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Deconstruction's Legal Career, 27 Cardozo L. Rev. 719 (2005)


Deconstruction began as a series of techniques invented by Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and others to analyze literary and philosophical texts. These techniques, in turn, were connected to larger philosophical claims about the nature of language and meaning. One such assertion is that the repetition of a text in a new context often subtly changes its meaning. There could be no better example of this principle than the career of deconstruction itself. To be adapted to the needs and concerns of the legal academy, deconstruction had to be translated and altered in significant ways, making it more flexible, practical, and attentive to questions of justice and injustice. This essay describes some of the changes that deconstruction underwent as it moved from philosophy to literature and then to law. Its transformation eventually produced a deconstructive practice that emphasizes sensitivity to changes in interpretive context, a pragmatic approach to conceptual distinctions, and careful attention to the role of ideology and social construction in legal thought.

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