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Structuralism

Structuralism as a school of thought emphasizes the view that society is prior to individuals. It employs the nature of social interaction as patterned behaviour and uses it as a tool in all sociological analysis. Claude Levi-Strauss in his analysis of myth used this method by providing necessary analysis. The elements which are basic to human mind and universally applicable determine the possible varieties of social structure.

Marxist sociologist Louis Althusser has adopted a structuralist framework in explaining social phenomena by referring to the structure of mode of production. He criticised Berger and Luckman in their view that the dialectical processes of human interaction in which meaning given by individuals when institutionalized becomes social structure. Instead he argued that the human agency is only the agents of the structure of social relation. It is the social relations which should form the basis of analysing the social structure.

Anthony Giddens used the term struturation to express mutual dependency of human agency and social structure. Social structure should be viewed as associated with social action. Social institutions as organized patterns of social behaviour are proposed as the elements of social structure by the functionalists.

Karl Marx analysed how social relations are structured to sustain inequalities in the society. Marx used the concept of structure to denote the distribution of resources. Thus structure is the symbolic, material and political resources that the actors employ in their interactions and produce the structure of their social relations. Marx used the concept of dialectics in the interaction process which in turn tend to change and transform the nature of social relations thereby changing the social structure.