David J. Gunkel

This book in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series provides a simple and succinct introduction to deconstruction, a subject that is frequently thought to be difficult and esoteric. Instead of defending academic orthodoxy or disseminating the ideas of Jacques Derrida, the creator of the neologism and concept’s progenitor, David Gunkel organizes the idea, terminology, and practices of deconstruction to give readers a potent conceptual tool for the twenty-first century.

The “deconstructed” garment hanging in your wardrobe is not, technically speaking, appropriately labeled, nor is deconstruction equivalent to destruction, according to Gunkel. Deconstruction is not just the antithesis of construction. It is a strategy for thinking past the construction/destruction dichotomy and any other logical oppositions and conceptual dichotomies. Gunkel offers examples in (rather than of) deconstruction, such as logocentrism (the speech/writing dichotomy) and virtuality (the dominant philosophical binary of real/appearance), remix (the original/copy distinction), and the posthuman figure of the cyborg (the human/machine conceptual pairing), after describing what deconstruction is not and developing an abstract and schematic characterization derived from Derrida. Finally, Gunkel addresses the costs and advantages of deconstruction, taking into account all its positive effects while also pointing out its drawbacks, such as Eurocentrism, relativism, communication issues, and reappropriation.