From Deconstruction To Demolition

(The Legitimate Basis Of Demolitionism)

If anarchism and post-modernism are synonymous, then, the primary reason the post-modern age has not fully come to pass as of yet is because post-modernism has been divorced from its motor force, anarchism. Therefore, post-modernism has been sabotaged; it has been detached from its locomotive centrifuge, deep within its theoretical apparatus and critical techniques, namely, anarchism. Consequently, post-modernism has remained bourgeois; i.e., mildly critical of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, while simultaneously championing maximum plurality, equality and heterogeneity via its practices. Post-modernism has fallen under the mystifying spell of bourgeois-capitalism. As a result, it has not pushed on. Post-modernism no longer pushes forward its inherent programme for the total deconstruction of all meta-narratives, including the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Today, post-modernism lies in maudlin stagnation due to the fact it is inescapably bourgeois. Having jettisoned its engine; i.e., anarchism, post-modernism has fallen into ineffective reformism. And, reformism is the system. Therefore, if post-modernism seeks to re-animate its radical critique and its revolutionary programme, and raise itself out of the sloppy stagnation it has fallen into, then post-modernism needs to get re-acquainted with its core centrifuge, anarchism.

In effect, post-modernism has remained bourgeois by remaining trapped in the bourgeois-philosophy of mild deconstruction, that is, bourgeois-deconstruction, bourgeois-deconstruction being the careful and gradual dismantling of an apparatus or building, while, deliberately preserving certain valuable elements for reuse and refurbishing. To quote, Jacques Derrida, deconstruction means “1. To disassemble the parts of a whole. To deconstruct a machine to transport elsewhere.”1 Subsequently, bourgeois-deconstruction is a gradual meticulous process, which softly and mildly, dismantles segments of a text or apparatus, while, ultimately, keeping the overall structure of a text, or structural-apparatus, intact. Derridean deconstruction dismantles a text or apparatus, but, dismantles them only to reconstruct a text or apparatus, all over again, ultimately leaving the text or apparatus unscathed and the same as before.

Bourgeois-deconstruction makes textual structures, both conceptual and material, wobble without them falling over or crumbling. However, according to the architect of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, deconstruction “is neither an analysis nor a critique.[Moreover, it] is not a method and cannot be transformed into one. Deconstruction is not even an act or an operation etc.”2. It is an empty nullity. In brief, this is a retreat on Derrida’s part. It is a rejection by Derrida of the revolutionary potential of deconstruction.  Nevertheless, despite this retreat, by Derrida, deconstruction is most certainly all of those empowering things; i.e., it is a method, an analysis, a critique and a decisive act. Even, if Derrida plays coy and states otherwise, deconstruction embodies a certain set of rules, capable of application in a most more radical manner.

First and foremost, Derrida says “deconstruction is a word”3, and words have definitions and practical implications. Words are useful. As Ludwig Wittgenstein states, words are like “tools in a tool-box…the functions of words…serve to modify something”.4 They have uses and this is exactly what deconstruction does. It modifies a text or structure through an analytical deconstruction process.  Secondly, according to Derrida, deconstruction embodies specific instructions, instructions that stipulate that all “structures [are] to be undone, decomposed, de-sedimented…(all types of structures, linguistic, logo-centric etc.)”.5  Consequently, despite Derrida’s objections that “deconstruction [does not] correspond to some clear and univocal signification”6, deconstruction does, nonetheless, function and operate as a philosophy and a method of analysis. It may be, as Derrida states, “an anti-structuralist gesture”7 at its basic datum, but, deconstruction is a philosophy and a method, nonetheless, even if this philosophy is a radical form of anti-philosophy and a sort of anti-method, method.

Understanding the radical implications of deconstruction, Derrida distances himself from the concept. For instance, when asked  “what is deconstruction? [Derrida responds] “Nothing, of course!”.3  And, by distancing himself from the revolutionary implications of deconstruction, Derrida abandons the post-modern project of a world without grand narratives and/or large-scale oppressive discourses. By denying the revolutionary force that is deconstruction, and divorcing himself from the engine of post-modernism, anarchism, Derrida inadvertently sabotages the post-modern project and the full maturation of post-modernism. That is, Derrida sabotages the post-modern programme which demands the levelling-down of all meta-narratives in the name of maximum plurality, equality and heterogeneity; i.e., the end of large-scale oppression.

In effect, Derrida turns deconstruction into a bourgeois past-time. He de-fangs the revolutionary force inherent in deconstruction, anarchism, and domesticates deconstruction, making it tame and palpable for moderate bourgeois liberals. He turns deconstruction into a lame form of bourgeois-deconstruction. Indeed, under Derrida, deconstruction becomes a means to integrate marginal narratives and marginalized people into the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Bourgeois-deconstruction becomes a manner by which to turn everything and everyone into bourgeois acolytes, susceptible to capitalist exploitation and capitalist domination. In short, Derrida reduces deconstruction to a form of mild, apologetic post-modernism, easily absorbed into the profit-making mechanisms of bourgeois-capitalism. Under Derrida, the concept of deconstruction becomes the concept of bourgeois-deconstruction, mild criticism and an apology for the capitalist-system.

In actuality, despite profiting from the core principles of post-modernism and anarchism, namely, radical plurality, radical equality and a radical antipathy towards all meta-narratives, Derrida sabotages these core, anarchist, post-modernist principles by denying their factual presence within deconstruction. Derrida reduces the revolutionary implications inherent in post-modernism, anarchism and deconstruction into a mild shaking or wobbling of the dominant linguistic structures, while, in the end, always keeping them the same and intact. For example, as Derrida states, within Grammatology:

The movements of deconstruction do not destroy structures. [They inhabit]….them in a certain way…operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, [and making them wobble a little.]…[This] is…the enterprise of deconstruction.8

In this regard, Derrida’s mild form of deconstruction reasserts, in opposition to post-modernism and anarchism, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, by facilitating the integration of marginal groups and marginal narratives into the Enlightenment meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

The point of post-modernism and it motor force, anarchism, if one wishes to stay true to their core principles, is nothing less than the complete overthrow of all meta-narratives, especially, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Therefore, Derridean deconstruction is nothing more than liberal bourgeois reform. It is bourgeois in the sense that, ultimately, bourgeois-deconstruction is a mild form of domesticated deconstruction in service of the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. The result is that Derridean deconstruction fails to uphold the core tenets of post-modernism and anarchism, including deconstruction, itself. Derrida fails to follow the full-implications inherent in deconstruction to its logical conclusion; i.e., the complete overthrow of all meta-narratives. Indeed, describing the anti-method of deconstruction at work, Gayatri Spivak, in her introduction to Grammatology, outlines the methodology of bourgeois-deconstruction as:

locating the promising marginal text [inside the dominant text], [finding] the undecidable moment, [so as] to pry it loose …[and] reverse the resident hierarchy, only to displace it; to dismantle [it] in order to reconstitute [it]…[Taking] away the assurance of the text’s authority…by inaugurating the open-ended indefiniteness of textuality.9

Meaning, the point of bourgeois-deconstruction is not the demolition of meta-narratives and oppressive structures. The point is to make these wobble, while, ultimately keeping them intact in hope that these oppressive structures and meta-narratives will open themselves to the inclusion of marginal groups and narratives.

In the final analysis, the point of Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction is merely to cast doubt on a text or apparatus, whether, this text or apparatus is conceptual or material. The hope is to cast doubt on these ruling conceptual and material structures in order to permit the integration of marginal groups and perspectives into the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism. Consequently, Derridean deconstruction is a form of reformism, already a mechanism of the bourgeois system, designed to defuse any revolutionary fervor against the bourgeois system via integration.

In fact, Derrida never mentions the revolutionary implications of deconstruction, specifically, the implication that if there is a complete lack of foundation, or solid ground, underlying any meta-authority, since, “there is [no] pure signified”10, then, there is no such thing as ultimate truth, or being. There is, in essence, no timeless meta-authority by which to judge, equitably and impartially any text or apparatus. Meaning, there is no legitimate or justifiable ground for the governing power of any meta-authority, whatsoever. This is the unstated radical implications of deconstruction.

Moreover, following the logic of deconstruction to its logical conclusion, this means there is legitimate reason or justifiable evidence to eliminate all meta-authorities from the face of the earth, on grounds that they are unjustifiable, unfounded, arbitrary authority figures. Following the logic of deconstruction to its logical conclusion, the only justifiable and legitimate authority possible, which can reflect a certain level of legitimacy, is a decentralized patchwork of micro-narratives and individuals, namely, a plurality of micro-narratives and individuals sharing decision-making-authority, equally, between themselves unopposed by any overarching, authoritarian meta-narrative. The revolutionary implications of deconstruction is that the only possible socio-economic formation capable of real legitimacy is some form of socio-economic heterogeneity and radical equality for all.

Therefore, Derridean deconstruction is inescapably bourgeois, because, it buttresses the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, it does not deconstruct any meta-authority beyond the point of no return, hence, the reason it is bourgeois. Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction is still around because it is useful to bourgeois-capitalism in that it expands its dominion and its control over the micro-recesses of everyday life and the general-population, by encouraging the integration of marginalized narratives, moments of everyday life, and segments of the general-population within the bourgeois totalitarian framework.

The only solution to Derrida’s mild form of docile, obedient deconstruction is that it must be completely abandoned.  The revolutionary implications of deconstruction must be extracted, radicalized and turned into a form of conceptual and material demolitionism, while the Derridean practice of mild deconstruction must be jettisoned to the dust-bin of history and replaced by demolitionism. Demolitionism is the logic of deconstruction pushed to its ultimate conclusion, demolition. Demolitionism is a radical form of deconstruction bent on the total demolition of all meta-narratives, especially, the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism.

So, demolitionism is both a radical critique of Derridean bourgeois-deconstruction and a radical outgrowth of Derridean deconstruction. It is a pragmatic methodology and praxis, both conceptual and material, which fully embodies the core principles of post-modernism and anarchism. Demolitionism uncompromisingly demands the complete tear-down or demolition of all meta-narratives, including the meta-narrative of bourgeois-capitalism, in all shapes and forms. Demolitionism does not stop at the mild shaking or questioning of the dominant conceptual and material structures of bourgeois-capitalism, as Derrida does. Instead, demolitionism is a process and radical critique, designed for the total destruction of the dominant conceptual and material structures of bourgeois-capitalism in service of radical post-modernism and radical anarchism. It is demolition in the name of equality, diversity and heterogeneity.

In league with Bakunin, demolitionism “requires an extensive and widespread destruction, a fecund and renovating destruction, since in this way and only this way are new worlds born”.11 Demolitionism is the “elemental force [of anarchist post-modernism designed to] sweep… away all [despotic] obstacles”.12 Demolitionism is, in essence, a pragmatic radical form of deconstruction, both material and conceptual, programmed to detonate all meta-narratives sky-high. The objective is to clear the way for radical plurality, radical equality, and multi-varied anarchist post-modernity, wherefore, decision-making-authority is shared between all micro-narratives, in relative equal measure. The objective of demolitionism is to establish a clearing for the full-development of post-modernism, that is, for the full-development of post-modern anarchism.

In sum, demolitionism is the anti-method of radical plurality, radical equality, namely, the radical tear-down of all meta-narratives. The point of demolitionism is to permit a plethora of micro-narratives to flourish and thrive in the bosom of a fully-developed post-modern age. That is, a post-modern anarchist society, without the presence of any ruling meta-authority determining relations and narrative organizations. As a result, at its core, demolitionism is “the vengeance of the oppressed”13; it is an instrument of radical equality, affirming on legitimate grounds, “by all means, let us destroy! [And,] let us demolish!”14

  1. Jacques Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”, A Derrida Reader (Between The Blinds), ed. Peggy Kamuf, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 271. []
  2. Ibid, p. 273. []
  3. Ibid, p. 275. [] []
  4. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Trans. G.E.M. Ancombre, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1958) pp. 6-7. []
  5. Jacques Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”, A Derrida Reader (Between The Blinds), ed. Peggy Kamuf, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991) p. 272. []
  6. Ibid, p. 270. []
  7. Ibid, p. 272. []
  8. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016) p. 25. []
  9. Ibid, pp. c-ci. []
  10. Ibid, p. 174. []
  11. Mikhail Bakunin, Bakunin On Anarchy, ed. Sam Dolgoff, (New York: Vintage Books, 1972) p. 334. []
  12. Ibid, p. 325. []
  13. Errico Malatesta, Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, ed. Vernon Richards, (London: Freedom Press, 1984) p. 477. []
  14. Ibid, p. 475. []
Michel Luc Bellemare is the author of The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism) Read other articles by Michel Luc.