Justifying Subversion: Why Nussbaum Got (the Better Interpretation of) Butler Wrong

Buffalo Journal of Gender, Law & Social Policy, Vol. 18, pp. 43-73, 2010

31 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2009 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

Ori J. Herstein

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law; King's College London - Dickson Poon School of Law

Date Written: August 31, 2009

Abstract

Deconstructive and poststructuralist theories are commonly accused of rejecting all principles of justice and therefore “collaborating with evil.” A canonical example is Martha Nussbaum’s “The Professor of Parody” on the work of Judith Butler. The merits of Nussbaum’s argument and of the “common critique” turn on choosing between two alternative interpretations of Butler’s corpus and of poststructuralism in general. First, assumed in Nussbaum’s critique, is “universal poststructuralism.” Second is “contextual poststructuralism,” which is not susceptible to the common critique. According to the latter and better reading of Butler, subversion and deconstruction take place within a background comprising relatively stable sets of norms, structures of meaning, practices and values. A background that is a necessary enabling condition of deconstructing and performing subversion or parody, and which may include moral norms and principles. Moreover, Nussbaum’s critique may be incommensurable with Butler’s project. Finally, ascribing Butler’s theory the general proposition of rejecting all norms and moral principles ignores the temporal and particularistic nature of Butler’s deconstructive agenda.

Keywords: feminist political theory, poststructuralism, deconstruction, Judith Butler, political morality, Gender, Identity

Suggested Citation

Herstein, Ori J., Justifying Subversion: Why Nussbaum Got (the Better Interpretation of) Butler Wrong (August 31, 2009). Buffalo Journal of Gender, Law & Social Policy, Vol. 18, pp. 43-73, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1465035 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1465035

Ori J. Herstein (Contact Author)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law ( email )

Mt. Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://law.huji.ac.il/eng/segel.asp?staff_id=190&cat=441

King's College London - Dickson Poon School of Law ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/law/people/visiting/oherstein.aspx

Paper statistics

Downloads
220
Rank
114,548
Abstract Views
1,577