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Derrida is the founder and leader of the poststructuralist movement. Poststructuralists believe that the structuralist idea that language is an attempt to express some original, unique idea that humans hold is incorrect and incomplete.

The basic assertion of poststructuralism is that everything is already reproduction. Language is not an attempt to express original ideas or to represent some true, primary reality. Rather, what we consider to be original, basic ideas or perceptions not derived from anything previous are actually still derived, still reproductions. Language is not a reproduction of concepts; language is reproduction of history, of culture.

The analysis of the construction of a text from its source writings – what Derrida calls “archi-writings” or “archi-traces” – is called deconstruction. Derrida coined this term and popularized the practice. In the 1970s and 1980s, Derrida and deconstruction were the most current, most studied – cynics would say the most fashionable – figures in literary theory and contemporary philosophy.

He was a key member of the Parisian School of poststructuralists. Along with Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, and Paul de Man, he enjoyed notoriety bordering on worship in academia from the late 1960s until today.