Monday, August 28, 2006

Caring for Deconstruction

In 2000 I published an article called "Caring for Deconstruction" which about 5 people read in Volume 12 of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. The piece highlights the striking similarities between Robin West's notion of "caring justice," set forth in her 1997 book "Caring for Justice," and Jacques Derrida's work on deconstruction and justice, and examines the various misconceptions blinding West and others to these similarities. In a rare fit of professionalism last week I posted a shortened version of the article on SSRN (The Social Science Research Network). This morning the paper is noted by Lawrence Solum at The Legal Theory Blog and declared to be "given the subject matter, . . . quite readable." I am very pleased.

Solum's blog does not seem to allow comments, so I will respond here to a quarrel Solum has with my article. Solum quotes me:
The critical problem with West’s essentialism, however, is that it posits sameness among women, not that it argues for difference between women and men.
and comments,
As for sameness and difference, West is most certainly not confused. If there are two sets, X and Y, and set X differs from set Y, then the members of set X must share characteristics that enable the difference. Or to put it somewhat differently, the idea of sameness is entailed by the grammer of sameness and difference, using grammer in the Wittgensteinian sense.

Solum's comment, however, assumes that set X and set Y were each constructed by some impartial and external agent based on some characteristic(s) shared by the members of the set. It overlooks the possibility that set X is merely the residue of set Y and that set Y has been defined by its own members to be "us." If set X (say, "women") is made up of everyone who is denied membership in set Y (say, "men") by members of set Y then there is no necessity that members of set X share any characteristics other than a perceived lack of whatever the members of set Y think is important about themselves. I suppose the problem with Solum's formulation is that it assumes "set X differs from set Y" in some way that is already significant before items are sorted into the two sets, and that all things different from set Y are alike in some significant way. West's essentialism makes that assumption, and thus insists on the importance of characteristics that may only be projected on set X by the members of set Y.

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

No comments: