In critical theory and deconstruction, phallogocentrism is a neologism coined by Jacques Derrida to refer to the privileging of the masculine (phallus) in the construction of meaning. The word is a portmanteau of the older terms phallocentrism (focusing on the masculine point of view) and logocentrism (focusing on language in assigning meaning to the world).
Derrida and others identified phonocentrism, or the prioritizing of speech over writing, as an integral part of phallogocentrism. Derrida explored this idea in his essay "Plato's Pharmacy".
In contemporary literary and philosophical works concerned with gender, the term "phallogocentrism" is commonplace largely as a result of the writings of Jacques Derrida, the founder of the philosophy of deconstruction, which is considered by many academics to constitute an essential part of the discourse of postmodernism. Deconstruction is a philosophy of "indeterminateness" and its opposing philosophy, "determinateness". According to deconstruction, indeterminate knowledge is “aporetic”, i.e., based on contradictory facts or ideas (“aporias”) that make it impossible to determine matters of truth with any degree of certitude; determinate knowledge, on the other hand, is “apodictic”, i.e., based on facts or ideas that are considered to be “true,” from one perspective or another.
The phallogocentric argument is premised on the claim that modern Western culture has been, and continues to be, both culturally and intellectually subjugated by "logocentrism" and "phallocentrism". Logocentrism is the term Derrida uses to refer to the philosophy of determinateness, while phallocentrism is the term he uses to describe the way logocentrism itself has been genderized by a "masculinist (phallic)" and "patriarchal" agenda. Hence, Derrida intentionally merges the two terms phallocentrism and logocentrism as “phallogocentrism”.
The French feminist thinkers of the school of écriture féminine also share Derrida’s phallogocentric reading of ‘all of Western metaphysics’. For example, Catherine Clément and Hélène Cixous in "The Newly Born Woman" (1975) decry the "dual, hierarchical oppositions" set up by the traditional phallogocentric philosophy of determinateness, wherein "death is always at work" as "the premise of woman's abasement", woman who has been "colonized" by phallogocentric thinking. According to Cixous and Clément, the‘crumbling’of this way of thinking will take place through a Derridean-inspired, anti-phallo/logocentric philosophy of indeterminateness.
Wayne Borody, a professor of philosophy at Nipissing University, has criticised the concept of phallogocentrism as misrepresenting and oversimplifying the history of Western culture. In particular, he argues, it ignores the prevalence of ideas of indeterminateness in Western philosophy, religion, and science. According to Borody, the phallogocentric argument functions as a ‘meta-narrative’ that denounces all of modern Western culture as rigidly rationalistic and hegemonic—in much the same manner that New World colonialists denounced all native culture as "savage".
- Hélène Cixous and Catherine Clément, "The Newly Born Woman", trans. Betsy Wang. Theory and History of Literature, Volume 24 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 65.
- W. A. Borody (1998), “Figuring the Phallogocentric Argument with Respect to the Classical Greek Philosophical Tradition”, Nebula, A Netzine of the Arts and Science, Vol. 13, pp. 1-27 (http://kenstange.com/nebula/feat013/feat013.html)
- Wayne Borody (2000). "Classical Greek Philosophical Paideia in Light of the Postmodern Occidentalism of Jacques Derrida". Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy. Philosophy and Gender at Boston University.