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It is important to understand structuralism not only in and for itself but also as a precursor to poststructuralism and ultimately to postmodern social theory. Structuralism came to be most highly developed in France (and hence is often called French structuralism). Its greatest flowering involved, at least in part, a backlash against the humanism, and especially the existentialism (Sartre was the major exponent of this perspective), that was so pervasive in post-World War II France. Humanists such as Sartre gave considerable attention to individuals and afforded them a great deal of autonomy and agency. Structuralists turned this perspective on its head by focusing on the structures that they saw as the true base of the social world. Instead of having autonomy and agency, people were ...

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