Deconstruction is Justice

The final ‘food for thought’ question asking us to explain Derrida’s claim “Deconstruction is Justice” is exactly what Mike said it would be, straightforward yet challenging. Unlike other theorist, Derrida gives no fixed definition of justice and deconstructs the definitions given to words by looking at new meanings within them. Derrida explains how the English language is used to make logic-based methods of understanding and is another way to address law and justice (Pavlich, 2011). Pavlich, 2011 gives us a case example in the text book describing how judges often cannot define crime, punishment or justice but instead look other case examples because the meanings of these words have other terms. Derrida explains the process of giving meaning by involving “deferring signs to one another in a dynamic way to produce provincial, context-specific meaning” (Pavlich, 2011).

Derrida’s lack of ability to define justice is examined by terms that are authorized to relate to other terms (Pavlich, 2011). He also “suggests how the process of deferring to other terms actually creates meaning, being, and presence” (Pavlich, 2011). An example of this can be shown when trying to define law, crime, justice, violence, and punishment like we had done in class. No word can be defined itself without defining another concept within that definition. For example, we said that justice is fair but the word fair also had to be defined because there are many different concepts of fairness. Pavlich 2011 describes this in the text book by saying that meanings are never fixed but are instead deferred to other terms. The reason that justice is difficult to define by Derrida is because this “realization defies any attempt to find absolute, fixed, or closed definitions.

Derrida’s claim, “Deconstruction is Justice”, looks at different ways of generating new meanings that does not destroy” but instead enhances new meaning (Pavlich, 2011). I would have to agree with Derrida’s claim because it is very true that no term has a fixed meaning thus it could mean something different to someone else. An example of this was proven to me in class during our activity to define terms. Our term was justice and yet everyone in the group had something different to say about justice. If we were to think about this in our everyday lives, there are many things that are never really clear and easy to understand for example hate crime laws. Hate crime laws are defined in the criminal code of Canada but in many case examples the definition is always being questioned and is defined differently.


Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida: Deconstruction, Justice, and Law. (Class handout)

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press


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One response to “Deconstruction is Justice

  1. I don’t think that it is accurate to say that Derrida “lacks the ability to define justice”. It would be more accurate to say that Derrida proposes that justice, which is ‘always becoming’, cannot be defined with precision. It emerges through legal decisions and is always on the horizon as an aspiration, but efforts to fix its meaning in the here-and-now involve cycles of deferral to other signs.

    Great post.