Anyone trying to argue these days on the concepts of race and class will inevitably run into practitioners of deconstruction as a means to analyze the text of arguments. It is a pseudo-philosophical fad that has taken over much of academia and the work of much of the humanities intelligentsia. It was developed by the French so-called philosopher Jacques Derrida. However, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it is not worthwhile to read him for purposes of getting an understanding of deconstruction either as a methodology or a philosophy. Like many in continental philosophy, especially French existential and post-existential philosophy, Derrida has mastered the art of writing in a dense, convoluted, and nonsensical manner that allows uncritical readers to assume his writing must be profound and intelligent instead of nonsense (though, to be fair, the same can be said of some of present analytic philosophy such as much of its philosophy of mind and philosophy of language). The best way to understand deconstruction is to see it in action. As an example, I will deconstruct the first line of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
From an analytic or logic-centric or logocentric perspective as it is derisively called by post-modernists, the first aspect that strikes me about this line is that it is false — it does not state what factually is or was. Our nation was not conceived in liberty nor dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Quite the opposite, the founders conceived our nation on violence upon others with the foundation belief that some are better or more capable to govern than others and they created a government based upon and designed to survive such a perspective on factual reality. Based on these conclusions, using the classical rules of logic and historical analysis, we can go on to discuss why the founders so conceived it and the ramifications of their reasons — that is what worked and what did not work to create a functioning nation. Further, unless we assume Lincoln was an idiot, we can contemplate why he would use an assertion he must have known to be false as a starting premise? This is a profound epistemic question. Is it the case — as many analytic philosophers in epistemology argue — that a false belief can be used to reach true knowledge? Of course, all of this contemplation requires an understanding of the extent to which a reader can give meaning to this text — which itself involves contemplation of the extent to which readers give meaning to text instead of those who wrote it and are no longer around such as Lincoln.
For deconstruction of this text however, the text is immaterial. It is not important to read or to try to understand the present of the text or what is present in the text in order to understand its true meaning but to see the contradictions created by what is the absence of text or what is absent in the text. It is here that a critical reader runs into the first problem with deconstruction: there are an infinite amount of actual and possible worlds, words, and concepts missing from the text, which do we pick from this infinity of absence or transcendental nothingness to give the text its supposedly true meaning? That is obvious: what is missing from the text are women, gays, blacks, transsexuals, and other oppressed who are omitted by the white male Lincoln as a result of the structural patriarchy of his logocentric whiteness reality. Why is this obvious? It is obvious because the humanities professor who teaches deconstruction says it is obvious.
This leads to other problems if you are corrupted by logocentric thinking. If the text is immaterial, then why even bother to read it? The first line might as well be Lincoln’s laundry list or say “our nation was founded upon apples and oranges” because what is absent from the text — or its transcendental nothingness as many of the worshipers of deconstruction call it — will be the same infinite set of possible world nothingness that must be transcended. Does not this mean that the truth of any text can mean whatever the person doing the deconstruction wants it to mean? Now you are getting it! No matter what you write, the truth of any given text will be same: whatever the person doing the deconstruction decides ought to be the truth of the text.
Contemplate how powerful the methodology of deconstruction is. It requires no logical thinking nor any rational skill other than being able to imagine what is not present in text — you do not even need to be able to read the text in any way but in a primitive or introductory sense. It is not limited by any reality that you can sense — not even by the sense reality of the words being deconstructed. Its infinity of options is limited only by the normative values of those doing the deconstruction.
It is based simply on argument by authority analogous to religious dogma: upon the authority of the intellectual teaching it in the same way divine law would be defined by God. If one professor indoctrinates deconstruction into a class of twenty students, we have twenty worshipers of deconstruction. If each teaches it to another twenty students and this goes on for years, you see how deconstruction has taken over the humanities academia and the intelligentsia. Its most powerful aspect is that it cannot be argued against logically or rationally: rejection of logic-centric or logocentric reasoning is its initial premise. It is argument from authority that can only be opposed by other authority. This is one reason why present political argument in the United States and much of the Western world has been reduced to virtue signaling and attacks on personal morality and ethics through the methodology of deconstruction. For example, it is irrelevant what the immigration policies of the United States should be pragmatically; what is important is how good or evil those advocating the policies are. Thus, any immigration policy proposed by President Trump is evil because he is evil, and any immigration policy proposed by President Obama was good because he is good even though the immigration policies are factually the same. Every written fact can be deconstructed down to an ethical or moral analysis of the writer of the decision or of those designating something to be a fact — the conclusion on the virtue of the writer decides the virtue of the decision.
What can workers do about this struggle for power among the elite and their intelligentsia? As usual, nothing much. As I wrote earlier, ethics is simply ruling class ideology. The efficiency of modern Technological Society allows the ruling class to argue among themselves for power regardless of whether their arguments pragmatically serve any purpose other than power. The founders of our nation at least had to win their war to found a nation. Such is no longer required of a ruling class. They can simply deconstruct our nation down to a constant struggle among hoi polloi in which it exists with no essence but the will to power of the ruling class. As I have written before and as Orwell wrote in 1984, “God is Power”. As the song goes:
I’ll move myself and my family aside If we happen to be left half alive
And the party on the left
Is now the party on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no
— The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”