Deconstruction and law: Derrida, Levinas and Cornell

18 Jul 2012

Drucilla Cornell’s book The Philosophy of the Limit has for a long time been an important reference point in attempting to understand the relation between deconstruction and law. This article examines some of the themes discussed by Cornell in this influential book. The article specifically evaluates the translation of Derrida’s thinking into law as argued for by Cornell and concludes from this reading that Cornell to some extent misrepresents and also unnecessarily “tames” Derrida’s thinking. Instead of leading to the radical transformation of law and society, Cornell’s book gives support to an understanding of the relation between law and justice that is unlikely to have this effect. The article expounds a different reading of deconstruction based on a number of Derridean texts and argues that Derrida’s thinking poses a more radical challenge to law than that presented by Cornell.