The term ‘poststructuralism’ refers to movements in French theory that emerged from the late 1960s. This was a time of political instability in France, which culminated in ‘May 68’, when radical student groups took over the campuses, workers shut down factories and for a while these militant ‘assemblages’ occupied significant parts of Paris. These events almost toppled the De Gaulle government, and in retrospect they can be seen as the focal point of the widespread social changes of the late 1960s, associated with youth countercultural movements, the politicisation of sexuality, the rise of second-wave feminism and of the ‘new social movements’. The key figures associated with ‘poststructuralism’ came of age during these times, and emphases on contingency and unpredictability, as well as on a diversity that extends beyond class-based politics, have become abiding themes in poststructuralist theory, as they have likewise become key characteristics of our increasingly post-industrial societies. However, beyond this initial characterisation, ‘poststructuralism’ is difficult to define. Like perhaps all significant movements in social and political theory, poststructuralism is identified with a number of prodigious thinkers. The advent of poststructuralism is associated with those who would become major figures in the Parisian academy, such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva and more tangentially Gilles Deleuze (for some of their most influential works, see Foucault, 2007, 2008, 1991; Derrida, 1976, 1978; Kristeva, 1986; Deleuze, 1983, 1994).
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