On intellectual dishonesty in literary studies


2 August 2006, 12.45 CET

In public life, the authority of literary critics depends upon the authority of literature, and so simply to be heard, even deconstructive literary critics must fulfill the public function of literature: to edify and inspire.

Deconstructive legal study is similarly ambivalent about left politics. In its home terrain of France and its home field of literature, deconstruction opposes so totalitarian a radical tradition associated with Marxism. But in the United States, deconstruction is merely the latest representative of the post-Kantian-critical tradition in continental thought that for more than thirty years has offered a discreet cover for affiliation with a genteel and humane Marxism. Thus, in the United States, to invoke deconstruction is to signal a vague identification with the New Left themes of community and participatory democracy, even if deconstruction’s canonical texts explicitly repudiate these values. The reason is that the political identification of American intellectual work has long since ceased to depend upon its normative conclusions. The intellectual American left has so long had to hide its hunted, heretical politics beneath the enigmatic rhetoric and epistemological skepticism of continental philosophy that it has blurred politics with aesthetic form.

—Binder, Guyora and Weisberg, Robert. Literary Criticisms of Law. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. pp. 378-379. [my emphasis]