In critical theory and deconstruction, logocentrism is a phrase coined by the German philosopher Ludwig Klages in the 1920s to refer to the perceived tendency of Western thought to locate the center of any text or discourse within the logos (a Greek word meaning word, reason, or spirit). Jacques Derrida used the term to characterize most of Western philosophy since Plato: a constant search for the "truth."
Logocentrism is often confused with phonocentrism, which more specifically refers to the privileging of speech over writing.
Logocentrism is manifested in the works of Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude LÚvi-Strauss, and many other philosophers of the Western tradition, all of whom regard speech as superior to writing (believing writing only represents or archives speech), but who more generally wish to establish a foundational presence of Logos or "reason" obtained from an origin of all knowledge (e.g., God or the universe).
Derrida believed Western thought has been riddled since the time of Plato by a cancer he called "logocentrism". This is, at its core, the assumption that language describes the world in a fairly transparent way. You might think that the words you use are impartial tools for understanding the world - but this is, Derrida argued, a delusion. If I describe, say, Charles Manson as "mad", many people would assume I was describing an objective state called "madness" that exists in the world. Derrida would say the idea of "madness" is just a floating concept, a "signifier", that makes little sense except in relation to other words. The thing out there - the actual madness, the "signified" - is almost impossible to grasp; we are lost in a sea of opposing words that prevent us from actually experiencing reality directly.
Derrida wants to break down the naive belief that there is an objective external reality connected to our words that can be explored through language, science and rationality. Any narrative we construct to understand the world will inevitably be built on supressed violence and exclusion. So, for example, the narrative of 'madness' has been shown by Derrida's colleague and friend Michel Foucault to be a highly elastic concept that is used to stigmatize 'dissidents'; it is a categry that serves the powerful. None of our words is immune to these power-games. There is tension, opposition and power in even the most simple of concepts.
Current events which touch on this ---
Growing acceptance for trans people - this involves accepting the socially constructed nature of gender roles. The idea of Male and Female just being a floating concept, a signifier.
On the other side of the fence, you've got the American confederate flag. The flag is coming down all over the place, and so we're also seeing some disgusting defense mechanisms.
I listened to a John Oliver episode last night in which he described the flag as "objectively racist", and I flinched a bit. I think what a flag "really signifies" is a floating point, and we're never going to find anything "objective" there.
I think that the discussion about the flag's "meaning" is missing the point and should be avoided; we should be talking about its consequences. To me, it's not about whether the flag is racist or not, we should be focused on how people relate to and react to the flag. How black people feel when they see the flag is not up for debate.
History and context are relevant, though.
Yes, they are. The flag may not be objectively racist, but it was objectively used by racist people for racist purposes, and there's quite a bit of evidence backing that up, given that it was a fairly recent time period. The one thing that I could see giving the flag a strong contender for an alternate meaning would be if an organization at some point down the line appropriated it in an entirely different context, for entirely different purposes, the way the Nazi party did with the swastika. However, like the swastika, I think this would need to occur centuries or possibly millennia after the fact.
I think at this point in history, it is unlikely that any group without a racist agenda would use the flag, and if they did, rather than changing its widely-accepted meaning, they would instead be suspected of racism. What's more, they would likely attract racists to their cause, and thus become a racist organization from the inside. So what we're dealing with is a symbol, yes, but it's a symbol with a very strong memetic pull, if it makes any sense to put it that way. Whoever repurposes this symbol, I think, will need to be far removed from its original context; I strongly suspect that if it ever is repurposed, it won't be by Americans.