Renowned deconstructionist Jacques Derrida makes a distinction between law and justice. Law, Derrida argues, is the institution and structure of the judicial system; it is a construction of historical and social significance that operates in the present. Most notably, by the very nature of being constructed, law can be deconstructed – it can be amended and repealed – and this is what separates it from justice. For example, segregation laws were once in effect (constructed) in America, but in 1964, the government outlawed many forms of discrimination. Therefore, segregation laws were deconstructed, and the result was equality or justice for millions of Americans. For Derrida, justice is perfect; it is not deconstructible, like deconstruction itself. In fact, he declares that ‘Deconstruction is Justice.’ That is, deconstruction and justice are inseparable. I understand this to be that the deconstruction of law brings it ever closer to perfection, that is, justice. In drafting laws, human beings are consumed with the notion of justice, yet absolute justice is unattainable; it is elusive. But every act of deconstructing law brings human beings closer to finding justice.
The concepts of law and justice are man-made social constructions, and like their creators, they are imperfect. I think the notion of justice is relative to the individual. That is, all human beings experience justice uniquely. With this in mind, universal justice is impossible. So, I agree with Derrida that justice is unattainable, but we must continue to deconstruct laws to become ever closer to justice.
Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press