>On Wed, 1 Dec 1993 [email protected] wrote;
>> An important thing to remember - neither Lyotard (Post-Modern) nor Derrida
>> (deconstuction) are sloppy thinkers. They don't ever propose the loosy-goosy
>> popular interpretations of these ideas which seem to be floating around. I
>> suggest that you read the original works!
>I'm curious. If they are such clear thinkers, how come so many people seem
>to get them wrong? It has always seemed to me that the clear thinkers are
>are able to clarify and explain in a manner understandable even to the
>simplest among us.

If I may interject with a few points with a sociological bent:

1) Many, esp French, intellectuals hold that the things they say can only
be said in the way they say them. I only partly buy this argument. Ok,
there is the aspect of wrenching us from taken-for-granted assumptions and
all that sort of stuff, but much derives from the nature of the French
intellectual field, which is a highly literary one, in which the first
condition of intellectual excellence is literary flair. For a wry look at
the French scene see: C. Lemert (1981) 'Literary Politics and the Champ
[Field] of French Sociology', Theory and Society 10:645.

2) I myself am a student of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who is
just as unreadable and convoluted as the others, so I cannot be accused of
being entirely anti-Gallic. Nonetheless, I have to agree with the French
philosopher Jacques Bouveresse when he writes:

" I have found a good part of the philosophical literature published in
France since the 1960's quite simply unreadable and that its interest has
seemed to me in many cases to be of a documentary or sociological rather
than a properly philosophical nature.... In general, French philosophers
are past masters in the art of making themselves quite impossible to grasp,
that is to say, they are never to be found at the precise point where
criticism might possibly get to them.... The accumulated disappointments
and errors... do not appear capable of really bringing into question the
characteristic tendency of French philosophers to attribute to themselves a
sort of monopoloy of critical lucidity... so that in the end it would be
altogether small-minded and out of place to ask them for any concrete proof
of it" (in A. Montefiore, Philosophy in France Today, Cambridge Uni Press,

3) As a sociologist with an architecture degree, I think an interesting way
of looking at Decon in architecture is simply to see it as yet another
attempt by a group of avant-gardes to establish themselves as the
consecrated establishment. The actual content of the theory doesn't matter
that much. The fact that it IS a theory with apparently high standing with
intellectuals in other circles is sufficient justification in itself to
adopt it. One of the great things from architecture's point of view is that
Decon makes the critic almost as important as the architect. A lot of
people have made a lot of intellectual capital with this one, not the least
important being Academy Editions.

4) Finally, one should mention that (a) Derrida has been a lot more
successful in the USA than in France and (b) Derrida's work has been
influential with literary critics, not philosophers, in either country. See
M. Lamont's article in American Journal of Sociology 93(3):584
Garry Stevens
Dept of Architectural and Design Science
University of Sydney
NSW 2006
Partial thread listing: