According to Jacques Derrida, structure -- the structure of language, for example -- occupies an impossible and ideal position: it at once posits an absolute center that holds everything together and a meta-perspective that also holds everything together. For Derrida, then, structure is defined by a double law in which it is at once bound and unbound -- such is the verypossibility (or impossibility) of a structure's existence. Which is to say, a structure can exist only in as much as it undoes itself. For Derrida, this double function is always already at work -- and so Poststructuralism is born.
This double logic, which Derrida calls "différance," (a word which in French blurs the line between speech and writing) operates like an electric current; it is thealternating force which drives language, philosophy, and texts in general. This force stems from the relentless play between a positive and negative node, between the positing and undoing of a thing. Hence, just as an electric current only exists as movement, texts come to exist only from their "différance." Therefore, there is no absolute and stable dictionary that fixes meaning in place. At the origin ofmeaning, Derrida tells us, is play. Hence, when Derrida reads, he seeks the play within a text, the particular ways that a text posits itself and is thereby already outside itself, playing elsewhere in unexpected fields, with unexpected texts. This is what he means by Deconstruction.
Derrida and Deconstruction
Heidegger meant by "the end of philosophy" the end of a philosophy rooted inmetaphysics. He argued that the only real philosophical questions have to do with "being" (ontology) and that "transcendental" questions were meaningless. By the sixties, the notion of the "end of philosophy " had developed into the notion that philosophy was nothing other than the ideology of the western ethos. The liberal humanist tradition presented a de facto situation (its own pre-eminence) as a dejure situation (its truth). In other words, it presented its traditional privilege as a natural superiority. Such a position is ideological.
Derrida argued that Heidegger had not escaped transcendentalism, that his "Being" was as transcendental as any other "Transcendental Signified." He also argued that even if the charge against philosophy as ideology were true, the charge was levelled in thelanguage of philosophy, which can not be escaped. All that was really being asked was that the dominant ideology (philosophy = the ideology of the western ethos) be replaced by another broader or at least different ideology such as Marxism (philosophy=discourse of the ruling class), Freudianism (philosophy =sexual symptom), anti-Freudianism (philosophy =phallocratic ideology). In the end, heargued, the order of reason is absolute, "since it is only to itself that an appeal against it can be brought, only in itself that a protest against it can be made; on its own terrain, it leaves us no other recourse than to stratagem and strategy."
Derrida did not quarrel with Heidegger's position that history, as perceived in the philosophic tradition was over; only that Heidegger himself had notescaped it. Derrida raised the question of what there was to say after philosophy was over (but ironically still in place, because reason is absolute and can only be questioned in its own terms). The strategy he chose was duplicity, the playing of a double game. He would operate in the language of reason, since there was no other, but try to lay traps for it by posing it problems it could not answer,exposing the inherent contradictions in apparently reasonable positions. He called this strategy deconstruction, after Heidegger's term destruktion.
For Heidegger, destruktion was essentially, the history of the inquiry into history. Dasein , the individual's being in the world, is often trapped by the everyday ordinariness of life into interpreting itself in terms of the world it knows and the...