Could someone explain what Interactionist and Structuralist approaches to history are?

  • -1 votes

I've looked around for a definition of structuralism and all i the explanations found related back to linguistics

Posted Thu 19th May, 2011 @ 02:29 by barbara

4 Answers

  • 0 votes

Any History teachers out there? Here's a start:

Structuralism is a complex term used in a variety of ways. In this context it probably refers to an approach to History which focuses on looking at the way societies are built up (or structured) at particular times eg how are they organised? What social institutions do they contain eg education system. What system of inequality exists eg social class, feudalism etc? 

Interactionism is a sociological perspectives that focuses not on the structure of society but on how individuals and groups of individuals make sense and give meaning to their lives. In a historical context this approach would probably mean focusing on first-hand accounts of life in a particular place at a particular time.

Answered Thu 19th May, 2011 @ 11:19 by Pete Langley - Get Revising founder
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I've just done my history coursework on this, with respect to Hitler's foreign policy, so I'll answer in that context and hopefully that should make things clearer for you :)

This was (roughly) the explanation I used in my essay: Intentionalism was the first school of thought to emerge post ww2... it was largely convenient as it laid the blame mostly on Hitler(anything else would have been unacceptable at that stage) by saying that there was a a clear master plan for foreign policy, carried out on a step by step basis, whereas structuralism is more about the idea that foreign policy was opportunistic, formed by taking advantage of circumstances. You can link the idea of cumulative radicalisation in here too.

I found this ( while googling, to make it just a bit clearer:

"...[He] called the followers of  (structuralist school "functionalists" because of their belief that the Holocaust arose as part of the functioning of the Nazi state, while the followers of "the straight road to Auschwitz"/programmeist school were called "intentionalists" because of their belief that it was Hitler's intentions alone that explained the Holocaust."

Also bear in mind when googling it that structuralism is also known as functionalism.

Answered Thu 19th May, 2011 @ 14:28 by Vixxx92
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Barbara - do you mean 'intentionalism' rather than interactionism?

Answered Thu 19th May, 2011 @ 14:37 by Pete Langley - Get Revising founder
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Didn't notice that! If you meant interactionism, you can ignore half my answer :)

Answered Thu 19th May, 2011 @ 15:44 by Vixxx92