Posts tagged postmodernism

Posted 3 years ago

The dogmas are tediously familiar: All multiplicity, decentering, or dispersion is positive, while all unity or homogeneity is suspect; all marginality is creative, while all majorities and consensuses are oppressive; small-scale political action is to be commended, while large-scale, state-centered projects are to be treated with thorough-going skepticism.

This is not the kind of politics that brought down apartheid, upended the neo-Stalinist states of Eastern Europe, or, as I write, has toppled a couple of autocracies in the Arab world. It is rather the expression of post-1970s political deadlock in advanced Western societies—one that then, in a grandly universalizing gesture not unfamiliar in Parisian theory, mistakes itself for the truth. Except that we cannot speak of truth …

Terry Eagleton, "Couples Therapy," Artforum
Posted 3 years ago

In epistemology it can too often seem as if a concern with truth and rationality were wholly disconnected from any concern with power and the social identities of the participants in epistemic practices. For the most part the tradition provides us with a clinically asocial conception of the knowing subject, with the result that epistemology tends to proceed as if socio-political considerations were utterly irrelevant to it. At the other extreme, there are many ‘end-of-epistemology’ and postmodernist theories (treated as either occult tendency or as the new orthodoxy, depending on the company one keeps) who tell us to abandon reason and truth as universal norms on the grounds that they are mere functions of power as it is played out in the drama of epistemic practice. Whereas on the the traditionalist view social power is seen as irrelevant to the rational, on the postmodernist view reason tends to be reduced to social power. One might venture a diagnosis: that both the traditionalist and reductivist camps make the same mistake of thinking it is an all or nothing situation, so that if social power is involved in rational proceedings in any but the must superficial of ways, then it is all up with rationality.

…These characterizations of traditionalist and reductivist extremes are somewhat artificial, of course, although I think they are not quite caricatures. They serve to delineate two contrasting and equally mistaken conceptions of how rational authority and social power are related. I shall present a different conception of the relation, which explains, firstly, why socio-political matters are a proper concern in epistemology; and, secondly, why the very possibility of bringing a politicized critical perspective to bear requires that rational authority and social power be firmly distinguished.

Miranda Fricker, “Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology”

(reprinted in Social Epistemology: Essential Readings, p. 55)

Posted 3 years ago

(post)Modernity and (post)Modernism

I’ve moved from slogans to infographics. 

Posted 4 years ago
Worst of all, while it opens up a radical prospect by acknowledging the authenticity of other voices, postmodernist thinking immediately shuts off those other voices by ghettoizing them within an opaque otherness, the specificity of this or that language game. It thereby disempowers those voices (of women, ethnic and racial minorities, colonized peoples, the unemployed, youth, etc.) in a world of lop-sided power relations.
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 117
Posted 4 years ago
The meta-narratives that postmodernists decry (Marx, Freud, and even later figures like Althusser) were much more open, nuanced, and sophisticated than the critics admit. Marx and many of the Marxists (I think of Benjamin, Thompson, Anderson, as diverse examples) have an eye for detail, fragmentation, and disjunction that is often caricatured out of existence in postmodern polemics. Marx’s account of modernization is exceedingly rich in insights into the roots of modernist as well as postmodernist senibility.
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 115
Posted 4 years ago
Postmodernism has us accepting the reifications and partitionings, actually celebrating the activity of masking and cover-up, all the fetishisms of locality, place, or social grouping, while denying that kind of meta-theory which can grasp the political-economic processes (money flows, international divisions of labour, financial markets, and the like) that are becoming ever more universalizing in their depth, intensity, reach, and power over daily life.

David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 116-117

The whole of page 117 is unbelievably good, but this might be my favorite part.

Posted 4 years ago
This loss of historical continuity in values and beliefs, taken together with the reduction of the work of art to a text stressing discontinuity and allegory, poses all kinds of problems for aesthetic and critical judgment. Refusing (and actively ‘deconstructing’) all authoritative or supposedly immutable standards of aesthetic judgment, postmodernism can only judge the spectacle in terms of how spectacular it is.
David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, p. 56-57
Posted 4 years ago
The result is an encounter with capitalism stripped of the resources made available by over a century and a half of Marxist scholarship. Meanwhile, the relentless global search for profit and the extraction of surplus value goes on,not least in the very places - universities - where poststructuralist scholars ply their trade. The constant hunt for revenue, the prostitution of research agendas to corporate concerns and visions of national ‘competitiveness’, and new forms of speed-up and deprofessionalisation are unintelligible without a firm grasp of the logics of capital.In a world increasingly subject to the workings of an informational and multinational mode of capitalism,characterised by flux and instability, hybridity and fragmentation, it is also hard not to see the poststructuralist dismantling of the subject, as in the widely influential writings of Laclau, Mouffe and Judith Butler, as unintentionally complicit with that world.
Posted 4 years ago

Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and the Postmodern

After watching the now-infamous video twice, I’m convinced that it is indicative of postmodernism in every sense of the term. 

  • Pastiche. The video has it in spades. It references other forms of media (Tarantino, exploitation films, Thelma & Louise) left and right, while parodying none of them. This is because parody relies on an underlying normative standard, which postmodernism categorically rejects. Instead it merely shows the audience a barrage of media, almost a celebration of how clever the director is for cramming so many references into a single video.
  • Consumerism. The product placement is obvious, but it is not portrayed as humorous. The camera lingers too long on each product, and the video knows it, but it still manages to avoid parody. Rather, the video uses these consumer images as an integral part of its aesthetic without any comment on their social context.
  • Self-reference. The blatant product placement shows a self-awareness in the video, but this particular brand of ironic detachment harms the video’s ability to make any sort of overall message on its own. Instead it implies that celebrating consumer culture is fine as long as we’re appropriately ironic about it, but this is a largely unintended consequence of the video’s aesthetic.
  • Appropriation of identity-based struggle. Lady Gaga is interesting for turning the male gaze back on men, and for portraying women as subjects rather than objects in her videos (albeit still scantily-clad subjects). However, the resistance to power on Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s part is purely individual and brief (it’s very telling that Lady Gaga is bailed out of prison rather than escaping) Behind this initial layer of feminism there is still an individuated desire to become rich, given that Lady Gaga was saved from prison by money. She maintains her glamorous image inside and outside the prison’s walls, an implicit message that “excessive materialism is empowering to women, somehow,” as Alyx Vesey observed. Therefore her kind of feminism is integrated neatly into the agenda of neoliberals, who love to talk about glass ceilings being shattered while heaping disdain on poor women. 
  • Incredulity towards metanarratives. Lyotard’s famous description of the postmodern condition applies even here, as it’s difficult to find an overall message or narrative in the video. There is a sequence of events interspersed with pop culture references and product placement, but little else.

Most works of postmodern culture incorporate the ethic of postmodern philosophy with even less critical engagement than postmodern philosophers themselves, and in so doing implicitly endorse the status quo. This video is no exception.