postmodern adj : of or relating to postmodernism; "postmodernist architecture" [syn: postmodernist]
- 1937, John Q. Stewart, "An Astronomer Looks at the Modern
Epoch," The Scientific Monthly, vol. 44, no. 5 (May), p. 402,
- The nearer is a fact to the temporary limits of knoweldge, the more implicated becomes this regression and the more blurred ought to be statement of fact. Bridgman of Harvard recently has emphasized this conclusion, but his postmodern position has as yet made small impression.
- 2001, Kristen Renwick Monroe, "Paradigm Shift: From Rational
Choice to Perspective," International Political Science Review,
vol. 22, no. 2. (Apr), p. 167 n22,
- What I am objecting to is that aspect of postmodern thought that rejects the idea of any objective reality.
- 2005, Janet R. Barrett, "Planning for Understanding: A
Reconceptualized View of the Music Curriculum," Music Educators
Journal, vol. 91, no. 4. (Mar), p. 25,
- For an illustration of the differences between the traditional, positivist curriculum and the more postmodern reconceptualized curriculum, see Hanley and Montgomery.
Of, relating to, or having the characteristics of postmodernism
- Portuguese: pós-moderno
expert-subject arts Postmodernism is a term originating in architecture, literally 'after the modern', denoting a style that is more ornamental than modernism, and which borrows from previous architectural styles, often in a playful or ironic fashion. Later, the term was used in painting, music and philosophy for any pluralistic style that is a reaction against the pretensions of high modernism. It is used in critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as in marketing and business and the interpretation of history, law and culture in the late 20th century.
Postmodernism was originally a reaction to modernism. Largely influenced by the Western European disillusionment induced by World War II, postmodernism tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or interreferentiality.
Postmodernity is a derivative referring to non-art aspects of history that were influenced by the new movement, namely developments in society, economy and culture since the 1960s. When the idea of a reaction or rejection of modernism was borrowed by other fields, it became synonymous in some contexts with postmodernity. The term is closely linked with poststructuralism (cf. Jacques Derrida) and with modernism, in terms of a rejection of its bourgeois, elitist culture.
The term was used as early as 1914 in an article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review) written by J.M.Thompson. In this context it was used to describe fundamental changes in attitudes and beliefs within Christian society of the time ('Post-Modernism, J.M.Thompson, The Hibbert Journal Vol XII No.4 July 1914 p.733). It was then recoined in 1949 to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, leading to the postmodern architecture movement. 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. It may be a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style.
Later, the term was applied to several movements, including in art, music, and literature, that reacted against modernism, and are typically marked by revival of traditional elements and techniques. Walter Truett Anderson identifies postmodernism as one of four world views. These four worldviews 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 civilisation and the neo-romantic in which truth is found either through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Influence and distinction from postmodernityPostmodernist 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 1950's and 1960's, 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. Whereas something being "postmodernist" would make it part of the movement, its being "postmodern" would place it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
Notwithstanding the foregoing distinctions, both terms can be synonymous and interchangeable in common parlance, given the fluidity and ongoing evolution of their definitions.
The usage and extent of the concept of ‘postmodernism’Whether ‘postmodernism’ is seen as a critical concept or merely a buzzword, one cannot deny its range. Dick Hebdige, in his ‘Hiding in the Light’ illustrates this:
When it becomes possible for 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 reflexitivity, 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.
The argument against the need for the concept is that the "modern" era has not yet arrived at its term; and that the most important social and political project of our age remains modernism's project of replacing counter-enlightenment and emotionalist tendencies, as well as combating widespread cultural ignorance, pervasive superstition, and mindless resistance to technological and social innovations. From this perspective, the realities of the modern era, and its philosophical underpinnings, are being challenged by a backlash from precisely that reactionary quarter against which modernism in fact began its initial late 19th-century crusade. On the other hand more nuanced non-postmodernist thinkers and writers (quoted below) hold that postmodernism is at best simply a period following upon modernism; a hybrid variety of it; or an extension of modernism into contemporary times; and therefore not a separate period or idea which represents a departure from the theories of art familiar to us from Stravinsky, Mann, Kandinsky, Mondrian and Baudelaire.
As with all questions of division, there is a range of viewpoints between the hardened extremes of declaring that modernity has been completely replaced, and the other which sees postmodernism as a useless term that describes nothing. However, the term applies particularly well to revisionist and deconstructive literature and visual art. It is a contemporary evidence of what historians meant by Mannerism.
Postmodernist scholars argue that a global, decentralized society such as ours inevitably creates responses/perceptions that are described as postmodern, such as the rejection of what are seen as the false, imposed unities of meta-narrative and hegemony; the breaking of traditional frames of genre, structure and stylistic unity; and the overthrowing of categories that are the result of logocentrism and other forms of artificially imposed order. Scholars who accept the division of postmodernity as a distinct period believe that society has collectively eschewed modern ideals and instead adopted ideas that are rooted in the reaction to the restrictions and limitations of those ideas, and that the present is therefore a new historical period. While the characteristics of postmodern life are sometimes difficult to grasp, most postmodern scholars point to concrete and visible technological and economic changes that they claim have brought about the new types of thinking.
There is a great deal of disagreement over whether or not recent technological and cultural changes represent a new historical period, or merely an extension of the modern one. Complicating matters further, others have argued that even the postmodern era has already ended, with some commentators asserting culture has entered a post-postmodern period. In his essay "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond", Alan Kirby has argued that we now inhabit an entirely new cultural landscape, which he calls "pseudo-modernism". This idea has been extended by A. Carlill and S. Willis, with the latter describing postmodernism as "more the rough outline of a set of self-referential ideals than a genuine cultural movement".
Development of postmodernism
Origins in architectureThe movement of Postmodernism began with architecture, as a reactionary movement against the perceived blandness and hostility present in the Modern movement. Modern Architecture as established and developed by masters such as Walter Gropius and Philip Johnson was focused on the pursuit of an ideal perfection, harmony of form and functionSullivan, Louis. "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” published Lippincott's Magazine (March 1896). and dismissal of frivolous ornamentLoos, Adolf. "Ornament and Crime,” published 1908. 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 rejects the notion of a 'pure' form or 'perfect' architectonic detail, instead conspicuously drawing from all methods, materials, forms and colors available to architects. Postmodern architecture began the reaction against the almost totalitarian qualities of Modernist thought, favoring personal preferences and variety over objective, ultimate truths or principles. It is this atmosphere of criticism, skepticism and subjectivity that defines the postmodern philosophy.
Notable philosophical and literary contributorsThinkers in the mid and late 19th century and early 20th century, like Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, through their argument against objectivity, and emphasis on skepticism (especially concerning social morals and norms), laid the groundwork for the existentialist movement of the 20th century. Other notable precursors of postmodernism include Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy, Alfred Jarry's 'Pataphysics, and the work of Lewis Carroll.
Art and literature of the early part of the 20th century play a significant part in shaping the character of postmodern culture. Dadaism attacked notions of high art in an attempt to break down the distinctions between high and low culture; Surrealism further developed concepts of Dadaism to celebrate the flow of the subconscious with influential techniques such as automatism and nonsensical juxtapositions (evidence of Surrealism's influence on postmodern thought can be seen in Foucault's and Derrida's references to Rene Magritte's experiments with signification).
Some other significant contributions to postmodern culture from literary figures include the following: Jorge Luis Borges experimented in metafiction and magical realism; William S. Burroughs wrote the prototypical postmodern novel Naked Lunch and developed the cut up method (similar to Tristan Tzara's "How to Make a Dadaist Poem") to create other novels such as Nova Express; Samuel Beckett attempted to escape the shadow of James Joyce by focusing on the failure of language and humanity's inability to overcome its condition, themes later to be explored in such works as Waiting for Godot. Writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus drew heavily from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and other previous thinkers, and brought about a new sense of subjectivity, and forlornness, which greatly influenced contemporary thinkers, writers, and artists. Karl Barth's fideist approach to theology and lifestyle, brought an irreverence for reason, and the rise of subjectivity.
Postcolonialism after World War II contributed to the idea that one cannot have an objectively superior lifestyle or belief. This idea was taken further by the anti-foundationalist philosophers: Heidegger, then Ludwig Wittgenstein, then Derrida, who examined the fundamentals of knowledge; they argued that rationality was neither as sure nor as clear as modernists or rationalists assert. Both World Wars contributed to postmodernism; it is with the end of the Second World War that recognizably postmodernist attitudes begin to emerge.
It is possible to identify the burgeoning anti-establishment movements of the 1960s as the constituting event of postmodernism. The theory gained some of its strongest ground early on in French academia. In 1971, the Arab-American Theorist Ihab Hassan was one of the first to use the term in its present form (though it had been used by many others before him, Charles Olson for example, to refer to other literary trends) in his book: The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature; in it, Hassan traces the development of what he called "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 1979 Jean-François Lyotard wrote a short but influential work The Postmodern Condition: A report on knowledge. Richard Rorty wrote Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes are also influential in 1970s postmodern theory. Authors such as Graham Swift adopted postmodern techniques it their literary work to create an ambiguous style of writing.
Philosophical Movements and contributors
DeconstructionDeconstruction is a term which is used to denote the application of postmodern ideas of criticism, or theory, to a "text" or "artifact", based on architectural deconstructivism. A deconstruction is meant to undermine the frame of reference and assumptions that underpin the text or the artifact.
The term "deconstruction" comes from Martin Heidegger, who calls for the destruction or deconstruction (the German "Destruktion" connotates both English words) of the history of ontology. The point, for Heidegger, was to describe Being prior to its being covered over by Plato and subsequent philosophy. Thus, Heidegger himself engaged in "deconstruction" through a critique of post-Socratic thought (which had forgotten the question of Being) and the study of the pre-Socratics (where Being was still an open question).
In later usage, a "deconstruction" is an important textual "occurrence" described and analyzed by many postmodern authors and philosophers. They argue that aspects in the text itself would undermine its own authority or assumptions and that internal contradictions would erase boundaries or categories which the work relied on or asserted. Poststructuralists beginning with Jacques Derrida, who coined the term, argued that the existence of deconstructions implied that there was no intrinsic essence to a text, merely the contrast of difference. This is analogous to the scientific idea that only the variations are real, that there is no established norm to a genetic population, or the idea that the difference in perception between black and white is the context. A deconstruction is created when the "deeper" substance of text opposes the text's more "superficial" form. This idea is not isolated to poststructuralists but is related to the idea of hermeneutics in literature; intellectuals as early as Plato asserted it and so did modern thinkers such as Leo Strauss. Derrida's argument is that deconstruction proves that texts have multiple meanings and the "violence" between the different meanings of text may be elucidated by close textual analysis.
Popularly, close textual analyses describing deconstruction within a text are often themselves called deconstructions. Derrida argued, however, that deconstruction is not a method or a tool but an occurrence within the text itself. Writings about deconstruction are therefore referred to in academic circles as deconstructive readings.
Deconstruction is far more important to postmodernism than its seemingly narrow focus on text might imply. According to Derrida, one consequence of deconstruction is that the text may be defined so broadly as to encompass not just written words but the entire spectrum of symbols and phenomena within Western thought. To Derrida, a result of deconstruction is that no Western philosopher has been able to escape successfully from this large web of text and reach that which is "signified", which they imagined to exist "just beyond" the text.
The more common use of the term is the more general process of pointing to contradictions between the intent and surface of a work and the assumptions about it. A work then "deconstructs" assumptions when it places them in context. For example, someone who can pass as the opposite sex may be said to "deconstruct" gender identity, because there is a conflict between the superficial appearance and the reality of the person's gender.
Social construction, structuralism, poststructuralismOften opposed to deconstruction are social constructionists, labelled as such within the analytic tradition, but not usually in the case of the continental tradition. The term was first used in sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's book The Social Construction of Reality.
Usually in the continental tradition, the terms structuralism or poststructuralism are used. Maurice Merleau-Ponty is seen as the biggest contributor to structuralism, which is epitomized in the philosophy of Claude Levi-Strauss. Michel Foucault was also a structuralist but then turned to what would be termed poststructuralism, although he himself declined to call his work either poststructuralist or postmodern. Structuralism historically gave way to poststructuralism; often the role of postmodernism within the analytic tradition is played down, although works by major figures of the analytic tradition in the 20th century, including those of Thomas Kuhn and Willard Van Orman Quine, show a similarity with works in the continental tradition for their lack of belief in absolute truth as well as in the pliability of language.
In the continental tradition, most works argue that power dissimulates and that society constructs reality, while its individuals remain powerless or almost powerless. Often, both continental and analytic sources argue for a renewed subjectivity, borrowing heavily from Immanuel Kant, while they largely reject his a priori/a posteriori distinction. They both minimize discussions of practical ethics, instead borrowing heavily from post-Holocaust accounts of the need for an ethics of responsibility, which is very rarely practically defined.
One of the large differences between analytic postmodern sources and continental postmodern sources is that the analytic tradition by and large guards at least some of the tenets of liberalism, while many continental sources flirt with, or completely immerse themselves in, Marxism.
Recently, it is noticeable that some of the ideas found in poststructuralism and postmodernism, as the lack of belief in absolute truth or the idea of a reality constructed, is promoted in a new paradigm within constructivist epistemology.
Formal, academic critiques of postmodernism can be found in Beyond the Hoax and Fashionable Nonsense.
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. Elements of the Christian Right, in particular, have interpreted postmodern society to be synonymous with moral relativism and contributing to deviant behavior. See, Postmodernity, subsection "Anti-postmodernity critiques."
The criticisms of postmodernism are often complicated by the still-fluid nature of the term , and in many cases the criticisms are clearly directed at poststructuralism and the philosophical and academic movements that it has spawned rather than the broader term postmodernism .
As meaningless and disingenuousThe criticism of postmodernism as ultimately meaningless rhetorical gymnastics was demonstrated in the Sokal Affair, where Alan Sokal, a physicist, proposed and delivered for publication an article purportedly about interpreting physics and mathematics in terms of postmodern theory, which he had deliberately written in a completely nonsensical fashion, including several in-jokes mocking postmodernism. It was nevertheless published by Social Text, a "cultural studies" journal active in the field of postmodernism, as a serious postmodernist work. Sokal arranged for the simultaneous publication of another article describing the former as a successful experiment to see whether a postmodernist journal would publish any nonsensical article with big words that flattered the editors' political views, triggering an academic scandal. Sokal later published a book with Jean Bricmont called Intellectual Impostures, which expands upon his criticism of postmodernism.
Biologist Richard Dawkins believes that postmodernists generally are intellectual charlatans who deliberately obscure weak or nonsensical ideas with ostentatious and difficult to understand verbiage.http://physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/dawkins.htmlhttp://richarddawkins.net/article,824,Postmodernism-Disrobed,Richard-Dawkins-Nature
The linguist Noam Chomsky has suggested that postmodernism is meaningless because it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals won't respond as "people in physics, math, biology, linguistics, and other fields are happy to do when someone asks them, seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn't already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can't be met, then I'd suggest recourse to Hume's advice in similar circumstances: to the flames."
As politicalMichel Foucault rejected the label of postmodernism explicitly in interviews but is seen by many to advocate a form of critique that is "postmodern" in that it breaks with the utopian and transcendental nature of "modern" critique by calling universal norms of the Enlightenment into question. Giddens (1990) rejects this characterisation of modern critique by pointing out that a critique of Enlightenment universals were central to philosophers of the modern period, most notably Nietzsche. What counts as "postmodern" is a stake in political struggles where the method of critique is at issue. The recurring themes of these debates are between essentialism and anti-foundationalism, universalism and relativism, where enlightenment thinking is seen to represent the former and postmodernism the latter. This is why theorists as diverse as Nietzsche, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, and Butler have been labelled "postmodern", not because they formed a historical intellectual grouping but because they are seen by their critics to reject the possibility of universal, normative and ethical judgments. With minimal exception (e.g. Jameson and Lyotard), many thinkers who are considered 'postmodern' or 'poststructuralist' see these characterizations merely as labels of convenience and reject them altogether.
QuotationsIn 1994, Czech Republic President, Vaclav Havel gave a hopeful description of the postmodern world as one based on science, and yet paradoxically “where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain.”
Josh McDowell & Bob Hostetler offer the following definition of postmodernism: “A worldview characterized by the belief that truth doesn’t exist in any objective sense but is created rather than discovered.”… Truth is “created by the specific culture and exists only in that culture. Therefore, any system or statement that tries to communicate truth is a power play, an effort to dominate other cultures.”
In the introduction to his Treatise on Twelve Lights, Robert Struble, Jr. states: "The postmodernist worldview dismisses all forms of absolutism from eras past, especially Judeo-Christian faith and morals; yet the postmodernists idolize absolutely their new secular trinity of tolerance–diversity–choice."
Cultural and political postmodernism
Postmodernism in law
Postmodernism in theology
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