In the midst of a thoughtful review of Joseph Stiglitz’ latest, the New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani notes that Stiglitz “deconstructs the causes of the Great Recession of 2008.”
To “deconstruct” something is to use a particular literary critical method, made famous by Paul DeMan, J. Hillis Miller etc.Â Deconstruction holds, (or at least seems to hold) that there areÂ no stable or coherent meanings to texts,Â at least not outside any particular interpretive community.Â (I keep saying “at least” because every time you try to pin down a deconstructionist on such things, he or she will invariably tell you that you have missed some subtle complexity that few understand and has never been mentioned before).Â
Kakutani really wants to say “analyze“, a perfectly good word meaning to break down into component parts in order to give close scrutiny to those parts and to better understand the whole.
UsingÂ “deconstruction” in Kakutani’s way has become fashionable, and indeed, deconstructionist literary theorists might argue that this serves as an exemplar of their method.Â I’m old-fashioned enough to think that words still have meaning, though.
Of course, in a world where Newt Gingrich is thought of a “conservative intellectual” maybe we should just capitulate to the deconstructionists entirely.Â Maybe we already have.