From Prague to Paris is above all a critique of French structuralism. But it is also an exercise in the wider history of ideas, showing that structuralism had already matured significantly prior to its adoption in France. Far from being a methodological high-road, the route from Prague in the 1930s to Paris in the 1960s was complicated by various ideological biases. Merquior argues that Parisian structuralism was notably formalist, and that this was not the only option open to it — as the work of the Prague School shows.
J. G. Merquior was a participant in the intellectual milieu of Parisian structuralism during its rise, and here focuses on three key figures of its heyday: Levi-Strauss, Barthes and Derrida. The first remains the master of classical structuralism, the second its most distinguished apostle — and then apostate — in literary criticism, while Derrida currently leads the revolt against the rational elements of the philosophical tradition from which it springs.
While its decline in France itself is now obvious, the (post-) structuralist style of thought has conquered influential strongholds in the Anglo-Saxon world. From Prague to Paris offers an assessment of its results that is at once scholarly and uninhibited — an irreverent but impeccably researched assault on the citadels of fashionable ideology. It will be useful to students and general readers alike, and no familiarity with the jargon of structuralism is assumed.