chapter  8
9 Pages

Deconstruction

ByAndrew Benjamin

Deconstruction is as much an intellectual and political movement as a position within philosophy. Deconstruction, in fact, complicates any clear distinction between such possibilities. At its inception deconstruction was the term for a speci c philosophical project identi ed with the proper name Jacques Derrida. The impact of that name, plus the project associated with it, has had a profound effect on the humanities and the social sciences, with a recognition from the start that such disciplinary designations are automatically questioned by the practice of deconstruction. Indeed, so signi cant is the effect of deconstruction that both as a strategy and as a mode of inquiry it has acquired a life of its own. It has outlived Derrida, even though Derrida lives on within it. In the course of an interview given on 30 June 1992, Derrida addressed explicitly the question of deconstruction. The extract, which has only recently been published – and which is entitled ‘What Is Deconstruction?’ (‘Qu’est-ce que la déconstruction?’) – appeared as part of a special supplement to Le Monde published on the occasion of Derrida’s death (Le Monde, Tuesday 12 October 2004, p. 3; all translations are my own). Rather than try and offer an all-encompassing overview of Derrida’s writings, the project of this introduction to deconstruction will involve a commentary on that particular interview. The force of Derrida’s question – What is deconstruction? – and that force has to do with an automatic questioning of identity by posing the question of identity, the identity of deconstruction, resides in its allusion to the fundamental philosophical question, one posed with its greatest acuity by Plato – What is X? This point is, of course, noted in advance by Derrida. Equally, though now the reference is only ever implicit, it alludes to Martin Heidegger’s text Was ist das – die Philosophie?, which asks what is the ‘that’ that philosophy is. In other words, the very form of the question has an innocence that is betrayed the moment it is asked.