Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the previously dominant modernist approaches. The term "postmodernism" comes from its critique of the "modernist" scientific mentality of objectivity and the progress associated with the Enlightenment.
Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on whom the interested parties are and of what their interests consist. It supports the belief that there is no absolute truth and that the way in which different people perceive the world is subjective. Postmodernism has influenced many cultural fields, including religion, literary criticism, sociology, linguistics, architecture, history, anthropology, visual arts, and music.
Modernism and postmodernism are understood as a cultural stance or set of perspectives. "Postmodernism" is used in critical theory to refer to a point of departure for works of literature, drama, architecture, cinema, journalism, and design. It has also influenced marketing, business and the interpretation of law, culture, and religion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Postmodernism, particularly as an academic movement, can be understood as a reaction to modernism in the Humanities. Whereas modernism was primarily concerned with principles such as identity, unity, authority, and certainty, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, and scepticism.
Literary critic Fredric Jameson describes postmodernism as the "dominant cultural logic of late capitalism." "Late capitalism" refers to the phase of capitalism after World War II, as described by the Marxist theorist Ernest Mandel. The term refers to the same period described by "globalization", "multinational capitalism", or "consumer capitalism".
- 1 History and emergence
- 2 Contested definitions
- 3 Influence on art and aesthetics
- 4 Theories and derivatives
- 5 Criticisms
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
History and emergence
The term "Postmodern" was first used around the 1870s. John Watkins Chapman suggested "a Postmodern style of painting" as a way to move beyond French Impressionism. J. M. Thompson, in his 1914 article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review), used it to describe changes in attitudes and beliefs in the critique of religion: "The raison d'etre of Post-Modernism is to escape from the double-mindedness of Modernism by being thorough in its criticism by extending it to religion as well as theology, to Catholic feeling as well as to Catholic tradition."
In 1917, Rudolf Pannwitz used the term to describe a philosophically-oriented culture. His idea of post-modernism drew from Friedrich Nietzsche's analysis of modernity and its end results of decadence and nihilism. Pannwitz's post-human would be able to overcome the predicaments of the modern human. Contrary to Nietzsche, Pannwitz also included nationalist and mythical elements in his use of the term.
In 1921 and 1925, Postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music. In 1942 H. R. Hays described it as a new literary form. However, as a general theory for a historical movement it was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee: "Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914-1918."
In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, and led to the postmodern architecture movement, perhaps also a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style. Postmodernism in architecture is marked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, and non-orthogonal angles.
After that, Postmodernism was applied to a whole host of movements, many in art, music, and literature, that reacted against tendencies in the imperialist phase of capitalism called "modernism," and are typically marked by revival of historical elements and techniques. Walter Truett Anderson identifies Postmodernism as one of four typological world views. These four world views are the Postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed; the scientific-rational, in which truth is found through methodical, disciplined inquiry; the social-traditional, in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization; and the neo-romantic, in which truth is found through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Postmodernist ideas in philosophy and the analysis of culture and society expanded the importance of critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments—re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since the 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968—are described with the term Postmodernity, as opposed to Postmodernism, a term referring to an opinion or movement. "Postmodernist" describes part of a movement; "Postmodern" places it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
Overview of ideas (see also Postmodern philosophy)
- Martin Heidegger (1889–1976)
- rejected the philosophical basis of the concepts of "subjectivity" and "objectivity" and asserted that similar grounding oppositions in logic ultimately refer to one another. Instead of resisting the admission of this paradox in the search for understanding, Heidegger requires that we embrace it through an active process of elucidation he called the "Hermeneutic Circle". He stressed the historicity and cultural construction of concepts while simultaneously advocating the necessity of an atemporal and immanent apprehension of them. In this vein, he asserted that it was the task of contemporary philosophy to recover the original question of (or "openness to") Dasein (translated as Being or Being-in-the-World) present in the Presocratic philosophers but normalized, neutered and standardized since Plato. This was to be done, in part, by tracing the record of Dasein's sublimation or forgetfulness through the history of philosophy which meant that we were to ask again what constituted the grounding conditions in ourselves and in the World for the affinity between beings and between the many usages of the term "being" in philosophy. To do this, however, a non-historical and, to a degree, self-referential engagement with whatever set of ideas, feelings or practices would permit (both the non-fixed concept and reality of) such a continuity was required - a continuity permitting the possible experience, possible existence indeed not only of beings but of all differences as they appeared and tended to develop. Such a conclusion led Heidegger to depart from the Phenomenology of his teacher Husserl and prompt instead an (ironically anachronistic) return to the yet-unasked questions of Ontology, a return that in general did not acknowledge an intrinsic distinction between phenomena and noumena or between things in themselves (de re) and things as they appear (see qualia): Being-in-the-world, or rather, the openness to the process of Dasein's/Being's becoming was to bridge the age-old gap between these two. In this latter premise, Heidegger shares an affinity with the late Romantic philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, another principal forerunner of Post-structuralist and Postmodernist thought. Influential to thinkers associated with Postmodernism are Heidegger's critique of the subject-object or sense-knowledge division implicit in Rationalism, Empiricism and Methodological Naturalism, his repudiation of the idea that facts exist outside or separately from the process of thinking and speaking them (however, Heidegger is not specifically a Nominalist), his related admission that the possibilities of philosophical and scientific discourse are wrapped up in the practices and expectations of a society and that concepts and fundamental constructs are the expression of a lived, historical exercise rather than simple derivations of external, apriori conditions independent from historical mind and changing experience (see Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Heinrich von Kleist, Weltanschauung and Social Constructionism), and his Instrumentalist and Negativist notion that Being (and, by extension, reality) is an action, method, tendency, possibility and question rather than a discreet, positive, identifiable state, answer or entity (see also Process Philosophy, Dynamism, Instrumentalism, Pragmatism and Vitalism).
- Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922–1996)
- located the rapid change of the basis of scientific knowledge to a provisional consensus among scientists; coined the term "paradigm shift" in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and in general contributed to the debate over the presumed neutrality and objectivity of empirical methodology in the Natural Sciences from disciplinarian or cultural bias.
- Jacques Derrida (1930–2004)
- re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy in general; sought to undermine the language of 'presence' or metaphysics in an analytical technique which, beginning as a point of departure from Heidegger's notion of Destruktion, came to be known as Deconstruction. Derrida utilized, like Heidegger, references to Greek philosophical notions associated with the Skeptics and the Presocratics, such as Epoché and Aporia to articulate his notion of implicit circularity between premises and conclusions, origins and manifestations, but - in a manner analogous in certain respects to Gilles Deleuze - presented a radical re-reading of canonical philosophical figures such as Plato, Aristotle and Descartes as themselves being informed by such "destabilizing" notions.
- Michel Foucault (1926–1984)
- introduced concepts such as 'discursive regime', or re-invoked those of older philosophers like 'episteme' and 'genealogy' in order to explain the relationship among meaning, power, and social behavior within social orders (see The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality). In direct contradiction to what have been typified as Modernist perspectives on epistemology, Foucault asserted that rational judgment, social practice and what he called 'biopower' are not only inseparable but co-determinant. While Foucault himself was deeply involved in a number of progressive political causes and maintained close personal ties with members of the far-Left, he was also controversial with Leftist thinkers of his day, including those associated with various strains of Marxism, proponents of Left libertarianism (e.g. Noam Chomsky) and Humanism (e.g. Jürgen Habermas), for his rejection of what he deemed to be Enlightenment-derived concepts of freedom, liberation, self-determination and human nature. Instead, Foucault focused on the ways in which such constructs can foster cultural hegemony, violence and exclusion. In line with his rejection of such 'positive' tenets of Enlightenment-era Humanism, he was active, with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in the Anti-Psychiatry Movement, considering much of institutionalized psychiatry and, in particular, Freud's concept of repression central to Psychoanalysis (which was still very influential in France during the 1960s and 70s), to be both harmful and misplaced. Foucault was known for his controversial aphorisms, such as "language is oppression", meaning that language functions in such a way as to render nonsensical, false or silent tendencies that might otherwise threaten or undermine the distributions of power backing a society's conventions - even when such distributions purport to celebrate liberation and expression or value minority groups and perspectives. His writings have had a major influence on the larger body of Postmodern academic literature.
- Jean-François Lyotard (1924–1998)
- identified in The Postmodern Condition a crisis in the 'discourses of the Human Sciences' latent in Modernism but catapulted to the fore by the advent of the "computerized" or "telematic" era (see Information Revolution). This crisis, insofar as it pertains to academia, concerns both the motivations and justification procedures for making research claims: unstated givens or values that have validated the basic efforts of academic research since the late 18th Century might no longer be valid (particularly, in Social Science & Humanities research, though examples from Mathematics are given by Lyotard as well). As formal conjecture about real-world issues becomes inextricably linked to automated calculation, information storage and retrieval, such knowledge becomes increasingly "exteriorised" from its knowers in the form of information. Knowledge is materialized and made into a commodity exchanged between producers and consumers; it ceases to be either an idealistic end-in-itself or a tool capable of bringing about liberty or social benefit; it is stripped of its humanistic and spiritual associations, its connection with education, teaching and human development, being simply rendered as "data" - omnipresent, material, unending and without any contexts or pre-requisites. Furthermore, the 'diversity' of claims made by various disciplines begins to lack any unifying principle or intuition as objects of study become more and more specialized due to the emphasis on specificity, precision and uniformity of reference that competitive, database-oriented research implies. The value-premises upholding academic research have been maintained by what Lyotard considers to be quasi-mythological beliefs about human purpose, human reason and human progress - large, background constructs he calls "Metanarratives". These Metanarratives still remain in Western society but are now being undermined by rapid Informatization and the commercialization of the University and its functions. The shift of authority from the presence and intuition of knowers - from the good-faith of Reason to seek diverse knowledge integrated for human benefit or truth fidelity - to the automated database and the market had, in Lyotard's view, the power to unravel the very idea of 'justification' or 'legitimation' and, with it, the rationale for research altogether - esp. in disciplines pertaining to human life, society and meaning. We are now controlled not by binding extra-linguistic value paradigms defining notions of collective identity and ultimate purpose, but rather by our automatic responses to different species of "language games" (a concept Lyotard imports from JL Austin's theory of Speech Acts). In his vision of a solution to this "vertigo," Lyotard opposes the assumptions of universality, consensus, and generality that he identified within the thought of Humanistic, Neo-Kantian philosophers like Jürgen Habermas and proposes a continuation of experimentation and diversity to be assessed pragmatically in the context of language games rather than via appeal to a resurrected series of transcendentals and metaphysical unities.
- Richard Rorty (1931–2007)
- argues in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that contemporary Analytic philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods. In addition, he denounces the traditional epistemological perspectives of Representationalism and Correspondence theory that rely upon the independence of knowers and observers from phenomena and the passivity of natural phenomena in relation to consciousness. As a proponent of anti-foundationalism and anti-essentialism within a Pragmatist framework, he echoes Postmodern strains of Conventionalism and Philosophical Relativism, but opposes much Postmodern thinking with his commitment to Social Liberalism.
- Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007),
- in Simulacra and Simulation, introduced the concept that reality or the principle of the "real" is short-circuited by the interchangeability of signs in an era whose communicative and semantic acts are dominated by electronic media and digital technologies. Baudrillard proposes the notion that, in such a state, where subjects are detached from the outcomes of events (political, literary, artistic, personal or otherwise), events no longer hold any particular sway on the subject nor have any identifiable context; they therefore have the effect of producing widespread indifference, detachment and passivity in industrialized populations. He claimed that a constant stream of appearances and references without any direct consequences to viewers or readers could eventually render the division between appearance and object indiscernible, resulting, ironically, in the "disappearance" of mankind in what is, in effect, a virtual or holographic state, composed only of appearances.
- Fredric Jameson (born 1934)
- set forth one of the first expansive theoretical treatments of Postmodernism as a historical period, intellectual trend and social phenomenon in a series of lectures at the Whitney Museum, later expanded as Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). Eclectic in his methodology, Jameson has continued a sustained examination of the role that Periodization continues to play as a grounding assumption of critical methodologies in Humanities disciplines. He has contributed extensive effort to explicating the importance of concepts of Utopianism and Utopia as driving forces in the cultural and intellectual movements of Modernity, and outlining the political and existential uncertainties that may result from the decline or suspension of this trend in the theorized state of Postmodernity. Like Susan Sontag, Jameson served to introduce a wide audience of American readers to key figures of the 20th Century Continental European intellectual Left, particularly those associated with the Frankfurt School, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism. Thus, his importance as a 'translator' of their ideas to the common vocabularies of a variety of disciplines in the Anglo-American academic complex is equally as important as his own critical engagement with them.
The term "Postmodernism" is often used to refer to different, sometimes contradictory concepts. Conventional definitions include:
- Compact Oxford English Dictionary: "a style and concept in the arts characterized by distrust of theories and ideologies and by the drawing of attention to conventions."
- Merriam-Webster: Either "of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one", or "of, relating to, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms (as in architecture) or by ironic self-reference and absurdity (as in literature)", or, finally "of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language".
- American Heritage Dictionary: "Of or relating to art, architecture, or literature that reacts against earlier modernist principles, as by reintroducing traditional or classical elements of style or by carrying modernist styles or practices to extremes: 'It [a roadhouse] is so architecturally interesting ... with its postmodern wooden booths and sculptural clock.'"
While the term "Postmodern" and its derivatives are freely used, with some uses apparently contradicting others, those outside the academic milieu have described it as merely a buzzword that means nothing. Dick Hebdige, in his text ‘Hiding in the Light’, writes:
When it becomes possible for a people to describe as ‘postmodern’ the décor of a room, the design of a building, the diegesis of a film, the construction of a record, or a ‘scratch’ video, a television commercial, or an arts documentary, or the ‘intertextual’ relations between them, the layout of a page in a fashion magazine or critical journal, an anti-teleological tendency within epistemology, the attack on the ‘metaphysics of presence’, a general attenuation of feeling, the collective chagrin and morbid projections of a post-War generation of baby boomers confronting disillusioned middle-age, the ‘predicament’ of reflexivity, a group of rhetorical tropes, a proliferation of surfaces, a new phase in commodity fetishism, a fascination for images, codes and styles, a process of cultural, political or existential fragmentation and/or crisis, the ‘de-centring’ of the subject, an ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’, the replacement of unitary power axes by a plurality of power/discourse formations, the ‘implosion of meaning’, the collapse of cultural hierarchies, the dread engendered by the threat of nuclear self-destruction, the decline of the university, the functioning and effects of the new miniaturised technologies, broad societal and economic shifts into a ‘media’, ‘consumer’ or ‘multinational’ phase, a sense (depending on who you read) of ‘placelessness’ or the abandonment of placelessness (‘critical regionalism’) or (even) a generalised substitution of spatial for temporal coordinates - when it becomes possible to describe all these things as ‘Postmodern’ (or more simply using a current abbreviation as ‘post’ or ‘very post’) then it’s clear we are in the presence of a buzzword.
British historian Perry Anderson's history of the term and its understanding, 'The Origins of Postmodernity', explains these apparent contradictions, and demonstrates the importance of "Postmodernism" as a category and a phenomenon in the analysis of contemporary culture.
Influence on art and aesthetics
The movement of Postmodernism began with architecture, as a response to the perceived blandness, hostility, and Utopianism of the Modern movement. Modern Architecture, as established and developed by people such as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Philip Johnson, was focused on the pursuit of a perceived ideal perfection, and attempted harmony of form and function, and dismissal of "frivolous ornament." Critics of modernism argued that the attributes of perfection and minimalism themselves were subjective, and pointed out anachronisms in modern thought and questioned the benefits of its philosophy. Definitive postmodern architecture such as the work of Michael Graves and Robert Venturi reject the notion of a 'pure' form or 'perfect' architectonic detail, instead conspicuously drawing from all methods, materials, forms and colors available to architects.
Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is associated with the phrase "less is more"; in contrast Venturi famously said, "Less is a bore." Postmodernist architecture was one of the first aesthetic movements to openly challenge Modernism as antiquated and "totalitarian", favoring personal preferences and variety over objective, ultimate truths or principles. It is this atmosphere of criticism, skepticism, and emphasis on difference over and against unity that distinguishes the postmodernism aesthetic.
Literary postmodernism was officially inaugurated in the United States with the first issue of boundary 2, subtitled "Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture", which appeared in 1972. David Antin, Charles Olson, John Cage, and the Black Mountain College school of poetry and the arts were integral figures in the intellectual and artistic exposition of postmodernism at the time. boundary 2 remains an influential journal in postmodernist circles today.
Although Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett are sometimes seen as important influences, novelists who are commonly counted to postmodern literature include Vladimir Nabokov, William Gaddis, John Hawkes, William Burroughs, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow, Jerzy Kosinski, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Kathy Acker, Ana Lydia Vega, and Paul Auster.
In 1971, the Arab-American scholar Ihab Hassan published The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature, an early work of literary criticism from a postmodern perspective, in which the author traces the development of what he calls "literature of silence" through Marquis de Sade, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Beckett, and many others, including developments such as the Theatre of the Absurd and the nouveau roman. In 'Postmodernist Fiction' (1987), Brian McHale details the shift from modernism to postmodernism, arguing that the former is characterized by an epistemological dominant, and that postmodern works have developed out of modernism and are primarily concerned with questions of ontology. In Constructing Postmodernism (1992), McHale's second book, he provides readings of postmodern fiction and of some of the contemporary writers who go under the label of cyberpunk. McHale's "What Was Postmodernism?" (2007), follows Raymond Federman's lead in now using the past tense when discussing postmodernism.
Postmodern music is either music of the postmodern era, or music that follows aesthetic and philosophical trends of postmodernism. As the name suggests, the postmodernist movement formed partly in reaction to the ideals of the modernist. Because of this, Postmodern music is mostly defined in opposition to modernist music, and a work can either be modernist, or postmodern, but not both. Jonathan Kramer posits the idea (following Umberto Eco and Jean-François Lyotard) that postmodernism (including musical postmodernism) is less a surface style or historical period (i.e., condition) than an attitude.
The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1970s with the advent of musical minimalism. Composers such as Terry Riley, Henryk Górecki, Bradley Joseph, John Adams, Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Lou Harrison reacted to the perceived elitism and dissonant sound of atonal academic modernism by producing music with simple textures and relatively consonant harmonies. Some composers have been openly influenced by popular music and world ethnic musical traditions.
Postmodern Classical music as well is not a musical style, but rather refers to music of the postmodern era. It bears the same relationship to postmodernist music that postmodernity bears to postmodernism. Postmodern music, on the other hand, shares characteristics with postmodernist art—that is, art that comes after and reacts against modernism (see Modernism in Music).
Though representing a general return to certain notions of music-making that are often considered to be classical or romantic, not all postmodern composers have eschewed the experimentalist or academic tenets of modernism. The works of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, for example, exhibit experimentalist preoccupation that is decidedly anti-romantic. Eclecticism and freedom of expression, in reaction to the rigidity and aesthetic limitations of modernism, are the hallmarks of the postmodern influence in musical composition.
Theories and derivatives
One of the most popular postmodernist tendencies within aesthetics is deconstruction. As it is currently used, "deconstruction" is a Derridean approach to textual analysis (typically literary critique, but variously applied). Deconstructions work entirely within the studied text to expose and undermine the frame of reference, assumptions, and ideological underpinnings of the text. Although deconstructions can be developed using different methods and techniques, the process typically involves demonstrating the multiple possible readings of a text and their resulting internal conflicts, and undermining binary oppositions (e.g. masculine/feminine, old/new). Deconstruction is fundamental to many different fields of postmodernist thought, including postcolonialism, as demonstrated through the writings of Gayatri Spivak.
Structuralism and post-structuralism
Structuralism was a broad philosophical movement that developed particularly in France in the 1950s, partly in response to French Existentialism, but is considered by many to be an exponent of High-Modernism,[by whom?] though its categorization as either a Modernist or Postmodernist trend is contested. Many Structuralists later moved away from the most strict interpretations and applications of "structure", and are thus called "Post-structuralists" in the United States (the term is uncommon in Europe). Though many Post-structuralists were referred to as Postmodern in their lifetimes, many explicitly rejected the term. Notwithstanding, Post-structuralism in much American academic literature in the Humanities is very strongly associated with the broader and more nebulous movement of Postmodernism. Thinkers most typically linked with Structuralism include anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, the early writings of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the early writings of literary theorist Roland Barthes, and the semiotician Algirdas Greimas. Philosophers commonly referred to as Post-structuralists include Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze (all of whom began their careers within a Structuralist framework), Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-François Lyotard, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray and, sometimes, the American cultural theorists, critics and intellectuals they influenced (e.g. Judith Butler, Jonathan Crary, John Fiske, Rosalind Krauss, Hayden White).
Though by no means a unified movement with a set of shared axioms or methodologies, Post-structuralism emphasizes the ways in which different aspects of a cultural order, from its most banal material details to its most abstract theoretical exponents, determine one another (rather than espousing a series of strict, uni-directional, cause and effect relationships – see Reductionism – or resorting to Epiphenomenalism). Like Structuralism, it places particular focus on the determination of identities, values and economies in relation to one another, rather than assuming intrinsic properties or essences of signs or components as starting points. In this limited sense, there is a nascent Relativism and Constructionism within the French Structuralists that was consciously addressed by them but never examined to the point of dismantling their reductionist tendencies. Unlike Structuralists, however, the Post-structuralists questioned the division between relation and component and, correspondingly, did not attempt to reduce the subjects of their study to an essential set of relations that could be portrayed with abstract, functional schemes or mathematical symbols (as in Claude Lévi-Strauss's algebraic formulation of mythological transformation in "The Structural Study of Myth").
Post-Structuralists tended to reject such formulations of “essential relations” in primitive cultures, languages or descriptions of psychological phenomena as subtle forms of Aristotelianism, Rationalism or Idealism, all philosophies they rejected. Another common trend among thinkers associated with the Post-Structural movement is the criticism of the absolutist, quasi-scientific claims of Structuralist theorists as more reflective of the mechanistic bias inspired by bureaucratization and industrialization than of the inner-workings of actual primitive cultures, languages or psyches. Generally, Post-structuralists emphasized the inter-determination and contingency of social and historical phenomena with each other and with the cultural values and biases of perspective. Such realities were not to be dissected, in the manner of some Structuralists, as a system of facts that could exist independently from values and paradigms (either those of the analysts or the subjects themselves), but to be understood as both causes and effects of each other. For this reason, most Post-structuralists held a more open-ended view of function within systems than did Structuralists and were sometimes accused of circularity and ambiguity. Post-structuralists countered that, when closely examined, all formalized claims describing phenomena, reality or truth, rely on some form or circular reasoning and self-referential logic that is often paradoxical in nature. Thus, it was important to uncover the hidden patterns of circularity, self-reference and paradox within a given set of statements rather that feign objectivity, as such an investigation might allow new perspectives to have influence and new practices to be sanctioned or adopted. In this latter respect, Post-structuralists were, as a group, continuing the philosophical project initiated by Martin Heidegger, who saw himself as extending the implications of Friedrich Nietzsche's work.
As would be expected, Post-structuralist writing tends to connect observations and references from many, widely varying disciplines into a synthetic view of knowledge and its relationship to experience, the body, society and economy - a synthesis in which it sees itself as participating. Stucturalists, while also somewhat inter-disciplinary, were more comfortable within departmental boundaries and often maintained the autonomy of their analytical methods over the objects they analyzed. Post-structuralists, unlike Structuralists, did not privilege a system of (abstract) "relations" over the specifics to which such relations were applied, but tended to see the notion of “the relation” or of systemization itself as part-and-parcel of any stated conclusion rather than a reflection of reality as an independent, self-contained state or object. If anything, if a part of objective reality, theorization and systemization to Post-structuralists was an exponent of larger, more nebulous patterns of control in social orders – patterns that could not be encapsulated in theory without simultaneously conditioning it. For this reason, certain Post-structural thinkers were also criticized by more Realist, Naturalist or Essentialist thinkers of anti-intellectualism or anti-Philosophy. In short, Post-structuralists, unlike Structuralists, tended to place a great deal of skepticism on the independence of theoretical premises from collective bias and the influence of power, and rejected the notion of a "pure" or "scientific" methodology in social analysis, semiotics or philosophical speculation. No theory, they said – especially when concerning human society or psychology – was capable of reducing phenomena to elemental systems or abstract patterns, nor could abstract systems be dismissed as secondary derivatives of a fundamental nature: systemization, phenomena and values were part of each other.
While many of the so-called Post-structuralists vehemently disagreed on the specifics of such fundamental categories as "the real", "society", "totality", "desire" and "history", many also shared, in contrast to their so-called Structuralist predecessors, the traits mentioned. Furthermore, a good number of them engaged in a re-assessment (positive or negative) of the philosophical traditions associated with Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Because of its general skepticism of analytical objectivity and mutually exclusive oppositions in logic, its emphasis on the social production of knowledge and of knowledge paradigms, and its portrayal of the sometimes ambiguous inter-determination of material culture, values, physical practices and socio-economic life, Post-structuralism is often linked to Postmodernism.
Recently the notion of the "death of postmodernism" has been increasingly widely debated: in 2007 Andrew Hoborek noted in his introduction to a special issue of the journal Twentieth Century Literature titled "After Postmodernism" that "declarations of postmodernism's demise have become a critical commonplace". A small group of critics has put forth a range of theories that aim to describe culture and/or society in the alleged aftermath of postmodernism, most notably Raoul Eshelman (performatism), Gilles Lipovetsky (hypermodernity), Nicolas Bourriaud (Altermodern), and Alan Kirby (digimodernism, formerly called pseudo-modernism). None of these new theories and labels has so far gained widespread acceptance.
The term postmodernism, when used pejoratively, describes tendencies perceived as relativist, counter-enlightenment or antimodern, particularly in relation to critiques of rationalism, universalism or science. It is also sometimes used to describe tendencies in a society that are held to be antithetical to traditional systems of morality.
- Critical race theory
- Low-carbon economy
- Media studies
- Post scarcity
- Science fiction
- Integral Theory
- Culture and politics
- Ontological pluralism
- Physical ontology
- Postmodern psychology
- Postmodern Religion
- Opposed by
- ^ Historians have generally not used postmodernist approaches in their work, as shown by Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson, "The Singularization of History: Social History and Microhistory within the Postmodern State of Knowledge," Journal of Social History 2003 36(3): 701-735; Georg G. Iggers, Historiography in the Twentieth-Century: From Scientific Objectivity to the Postmodern Challenge (1997). Many historians engage with postmodernism (e.g. Perry Anderson), and several philosophers often associated with the postmodern movement have made important contributions to history and historiography (most prominently, Michel Foucault).
- ^ Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.
- ^ The Postmodern Turn, Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture, Ohio University Press, 1987. p12ff
- ^ Thompson, J. M. "Post-Modernism," The Hibbert Journal. Vol XII No. 4, July 1914. p. 733
- ^ Pannwitz, Rudolf. Die Krisis der europäischen Kultur, Nürnberg 1917
- ^ OED long edition
- ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2004
- ^ Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 2004
- ^ Walter Truett Anderson (1996). The Fontana Postmodernism Reader.
- ^ Influences on postmodern thought, Paul Lützeler (St. Louis)
- ^ Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979. English Translation by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massumi. Manchester University Press, 1984. See Chapter 1, The Field: Knowledge in Computerised Societies.//
- ^ Askoxford.com
- ^ Merriam-Webster's definition of postmodernism
- ^ Ruth Reichl, Cook's November 1989; American Heritage Dictionary's definition of "postmodern"
- ^ ’Postmodernism and “the other side”’, in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A reader, edited by John Storey, London, : Pearson Education .2006
- ^ Perry Anderson, 'The Origins of Postmodernity', London: Verso, 1998.
- ^ Sullivan, Louis. "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” published Lippincott's Magazine (March 1896).
- ^ Loos, Adolf. "Ornament and Crime,” published 1908.
- ^ Manfredo Tafuri, 'Architecture and utopia: design and capitalist development', Cambridge: MIT Press, 1976.
- ^ Venturi, et al.
- ^ Anderson, The origins of postmodernity, London: Verso, 1998, Ch.2: "Crystallization".
- ^ boundary 2, Duke University Press, Boundary2.dukejournals.org
- ^ Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (First published New York: Basic Books, 1963; New York: Anchor Books Ed., 1967), 324.
Lévi-Strauss, quoting D'Arcy Westworth Thompson states - "To those who question the possibility of defining the interrelations between entities whose nature is not completely understood, I shall reply with the following comment by a great naturalist -
In a very large part of morphology, our essential task lies in the comparison of related forms rather than in the precise definition of each; and the deformation of a complicated figure may be a phenomenon easy of comprehension, though the figure itself has to be left unanalyzed and undefined.
- ^ Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Anthropologie Structurale. Paris: Éditions Plon, 1958.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 228.
- ^ See the following web reference for a common critique of from an "Anti-positivist" perspective.
- ^ Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. II: A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 101. Orig. published as Mille Plateaux, in 1980 by Les Editions de Minuit, Paris.
Deleuze, here echoing the sentiments of Derrida's reflection on Foucault's "The History of Madness" (1961) in his essay "Cogito and the History of Madness" (1963), makes a very thinly veiled reference to semiological certainty of both Saussure and Lacan (who speaks of "The Unity of the Father" in his theory of semantic coherence), critiquing the premise of objectivity in their methodology -
"The scientific model taking language as an object of study is one with the political model by which language is homogenized, centralized, standardized, becoming a language of power, a major or dominant language. Linguistics can claim all it wants to be science, nothing but pure science -- it wouldn't be the first time that the order of pure science was used to secure the requirements of another order...The unity of language is fundamentally political. There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language that at times advances along a broad front, and at times swoops down on diverse centers simultaneously...The scientific enterprise of extracting constants and constant relations is always coupled with the political enterprise of imposing them on speakers and transmitting order-worlds."
- Powell, Jim (1998). "Postmodernism For Beginners" (ISBN 978-1-934389-09-6)
- Alexie, Sherman (2000). "The Toughest Indian in the World" (ISBN 0-8021-3800-4)
- Anderson, Walter Truett. The Truth about the Truth (New Consciousness Reader). New York: Tarcher. (1995) (ISBN 0-87477-801-8)
- Anderson, Perry. The origins of postmodernity. London: Verso, 1998.
- Ashley, Richard and Walker, R. B. J. (1990) “Speaking the Language of Exile.” International Studies Quarterly v 34, no 3 259-68.
- Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Beck, Ulrich (1986) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity.
- Benhabib, Seyla (1995) 'Feminism and Postmodernism' in (ed. Nicholson) Feminism Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange. New York: Routledge.
- Berman, Marshall (1982) All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (ISBN 0-14-010962-5).
- Bertens, Hans (1995) The Idea of the Postmodern: A History. London: Routledge. (ISBN 0-145-06012-5).
- Best, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. Postmodern Theory (1991) excerpt and text search
- Best, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Turn (1997) excerpt and text search
- Bielskis, Andrius (2005) Towards a Postmodern Understanding of the Political: From Genealogy to Hermeneutics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
- Braschi, Giannina (1994), Empire of Dreams, introduction by Alicia Ostriker, Yale University Press, New Haven, London.
- Brass, Tom, Peasants, Populism and Postmodernism (London: Cass, 2000).
- Butler, Judith (1995) 'Contingent Foundations' in (ed. Nicholson) Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange. New Yotk: Routledge.
- Callinicos, Alex, Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique (Cambridge: Polity, 1999).
- Drabble, M. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6 ed., article "Postmodernism".
- Farrell, John. "Paranoia and Postmodernism," the epilogue to Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau (Cornell UP, 2006), 309-327.
- Featherstone, M. (1991) Consumer culture and postmodernism, London; Newbury Park, Calif., Sage Publications.
- Goulimari, Pelagia (ed.) (2007) Postmodernism. What Moment? Manchester: Manchester University Press (ISBN 978-0-7190-7308-3)
- Giddens, Anthony (1991) Modernity and Self Identity, Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Grebowicz, Margaret (ed.), Gender After Lyotard. NY: Suny Press, 2007. (ISBN 978-0-7914-6956-9)
- Greer, Robert C. Mapping Postmodernism. IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. (ISBN 0-8308-2733-1)
- Groothuis, Douglas. Truth Decay. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
- Harvey, David (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (ISBN 0-631-16294-1)
- Hicks, Stephen R. C. (2004) Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (ISBN 1-59247-646-5)
- Honderich, T., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, article "Postmodernism".
- Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. (2002) online edition]
- Jameson, Fredric (1991) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (ISBN 0-8223-1090-2)
- Kirby, Alan (2009) Digimodernism. New York: Continuum.
- Lash, S. (1990) The sociology of postmodernism London, Routledge.
- Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (ISBN 0-8166-1173-4)
- --- (1988). The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence 1982-1985. Ed. Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas. (ISBN 0-8166-2211-6)
- --- (1993), "Scriptures: Diffracted Traces." In: Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21(1), 2004.
- --- (1995), "Anamnesis: Of the Visible." In: Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21(1), 2004.
- McHale,Brian, (1987) 'Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge.
- --- (1992), 'Constructing Postmodernism. NY & London: Routledge.
- --- (2008), "1966 Nervous Breakdown, or, When Did Postmodernism Begin?" Modern Language Quarterly 69, 3:391-413.
- --- (2007), "What Was Postmodernism?" electronic book review, 
- MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984, 2nd edn.).
- Magliola, Robert, Derrida on the Mend (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1984; 1986; pbk. 2000, ISBN I-55753-205-2).
- ---, On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture (Atlanta: Scholars Press of American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-7885-0295-6, cloth, ISBN 0-7885-0296-4, pbk).
- Manuel, Peter. "Music as Symbol, Music as Simulacrum: Pre-Modern, Modern, and Postmodern Aesthetics in Subcultural Musics," Popular Music 1/2, 1995, pp. 227–239.
- Murphy, Nancey, Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics (Westview Press, 1997).
- Natoli, Joseph (1997) A Primer to Postmodernity (ISBN 1-57718-061-5)
- Norris, Christopher (1990) What's Wrong with Postmodernism: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy (ISBN 0-8018-4137-2)
- Pangle, Thomas L., The Ennobling of Democracy: The Challenge of the Postmodern Age, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-8018-4635-8
- Park, Jin Y., ed., Buddhisms and Deconstructions (Lanham: Rowland & Littlefield, 2006, ISBN 978-0-7425-3418-6; ISBN 0-7425-3418-9.
- Sim, Stuart. (1999). "The Routledge critical dictionary of postmodern thought" (ISBN 0415923530)
- Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont (1998) Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (ISBN 0-312-20407-8)
- Vattimo, Gianni (1989). The Transparent Society (ISBN 0-8018-4528-9)
- Veith Jr., Gene Edward (1994) Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (ISBN 0-89107-768-5)
- Windshuttle, Keith (1996) The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering our Past. New York: The Free Press.
- Woods, Tim, Beginning Postmodernism, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999,(Reprinted 2002)(ISBN 0-7190-5210-6 Hardback,ISBN 0-7190-5211-4 Paperback) .
- “Love and Hatred of ‘French Theory’ in America., Borderlands e journal. Rolando Pérez. 4.1.2005.
- WSWS philosophy archives – incl. critiques of postmodernist thought
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on postmodernism
- The Christian Cadre's Postmodernism Page
- Discourses of Postmodernism. Multilingual Bibliography by Janusz Przychodzen (PDF file)
- Modernity, postmodernism and the tradition of dissent, by Lloyd Spencer (1998)
- Dueling Paradigms: Modernist v. Postmodernist Thought * Characterizing a Fogbank: What Is Postmodernism, and Why Do I Take Such a Dim View of it?
- Postmodernism and truth by philosopher Daniel Dennett
- Postmodernism is the new black: How the shape of modern retailing was both predicted and influenced by some unlikely seers (The Economist December 19, 2006)
- Gaining clarity: after postmodernism, Eretz Acheret Magazine
- Postmodernism, Style and Subversion 1970 to 1990 V&A survey exhibition on Postmodern art and design
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