Ideological State Apparatuses
After World War II, French intellectuals developed a structuralist tradition of thought that opposed humanist and empirical ideas of knowledge and history. Humanism had been dominant for centuries, basing itself on the creative abilities and genius of human beings; man was capable of knowing and subjugating nature and his social environment. He was the subject who acted, transforming the world, molding it closer to his needs and desires. Empiricism had allowed the physical sciences to make great progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its successes caused the social sciences to imitate its methods, unsuccessfully. Empiricists believed there was no higher basis for knowledge than the experiences of individuals. The foundation for an understanding of social phenomena could only be lived experiences of people interacting in institutional settings. There was an unexplained but real coherence between the physical and social world and the individual's ability to grasp and articulate that world.
In the new structuralist perspectives, however, the individual was no longer seen as the source and certifier of meaning and consciousness. Now, he was a subject who was imprisoned in a world of consciousness dominated by language and linguistic categories. The structural linguistics of Saussure and Jakobson were the way these sociolinguists viewed the relationship between meaning and subjectivity. 1 In these theories, the linguistic sign was divided into two parts, that of the signifier and that of the signified. The sign or sound that signified an object or idea to another person was now seen as an arbitrary invention having little or no relation to that object or idea. The word described the object because of a convention that was agreed upon and understood by both parties