimension of the conflict.

Similarly, Barthes was fascinated by the spatial dimension of Robbe-Grillet's writing where vision alone engendered aesthetics. "Robbe-Grillet's writing gives no alibi and has neither depth nor breadth: it remains on the surface of its object."2o Vision alone was real for Robbe-Grillet, who adopted the Heideggerian distinction between the "being there," which was fundamental, and the "being something," which was to disappear. His objects could only exist as "spatial and situational, but in no case analogical."21 The New Novel was based on the surface of things so as to better repress the idea of interiority, and to let the logic of the spatial circulation of objects better develop.

Levi-Strauss had already given this topo-logic a certain priority and it was widely used in structuralist work. Elementary kinship structures were inscribed in the spatial layout of primitive societies, and when Levi-Strauss looked at and re situated the village organization of the Bororo in Tristes Tropiques, he was especially attentive to the highly elaborate village organization that divided the population along both sides of a diameter splitting it between the Cera and the Tugare. This division determined kinship relationships since an individual always belonged to the same moiety as his mother and could only marry a member of the other moiety. "If my mother is Cera then I will be Cera and my wife will be Tugare. "22 Everything was organized along the lines of this binary structure in the Bororo population.

Levi-Strauss's approach to mythology involved the same closure. The puzzle metaphor-s used for the meaning of this long investigation in Mythologiques expressed this spatial priority. Whatever the cultural area being examined, Levi-Strauss considered that myths expressed the same thing, which is what he meant when he said that "the mythological earth is round. "24 Indeed, he argued for a double originary unity to be found amid the diversity of social communities: the unity of the system and that of the message.

The Neuronal Topos

The prevalence Levi-Strauss gave to transversal, synchronic slices and topoi corresponded to his determination to naturalize culture. Structuralism's main ambition lay essentially in this concern for reconciling the sensible and the intelligible, which became progressively dissociated as Western thinking evolved. By refusing this divorce, Levi-Strauss eventually had to break with philosophy, his first discipline, and look to anthropology for the means to demonstrate the arbitrariness of this division of the world. He set himself on the nature/culture cusp. "Structuralism ... reconciles the physical and the moral, nature and man, the world and the spirit. "25

This was the boundary-this passage between nature and culture-upon which Levi-Strauss saw the emergence of a binary logic coinciding with the first forms of symbolization. Totemism expressed this transition, and for Levi-Strauss the totemic use of natural species-animal as well as vegetable--expressed elaborate choices as a function of their ability to be thought-provoking. He even went so far as to hypothesize a "structural homology between human thought in action and the human action to which it applies itself. "26 This homology made it possible to establish structuralism.

Borne along by the recent evolution of the natural sciences and by the progress of the cognitive sciences, Levi-Strauss moved closer and closer to naturalizing the structural grid. Today, he considers the brain's internal topology to hold the key. Biology would seem to respond to the enigma raised by the rise of the social sciences, and to resolve the tension running through all of Levi-Strauss's work, between a structural method as a reading grid superimposed on the world, and the hoped-for perspective of finally understanding the structural laws of nature. By a strange ruse of reason, Levi-Straussian structuralism, with its initial program of denaturalizing culture and of taking its distance from physical anthropology, reverses itself, by naturalizing culture, whose ultimate key would belong to the neuronal topos.


For a Dialogic

The subject, the repressed of structuralism, made a striking comeback. For twenty years, it had seemed totally dispensable, caught between divinity and dissolution. Strung between independence and the networks of dependency that conditioned it, this subject could not be easily reintegrated into a complex field of thinking. Confronted with the false alternative of an omnipotent or dead subject long presented as utterly insurmountable, a whole branch of contemporary thinking developed around the dialogic paradigm. Dialogics offered a real path of freedom as both a social project and a productive social science paradigm.

From Intertextuality to the Dialogic

We recall that Julia Kristeva and Tzvetan Todorov had already used Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the dialogic in literary criticism, and had argued for the priority of intertextuality and a dialogue among texts. Thanks to this new orientation, the author, initially deemed irrelevant, slowly came back to life. Normalizing and objectifying the literary creator, who had become little more than a simple object of procedures and methods, had ultimately obscured a fundamental dimension of the writer as a subject engaged in a process of social communication, without which his work was meaningless.

In the early eighties, Todorov's critical work was directly inspired by Bakhtin. He saw the dialogic as a fundamental intermediary between an initial phase of analysis that consisted primarily in establishing the givens, and a final phase establishing a correlation with sociological and psychological mechanisms. Between these two "is located the most specific and most important activity of the social science critic and researcher, which is interpretation as dialogue."!

Not only did dialogics offer a new method of literary criticism that replaced an exclusive concern for writing procedures, but it also focused on human freedom and its exercise through interpretation, essential for determining the specificity of the social sciences with respect to the natural sciences. Amid the polyphony of voices-author, reader, and critic-this freedom could be exercised not by speaking about works, "but with them."?

Gerard Genette also generated a dialogue with his notion of trans-textuality, which assumed a correlation between the text and the broad cultural context that encompasses it, contiguously and diachronously. The text is then nourished by all the texts that preceded it. There was a rather quick transition between an approach that looked for the traces of intertextual effects to a more suggestive, intuitive approach in which the reader brought his or her own questions and sentiments to the reading. Genette's most recent work still displays this tension; he does not renounce the structural program but gives it a new, dia-logical thrust.

This initially literary notion of the dialogic had other applications, in other fields. In linguistics, the approach was appropriated by the French pragmatic school, modeled on the Anglo-Saxon. With it, a philosophy of language, which had until then been ignored, could develop in France. Francis jacques, for example, hoped to renew the notion of dialogue, a notion as old as philosophy itself, since Plato had already exalted the use of teaching in philosophy.t Far from resurrecting an approach that would ignore the progress of contemporary thought, however, Jacques began with polycentrism, and the definitive questioning of any invariable category of universality, which the experience of difference and incommensurability had belied. But he criticized the postmodern exaltation of detached archipelagos, which could only lead to new gilded cages, and suggested that "the idea of a linguistic and communicational rationality for an era that has lost the conviction of a single logos"4 be substituted for them.

Along more specifically linguistic lines, Claude Hagege, a disciple of Benveniste, Jakobson, and Martinet, and professor at the College de France, defined his theoretical project as "an interactive concept that we shall call dialogal."5 According to Hagege, the formalists had found linguistics fascinating to the point of eliminating history and society and of transforming humanity into a meaningless abstraction. He hoped that dialogal man would liberate linguistics from its her-meticism, something he considered necessary: "An ever-renewed project of a dialectic of constraints with as yet unforeseen future forms and freedoms whose importance will depend on its response to the challenges it encounters, dialogal man suggests by his very nature some points of a discourse that can speak about him as a whole, and not about the masks he dons."6 Hagege discovered the importance of this dialogical dimension of language through his fieldwork: "It came to me from the field. It seemed to me that if we did not put what happened at a gut level in an interdialogal relationship placed at the center of things, we were missing 80 percent of language."? If, according to Hagege, there were universals, they were not so many formal abstractions, which can nonetheless be useful as propitious conditions for the development of linguistics; true universals, as the experience of primitive children shows, are "the dialogal moments."8 Hagege con-textualized the study of language and defended a sociolinguistics that criticized closure, particularly Chomskyan closure, to society.

A linguist was not supposed to discover a natural universal order in any model of competence, as Chomsky had done. He was to become a historian who understood the stages of a language's structure. Not that this return to history implied readopting a theory of reflection. It is worth recalling what Hagege called "the principle of double structuration":? on the one hand, languages that in speaking the world reinvented it by creating categories by abstraction; on the other, languages that organized themselves in their synchrony. This internal phase of structuration "organized languages, at many levels, into networks of solidarity. "10 This double structuration shaped the autonomy of languages as meaning-generated models. "That's what makes them work as conceptual reservoirs of classifying principles. And this is the function that draws an epistemological boundary between linguistics and the natural sciences." 11

Although he was a structuralist, Hagege was a student of Martinet and Benveniste and was skeptical about Saussure's initial division of language and speech as the condition of the scientificity of linguistics. Eliminating contingency and therefore speech let the linguist concentrate on the universals of language. Hagege took issue with the bases of this distinction and its false alternatives. "By too stringently isolating language from speech, as did the classical structuralists who favored the one extreme, and the pragmaticians who favored the other, we misunderstand both the constraints imposed by language and the dialogal relationship that speech establishes."12 The subject was at stake here; what conditioned it and what established its piece of liberty were the two issues requiring an answer. No longer omnipotent, this subject was a forerunner, its construction the product of a dialectic between constraint and freedom binding it to language. Starting from this dialectization between structural necessity and human liberty, which varied according to the moment and the diversity of messages, contextual variation could be established. Intertextuality gave access to this hidden meaning. "The master of penumbral textual encoding, and the master decipherer as well, was the psychosocial forerunner, the determined cryptologist."13 Hagege brought the subject back to a linguistics that carefully preserved what structuralism had gained, and thus made it possible to reconcile the terms of two longstanding antinomies: structure and movement, history and invariability. Social temporality and linguistic temporality were not always coordinated, of course, and we must recall that "variation is inherent in language." 14 The subject and history were both back, and the dialogic offered a paradigm that broke with, but did not reject, the structuralist moment.

The dialogal paradigm was fruitful not only for professional linguists, but for philosophers as well. The current heir to the Frankfurt School, ]iirgen Habermas, professor at the Goethe Institute in Frankfurt, criticized postmodernist theses and their underlying nihilism. Habermas did not regret an omnipotent subject, but described the possible paths of a communicational rationality as the basis for a social theory.t> It was up to the philosopher to find the means of reconstructing social ties, of avoiding the growing dissociation between individual and system, between the control of scientific activities and the democratic will. This was possible if democratic ambitions were rekindled and authentic communication rationally reestablished between members of a society. Reconciling universal reason and democratic ideals required rediscovering the ambitions of the Lumieres and the ideals of the French Revolution, which, for two hundred years, had been drained from German philosophy. Modern thinking was therefore to reconsider a universal morality discovered in mutual cultural and individual understanding and difference, no longer based on an illusory, fully conscious, self-mastering subject. "Norms should also be able to fundamentally gather the rationally motivated consent of all interested parties, under conditions that neutralize any but a cooperative search for truth. "16

The dialogical paradigm could only appeal to Edgar Morin, a French sociologist who was from the first an adversary of structuralism and who was always concerned with constructing a method that would make possible communication between all apparently disparate things. For him communication neither reduced nor unified a common science federating biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Morin considered that reality was not made up of independent bits and pieces, but that all of its complex pieces had to be made to communicate. Dialogics was therefore a particularly appropriate instrument for thinking about this articulation, at the same time as it was a worldview that made it possible to avoid all reductionism. "The universe can be constructed, developed, destroyed, and evolve through this dialogic."17 More than this, Morin considered that dialogics had the advantage of playing on the complementarity of contradictory elements rather than setting them into lethal combat. "This concept came to me so that I could avoid the term 'dialectic!'"! With dialogics, he could pursue his work on contradiction without thinking of how to necessarily go beyond it, using a fractured unity. Morin's initial hypothesis was that unity could flow from duality as the union of two properly different principles.

Rejecting the distinction between the natural sciences and the social sciences, Morin looked for ways to bridge the two in order to understand their articulation. This refusal of compartmentalization and of reductionism with a few formalized variables extracted from reality somewhere between the biological and social sciences were encouraged, during the post-May '68 period, by Morin's participation, at the invitation of Dr. Jacques Robin, in "the group of ten," which included cyberneticians, biologists, and doctors. In 1969, the Salt Institute of Biological Studies invited Morin to the Department for Human Affairs headed by Jacob Bronowski. There, he understood the tremendous social importance of biology. The issue was not to criticize the celebrated dissolution of man in the name of some divinization, but to consider, at a time when the polycentric and complicated world was being moved by disorder and incessant change, how to produce "the humanist inscription in the unfinished process of hominization. "19

Sense and Sign

As Paul Ricoeur has shown,20 the history of thought has always been dominated by the tension and interplay between theories of meaning and sign theories. Already in the Cratylus, Plato had contrasted Her-mogenes, for whom the origin of words was a convention, and Craty-Ius, who believed that that their meaning had to do with some natural link. Both were disciples of Heracleitus.

Structuralism was a reaction against Husserl's phenomenology, in which the use of signs depended on the logics of meaning. This dependency was definitively reversed, and in this respect, structuralism belonged to the old Aristotelian tradition, which had given priority to forms and had won out during the Middle Ages with the development of rhetoric, logic, nominalism, and later, with the grammar of Port-Royal. Chomsky quite explicitly evoked this legacy for his work.

As the structuralist paradigm dissipated, meaning returned with a vengeance. George Steiner's successful Real Presences-l characterized a new era avid for meaning, and ready to definitively turn its back on semiology and new criticism and to rediscover the paths of direct access to the work of art and emotions. This swing revealed the dawn of a new era, but it also threatened an extraordinary regression if this change were to come at the price of negating all earlier work. Although George Steiner clearly voiced the dissatisfaction provoked by so many attempts at formalizing creation and shoving all reference to content and meaning aside in order to better allow the unconscious logics of the sign to unfold, his dreams of a city "from which the critic would be banished,"22 and which would proscribe all commentary on works that suffice by themselves, should give us pause. "The tree dies under the weight of greedy ivy."23

The elitism taking its leave here from the democratic contract that structuralism wanted to bear forth is quite palpable. Steiner preferred to leave the masses to watch television series or play the lottery while an elite savored Aeschylus in the original, in an immediacy that it alone could enjoy. If meaning had to return, and if certain criticisms about the confusion between logical mathematics and art were justified, it is unfortunate to see excessive swings of the pendulum that utterly deny what has preceded.

Only the dialogic relationship between what Paul Ricoeur defined as the explanatory level of meaning, of the internal game of structural textual dependence, and the interpretative level, which by definition remains open to the reference to meaning and to an outside of language, preserves all the important structuralist contributions and keeps criticism from sinking below the waves of the five senses. However, these two levels, semiology and interpretation, as Cerard Genette had already imagined in the sixties, were not mutually exclusive, but were, on the contrary, complementary.

Interpretation or hermeneutics left open the possibility of critical work. New energies were encouraged and manifested themselves each time in intersubjectivity, beyond spatial and temporal distance. Hermeneutics promoted dialogical communication between worlds that refused isolation. Dialogue as a mode of living the universal during an era of relativity, the dialogic as an expression of rationality when fundamentalism was back in force-this social, scientific program should provide an exit from structuralism, without forgetting that structuralism has taught us, once and for all, that communication is never entirely transparent to itself. To forget this would be the best way of preparing Fahrenheit 45 i.


Appendix: List of Interviewees