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Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

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Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

Deconstruction (AKA Deconstructionism) is an approach to literary theory that evolved out of a critique of Western metaphysics by postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida.[1][2]

As an approach to interpreting texts it begins by attempting to establish a case that the text is trading on some kind of unstated binary opposition—for instance, male and female—and then show how, rather than being clear cut opposites, each concept is in fact very much wrapped up in the other. Once the binary opposition has been shown to be less strict than assumed, it is used to show how a text contradicts itself, attempting to terminate in a place of much more ambiguity than other methods of interpretation.

Deconstruction was enormously controversial in the 1980s, due largely to a combination of its adherents making extremely provocative claims and its critics having trouble understanding the deliberately obscure bullshit often very difficult writings of Derrida and his followers. The Derrida-craze in both French and English literary scholarship has largely subsided which has allowed for more level headed treatments of his work to emerge.[note 1][note 2]

Criticism of deconstruction usually centers on a couple of key aspects. First is the allegedly excessive difficulty of the writings of major deconstructionists. Second is the argument that reducing texts to conflicted ambiguities is nihilistic, or amounts to a claim that communication is impossible. The second would largely be denied by deconstructionists, and has been vociferously denied at several points by Derrida, who was in fact extremely politically active, and a ferociously savage critic of those who he felt misunderstood his writings.

Having largely peaked as a school of thought in the 1980s, the term has largely become a generic term referring to any work that actively displays and dismantles its components. For example, deconstructionist food refers to things like "salads" that consist of the various ingredients of the salad, and assemble them in a different manner than a salad, or - by those who take the whole concept a little too literally - laid out separately and individually on a plate. Such things have little to nothing to do with anything Derrida has ever said or written.



  1. Derrida, Jacques (1997). Of Grammatology. John Hopkins University Press. p. 14. 
  2. Rorty, Richard (1998). "17: Derrida and the Philosophical Tradition". Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 327-350.