Deconstructive justice and the "critique of violence": On Derrida and Benjamin

Robert Sinnerbrink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This essay presents a critical interpretation of Derrida's deconstructive reading of Walter Benjamin's text, "Critique of Violence." It examines the relationship between deconstruction and justice, and the parallel Derrida draws between deconstructive reading and Benjamin's account of pure violence. I argue that Derrida blurs Benjamin's distinction between the political general strike (which simply inverts state power relations) and the proletarian general strike (which non-violently disrupts such power relations). As a consequence, Derrida criticises Benjamin's metaphysical complicity with the violence that lead to the Holocaust. Derrida's deconstructive reading of Benjamin, I conclude, underplays its Marxist dimensions, privileging the theological and textual dimensions of Benjamin's thought over the political and historical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-497
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006


  • Benjamin
  • Deconstruction
  • Derrida
  • Justice
  • Politics
  • Violence


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