Post-structuralism is a term coined by American academics to describe the school of thought of several French philosophers who came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s. Post-structuralism was a response to structuralism, the 20th century philosophy that held that human culture is modeled on language (structure). Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Judith Butler are well known proponents of post-structuralism.
Under post-structuralist theory, the intended meaning of an author is secondary to whatever meaning is gleaned by the reader. Post-structuralism rejects the notion that a literary text has a single meaning, instead insisting that every reader brings his or her own unique meaning. While structuralism held that cultural practices had underlying structures, post-structuralism argued that history instead produces such structures and therefore its study is subject to bias.
Post-structuralism emerged during the chaotic decade of the 1960s in France. The French government nearly collapsed in 1968, and leading thinkers sought out alternative philosophies, all of which were critical of Western philosophy, and having finally become disillusioned with communism. Post-structuralists sought to expose the underlying assumptions of Western norms, and based on the notion that all of Western society was crumbing and decadent.