Deconstructing the Op-Ed
As history has the unpleasant feature of repeating itself, we would do well to consider recent developments…
“Deconstruction” is a word that has been stretched in all kinds of interesting ways, most recently by exvangelicals—another great neologism—trying to understand in minute detail how and why church propaganda seized their minds and deformed their lives. But I use “deconstruction” in the Derridian way, to refer to a practice of identifying how the metaphors in a claim can complicate the claim.
Because its attention is on metaphors, deconstruction is a practice of literary criticism as much as philosophy, which makes it sound esoteric. But metaphors are more popularly known as “memes,” which are the building blocks of culture. (Richard Dawkins first proposed them as the cultural answer to “genes.”) And “literary criticism” can also be understood as reading—what we all do, increasingly all the time, especially in the hyperactive symbolic order of the internet.
As I argued in Magic and Loss, literary criticism and even deconstruction are second nature to many of us in the digital age. If you hear about bridges built with money from the recent infrastructure act, and you don’t think about steel or stone connecting two pieces of land, but rather about “the Biden administration’s messaging,” you are deep, deep, deep in thinking like a literary critic. And you’re teetering on the edge of not believing in objects in the world.