Feminism, Ideology, and Deconstruction: A Pragmatist View
Neither philosophy in general, nor deconstruction in particular, should be thought of as a pioneering, path-breaking, tool for feminist politics. Recent philosophy, including Derrida's, helps us see practices and ideas (including patriarchal practices and ideas) as neither natural nor inevitable -- but that is all it does. When philosophy has finished showing that everything is a social construct, it does not help us decide which social constructs to retain and which to replace.
Most intellectuals would like to find ways of joining in the struggle of the weak against the strong. So they hope that their particular gifts and competences can be made relevant to that struggle. The term most frequently used in recent decades to formulate this hope is 'critique of ideology'. The idea is that philosophers, literary critics, lawyers, historians, and others who are good at making distinctions, redescribing, and recontextualizing can put these talents to use by 'exposing' or 'demystifying' present social practices.
But the most efficient way to expose or demystify an existing practice would seem to be by suggesting an alternative practice, rather than criticizing the current one. In politics, as in the Kuhnian model of theory-change in the sciences, anomalies within old paradigms can pile up indefinitely without providing much basis for criticism until a new option is offered. 'Immanent' criticism of the old paradigm is relatively ineffective. More specifically, the most effective way to criticize current descriptions of a given instance of the oppression of the weak as 'a necessary evil' (the political equivalent of 'a negligible anomaly') is to explain just why it is not in fact necessary, by explaining how a specific