четвъртък, 7 септември 2017 г.


Although not easily defined, the term “postmodernism” refers to the contemporary period in Western culture— “after” modernism—and the corresponding view among scholars, cultural critics, and philosophers that new modes of thought and expression in the post–World War II era have broken down or transcended established rules and categories. Trends and concepts associated with postmodernism include the dominance of mass media, globalization and cultural pluralism, the blurring of national boundaries, artistic eclecticism and the mixing of genres, skepticism toward science and progress, parody and self-reference, a rejection of traditional concepts of knowledge, and a world of many equal and competing ideologies and “isms.” Any serious approach to understanding postmodernism begins with two foundational works, Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) and Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979). According to Jameson, the essence of postmodernism is the commercialism of culture, characterized by a consumerist demand for increasingly novel productions of art and knowledge, and a proliferation of texts that blur high culture and low culture without regard to authority or the cultural canon. According to Lyotard, postindustrial societies, due to computerization, have created a postmodern condition by altering the status of knowledge and power, rendering the end of the “grand narrative” in which knowledge is seen as whole and giving way to multiple narratives in which knowledge is fragmented. In the American culture wars, social conservatives have generally equated postmodernism with moral and cultural relativism, which they blame on liberals. Critics charge that postmodern thought contradicts itself by making arguments that rely on the same conventional hermeneutics and epistemology it claims to reject—a theory and methodology that rejects theory and methodology. Opponents of postmodernism typically vilify proponents for failing to affirm traditional values and narratives. Part of this response is a call for a return to the cultural canon, or “great books.” Cultural literacy, it is said, is about shared values necessary for social cohesion among members of society. Thus, the resurgence of religious fundamentalism is linked to the desire for certainty in postmodern times. Even some leftists have expressed contempt for postmodernism, seeing it as a threat to political activism. Without agreed-upon norms, they argue, it is difficult to organize mass movements for promoting social justice. Critics of postmodernism generally take a dim view of revisionist history, multicultural studies, and in particular literary analysis involving deconstructionism, structuralism, and post-structuralism, all of which they regard as being connected with intellectual anarchy and confusion. Especially worrisome to critics are the postmodern assertions that (1) language is signification of reality, not reality itself; (2) texts are subjective facsimiles of reality; and (3) much of what we feel and experience in our mass-communication society is an illusion, a “hyperreality” based on simulation, including a type of simulation (“simulacra”) that has no corresponding reality. Proponents of the postmodern influence on higher learning argue that the “dead white men” celebrated in traditional accounts of history and represented in the literary canon comprise only one strand of the national narrative. They regard the trend to incorporate considerations of race, class, and gender into the classroom as emancipating and democratic because it gives voice to the previously marginalized and opens space for other narratives. Postmodernists also emphasize that every text, whether a book, speech, song, painting, film, or other creative expression, is essentially incomplete, a fragment, and that much can be learned by considering what was left out. Defenders of postmodernism emphasize that grappling with complexity enlarges human understanding while developing the critical thinking skills necessary for the information age. The postmodern critique of science, including a rejection of Enlightenment principles and optimism about human progress, is a reaction to the development of atomic weapons and the use of them on Japan at the end of World War II. Postmodernism sees science as having limitations, and scientists as being guided by ideology and blinded by hubris. Whereas modernism is said to have emphasized rational thought—or the need for it— postmodernism stresses the importance of emotion and feelings. In reaction to the postmodern attack on science, physicist Alan Sokal in the 1990s debunked critics by succeeding in getting a postmodern journal to publish his hoax essay which nonsensically asserted that physical reality is simply a social construct. On the other hand, years earlier Thomas S. Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) reasonably argued that the scientific community depends fundamentally on groupthink and ritual, and is characterized by a reluctance to think outside the prescribed paradigm. In the American political arena, the postmodern trend is reflected in less party loyalty and the rise of independent voters—with a corresponding, and paradoxical, rise in partisanship. While there is more information available about government, opinion polls show that it has not increased knowledge about what government is Premillennial Dispensationalism 439 doing. Information is largely communicated in sound bites, even as government and other institutional Web sites post PDF files containing thousands of documents and reports. There is a prevailing sense that issues are too complex, contributing to the popularity of pundits who simplify issues and events, narrowcasting media that construct narratives for a specialized ideological audience, and Internet bloggers who challenge the conventional media hierarchy. Politics lapses into entertainment, with actors and professional wrestlers getting elected to high office and presidential candidates obligated to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It has been argued that postmodernism is a condition of contemporary life; like the weather, it is not something an individual accepts or rejects. That attribute was described early on by Alvin Toffler in his best-seller Future Shock (1970), which details the short-lived nature of products, families, and relationships in the contemporary world. Even before that, media theorist Marshall McLuhan warned of postmodern developments then under way, pronouncing in the 1960s that “the medium is the message” and predicting a “global village” of instantaneous communication. In the twenty-first century, the Internet is said to epitomize postmodernism, offering a vast storehouse of knowledge at the global level—culture that is both high and low, entertainment and commercialism, a mishmash of visual images, competing narratives, and communication that is characteristically fragmentary and fleeting.
Roger Chapman 

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