Deconstruction is justice

This week’s food for thought asked to discuss the Jacques Derrida’s claim that ‘deconstruction is justice’.  By stating that ‘deconstruction is justice’ Derrida’s notes that ‘justice’ is constructed in the process of making ‘justice’. To put it differently, Derrida notes that there can be no fixed definition as the true essence of justice relies on combining different terms. That is, we must constantly refer to things that are external to the definition we attempt to construct. To better exemplify, consider this example. If the government proposes to its citizens that ‘justice is equality’, then this statement alone would raise many questions for Derrida and Derrida’s followers. To put it differently, one of the question which would arise is as follows: what does equality mean and who is defining equality?.  From practicing this approach, we would have involved ourselves in interrogating the terms which would appear to be fixed. In short, Derrida’s overall point to his readers is that concepts are always in the process of becoming and never finalized. In other words, an individual is always ‘deferring’ terms to better understand their meaning. The above mentioned points connect to the next point which Derrida makes.

An additional point that Derrida makes when he notes that ‘deconstruction is justice’ is that one would be able to find the hidden meanings in text. There is nothing outside of text. In brief, there is no way to escape language. As noted, “[d]econstruction emerges in a reading of texts that is attentive to traces and absences-signs and associations that are not out found within the text, but which give the text meaning” (Larsen, 2012).  Moreover, Derrida defines ‘deconstruction’ in relation to binaries. One must interrogate the terms in which these binaries exist and then interrogate them. As explained, “[d]econstruction involves the overturning of binary oppositions through the identification of implicit hierarchies, unintended meanings, historical contingencies, and- above all-through questioning” (Larsen, 2012). For example, to better understand the meaning of ‘rich and poor’ it would be important to interrogate what constitutes the term ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. Overall, it is important to remain open-ended when defining terms as it is this process which allows us to connect to various other terms. As stated in the criminology 3305-Law and Society lecture, ‘[j]ustice is like a butterfly-the act of attempt to grasp justice-actually kills the purpose of justice. The whole purpose of justice is in the pursuit-its always becoming’ (Larsen, 2012).


Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida: Deconstruction, Justice, and Law. [CRIM 3305-Law and Society –Class Handout]. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida-Lecture Notes. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.


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One response to “Deconstruction is justice

  1. Your opening paragraph is a good starting point for an exploration of Derrida’s idea of deconstruction. Good work.

    You have also done a good job of encapsulating some of the key points made during the lecture.

    I think that more can be said about the claim that ‘deconstruction is justice’. For Derrida, law can be rendered calculable through legal decisions, whereas justice, like deconstruction, is open-ended, always-becoming, and incalculable. Justice is pursued, and legal decisions are made in the name of justice – but it is never attained in a fixed sense.