• Kenosha Kid
    2.9k
    The 'postmodern condition' was coined to describe the fall of metanarratives after the two world wars (or between them, depending on what you count). The story goes something like this...

    In the centuries prior to the Great War, Europe was dominated by certain narratives that dictated its outlook to some extent and in turn drove its behaviours. Empire and colonialism had a pretty good showing: make the world a better place by making it more like home. Religion got on board with it all, bringing the gift of Jesus to the world by preacher or by sword. The idea of the state was personified or even deified.

    Probably the most potent narrative of the 19th century was that science and technology would make the world perfect: the so-called technological Utopia. Flying machines, submarines, great feats of civil engineering.

    The theory goes that this came crashing down when we saw the horrors of two world wars. Empires started shedding their colonies in self-disgust. The machines of war created an unshakable image of a technological dystopian future. The rightness of a great nation could no longer be assumed. And where exactly was God in all of this?

    Famous postmodern authors like Samuel Beckett and Thomas Pynchon fought in the war and came out of it somewhat nihilistic about language itself or language in the hands of the powerful or the vested.

    Two ideologies remained to fight it out: one largely untethered from its metanarrative (communism) and instead tethered to a judicious choice of allegiance; the other a kind of anti-narrative in which society was replaced by a jumble of individuals, symbols for real objects were replaced with symbols that refer to nothing whatsoever, machines of war were turned against one's own people rather than external enemies, and a historic purpose was replaced by instantaneousness: post-war capitalism.

    Perhaps the most profound change of perspective in the West after the war was the state and commerce's coordinated shift from thinking of its own populace in terms of manpower to thinking of it in terms of targets. People were replaced by consumers, the sole purpose of whom was to work to create luxuries that hostile propaganda insisted they needed and therefore would buy. Salary became the basic resource of the West, and profit became its endgame, putting a single symbol with a waning referent at both ends and at every point in between, and turning society into a conversation commerce was having with itself about nothing at all. The reason was obvious; we were bankrupt.

    But the mode was quite bewildering. With first the advent of TV then of computing, we became awash with information that was contradictory. You need this thing you don't need. You want this thing you've never wanted. Your betters use this brand of product that your betters wouldn't be seen dead buying. There is no evidence of this thing you see every day. I have never met this person I had sex with. I did not say the thing I said. Alternative facts. They are not prisoners of war, they are enemy combatants, so torture is good. Facts are fake news. Channel 8 to believe X. Channel 21 to believe ~X. We can't offer you truth, but we can offer you _choice_.

    We are willing to save the planet. But not at the expense of the consumer.

    McCarthyism taught us to doubt our neighbours, a handy leg-up for individualism and isolationism. Nixon taught us that government is a kind of criminal activity. We have uncountable postwar conspiracy theories about aliens, missing flights, 9/11, black helicopters, chem trails, vaccines, elections, and, of course, Jews. Alternative facts are everywhere while actual facts have little value to most people because there is no objective, neutral authority they would accept.

    This was the postmodern condition described by Lyotard in his infamous book, built upon by Baudrillard in Simulcra and Simulation, made almost a science by Derrida. First and foremost, postmodernism is supposed to be a description of the world, particularly what was happening with information, so the first question about the postmodernism condition has to be: did it ever happen? Or did nothing actually change and it's just a bunch of humanities losers justifying their own jobs? Or did the postmodernists actually cause the thing they said was already happening?

    Some naysayers culled lazily from Wikipedia, pasted without annotation for contrast, limited to those that state that the postmodern era never happened or was caused by postmodernism itself:

    The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unliveable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism! — William Lane Craig

    postmodernism at its best might be seen as a self-critical – a sceptical, ironic, but nevertheless unrelenting – form of modernism; a modernism beyond utopianism, scientism and foundationalism; in short a postmetaphysical modernism — Albrecht Wellmer

    Zimbabwean-born British Marxist Alex Callinicos says that postmodernism "reflects the disappointed revolutionary generation of '68, and the incorporation of many of its members into the professional and managerial 'new middle class'. It is best read as a symptom of political frustration and social mobility rather than as a significant intellectual or cultural phenomenon in its own right."
    1. Did the 'postmodern condition' actually happen? (17 votes)
        Yes, and before postmodernists described it
        53%
        Yes, but only after postmodernists caused it
        12%
        No, it never happened
        35%
  • Manuel
    1.4k
    If all it takes to describe something as an epoch of history is someone merely saying something has happened, then things would be really confusing and completely arbitrary. I mean, why then only limit ourselves to what we read in the news? We should start claiming that the descriptions we make about our neighbors daily routine is of historical importance.

    There's a lot in your post, much of it quite interesting but I'd be skeptical. Rorty, for example, claimed that what was useful in postmodernism was already well established towards the end of the 19th century. Thomas Pynchon never described himself as a postmodernist, and he actually seemed to take jabs at the whole idea in his last book Bleeding Edge.

    Lyotard eventually claimed that his Postmodern Condition was "a parody". I think it is much more useful to look at the development of the PR industry in the early 20th century to gain some insight into how powerful people thought about how to indoctrinate people, which forms a direct link between between irrational behavior all the way up to Q stuff.

    Outside of books written by Stewart Ewen, Chomsky, Bernays and others, Adam Curtis has a few interesting documentaries on the subject, most notably The Century of the Self.

    Having said that, I do think that it's fair to say that postmodernism was a movement in literature and philosophy I suppose, depending on how you view Derrida and company. But I don't think it was a historical epoch. So I can't answer the question you pose.

    Interesting post though.
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Wow... what brought this on? A quote from WLC too, nice.

    More shadows cast by Nietzsche's Death of God?

    McCarthyism taught us to doubt our neighbours, a handy leg-up for individualism and isolationism. Nixon taught us that government is a kind of criminal activity. We have uncountable postwar conspiracy theories about aliens, missing flights, 9/11, black helicopters, chem trails, vaccines, elections, and, of course, Jews. Alternative facts are everywhere while actual facts have little value to most people because there is no objective, neutral authority they would accept.Kenosha Kid

    Is that post modernism, or just the result of ordinary cynicism and conventional scapegoating, the product of political failures and concentrated media ownership? I think the internet has simply helped to concentrate and organize some eternal problems.

    Postmodernism is probably understood or 'used' by a handful of academics and badly understood by a few million self-appointed experts - film critics/amateur theorists/essayists/novelists/sitcom writers. I may be wrong but it seems to me that for much of the rest of the of the world po-mo is just a flickering bricolage with no coherence.

    Digression - I re-read part one of Don Quixote recently and it showcases many of the alleged po-mo literary devices; parody, self-reflexivity, irony, pastiche, double coding and that was in 1605. This ancient novel showcases an astonishingly contemporary sensibility.
  • Amalac
    409
    Did the 'postmodern condition' actually happen?Kenosha Kid


    I think it can be summarized in this statement: postmodernism is (philosophical) scepticism on drugs.

    I am not thinking of people like Michel Foucault, who actually had interesting ideas, but rather the authors criticised by Sokal and Bricmont in their “Fashionable Nonsense” (Lacan, Derrida, Irigaray,...)

    Basically, I have not found in those postmodern authors anything that was not found already in philosophers like Sextus Empiricus and David Hume, who also expressed their ideas in a clear, non pedantic, non trivial and much more profound way.
  • hypericin
    273
    In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unliveable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. — William Lane Craig

    Well, this one didn't age well .
  • hypericin
    273
    one largely untethered from its metanarrative (communism) and instead tethered to a judicious choice of allegianceKenosha Kid

    Communism untethered to a metanarritive?
  • Janus
    10.7k
    The 'postmodern condition' was coined to describe the fall of metanarratives after the two world wars (or between them, depending on what you count).Kenosha Kid

    As I see it the meta-narratives only "fell" among a select group of academics. Outside of that "circle jerk" the meta-narrative of modernism is alive and kicking hard.

    Perhaps there has been a postmodern movement (as opposed to a Movement) in the arts; where the mania for formal innovation has been surrendered in the face of vacuity, and an eclectic spirit that can find ideas and inspiration in past works has become accepted.
  • hypericin
    273
    Or did the postmodernists actually cause the thing they said was already happening?Kenosha Kid

    I don't think they caused it, but I think they quickly embodied to a parodical degree what they described: discourses on Truth revealing themselves to be, and devolving into, language games.
  • hypericin
    273
    As I see it the meta-narratives only "fell" among a select group of academics. Outside of that "circle jerk" the meta-narrative of modernism is alive and kicking hard.Janus

    But these things rot from the head down. Scientism, secularism, humanism all began with the intellectual elites. But postmodernism is way past that stage. You only have to look at the last four years in America to see the mainstreaming of postmodernism in plain sight.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.9k
    Having said that, I do think that it's fair to say that postmodernism was a movement in literature and philosophy I suppose, depending on how you view Derrida and company. But I don't think it was a historical epoch. So I can't answer the question you pose.Manuel

    That sounds like an answer in the negative.

    Is that post modernism, or just the result of ordinary cynicism and conventional scapegoating, the product of political failures and concentrated media ownership? I think the internet has simply helped to concentrate and organize some eternal problems.Tom Storm

    Ordinary now. But ordinary at the time? Was it usual for Americans to distrust each other for no obvious reason before McCarthy? Was it usual to assume your President was engaged in criminality before Nixon?

    Digression - I re-read part one of Don Quixote recently and it showcases many of the alleged po-mo literary devices; parody, self-reflexivity, irony, pastiche, double coding and that was in 1605. This ancient novel showcases an astonishingly contemporary sensibility.Tom Storm

    Yes, this is well known. But then Hamlet was an existential play centuries before existentialism. It happens, especially with geniuses like Cervantes and Shakespeare.

    Communism untethered to a metanarritive?hypericin

    Rather that nominal communism was untethered from theoretical communism.

    As I see it the meta-narratives only "fell" among a select group of academics. Outside of that "circle jerk" the meta-narrative of modernism is alive and kicking hard.Janus

    Well that's an interesting question. Within philosophy you'll find people who haven't really moved past Plato. Whether or not modernism ended for the masses, it would be naive to expect philosophers would cease to cling to it. But the question and your answer don't pertain to philosophers: what you're suggesting here is that people in general are as committed to the modernism project as ever, right?
  • Janus
    10.7k
    How would you describe that?
  • Janus
    10.7k
    But the question and your answer don't pertain to philosophers: what you're suggesting here is that people in general are as committed to the modernism project as ever, right?Kenosha Kid

    I don't see postmodernism as being all that pervasive in philosophy, actually. Insofar as much of contemporary philosophy is scientistic, I think it would still qualify as modernism. And yes I do think people in general are as committed to the modernist project as ever.

    Within philosophy you'll find people who haven't really moved past Plato.Kenosha Kid

    That's true, and is probably due to a reaction on the part of a few to the very idea of modernism, a kicking back against what is seen as an unwanted incursion of science into philosophy. Or they may just be fascinated by ancient ideas. :wink:
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.9k
    And yes I do think people in general are as committed to the modernist project as ever.Janus

    I'm interested in what makes you think so, and what aspects of it if it's not the whole.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    Well, I think most people place their hopes in improvements of human life due to medical science and science;based technology.
  • Pfhorrest
    4.6k
    Modernism vs postmodernism is a false dichotomy to begin with. The problems that postmodernists rail against are not inventions of modernism per se but remaining vestiges of a time before it, and the way that postmodernists attack the things that modernism did create to improve upon those prior conditions in turn just re-enables those anti-moderns.

    Saying that nothing is objectively true, like a relativist, but then, rather than skeptically rejecting all claims, instead taking that to make all claims immune to skepticism, like a dogmatist, because they couldn't be objectively wrong either, just makes for a relativism that gives free reign to all forms of dogmatism, and a dogmatism that cloaks itself in relativistic armor.

    Modernism aims for both objectivism and skepticism, but in order to succeed at that and not collapse into postmodernism it has to reject both the extremes of transcendent objectivism and the extremes of cynical (justificationist) skepticism, instead admitting only a phenomenal objectivism and merely criticism skepticism; only skeptical inasmuch as that means not dogmatic, and only objective inasmuch as that means not relativist.
  • James Riley
    1.8k
    Did the 'postmodern condition' actually happen? (4 votes)
    Yes, and before postmodernists described it
    Kenosha Kid

    I chose yes/before. This is my first exposure to the subject and I was favorably impressed with your description of the issue; so much so that I fell right in with the description of postmodernism so completely as to see it, not as a creation of those who might name it, but as a state of affairs that came about as a result of experience and was only then named. And I found the description of how it came to be and what it was to be so plausible as to be true; at least until someone better comes along to dispel it. The three naysayers, while thoughtful, failed to do that, at least in my mind. The more I think about what they said, the more it appears that they were just nitpicking and trying to be difficult and searching for readers. The first seems wrong on the relativism point, the second seems to be nuancing without distinguishing, and the third is too late.

    Following the thread and learning.
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Ordinary now. But ordinary at the time? Was it usual for Americans to distrust each other for no obvious reason before McCarthy? Was it usual to assume your President was engaged in criminality before Nixon?Kenosha Kid

    Distrust, tyranny and corruption has taken place on and off during the history of the Republic. Lincoln abolished habeas corpus and shut down newspapers to control the press. Many Americans thought Lincoln was a devious tyrant. James Buchanan was seen during his time as a petty crook who chose a cabinet of famously corrupt men to advise him. Warren Harding was known as presiding over one of the most corrupt administrations in US history.
  • Manuel
    1.4k
    That sounds like an answer in the negative.Kenosha Kid

    I mean there's many aspects to it. There's even something called postmodern architecture, based on deconstruction. But the idea would be, if you ask a historian, would they recognize something like the "postmodern era"? Not most that I'm aware of.

    Also, aside from quoting Lyotard's disdain for "metanarratives" or just saying something like "it's all relativism", it's far from clear what postmodernism is supposed to include, as evidenced by your own excellent OP in terms of having to say a lot to even have a discussion about it.

    I'm unsure about your view here, but, what I really dislike about po-mo, outside of much of the willful obscurantism found in many of its adherents, is that they think the enlightenment was a failure. Compared to how Europe was before the enlightenment, I think such a view is pretty wild. I don't think the enlightenment project will be finished, but to say it failed misses the mark.

    Not that all of pomo is bad at all, Pynchon is an amazing writer, Rorty was quite clear and some of the Parisians, mostly Foucault, had interesting things to say.

    It's just quite baffling that they never really gave a good response to Sokal and Bricmont's books or arguments.

    I'll end my random thoughts here...
  • Bitter Crank
    9.8k
    Empires started shedding their colonies in self-disgust.Kenosha Kid

    Self-disgust had nothing to do with it. Empires shed their empires because they could not hold on to them any longer. Then too, the natives were getting restless, never a good thing for the regime.

    I am grateful that I got out of town before the wave of postmodern shit arrived.
  • 180 Proof
    5.7k
    My formula for p0m0 is
    Modernism minus the Enlightenment equals p0stm0dernism.
    which seems to me integral to modernity – humanist empirical skepticism-fallibilism always in danger of (a) relativism-nihilism or (b) technoscientism – and not some "condition" independent of, succeeding, the modern condition (1600(?)-present).

    :up:
    :up:
    :up:
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Modernism minus the Enlightenment equals p0stm0dernism

    Now that's something to think about. :up:
  • James Riley
    1.8k
    po-mo is just a flickering bricolage with no coherenceTom Storm

    Modernism minus the Enlightenment equals p0stm0dernism.

    Loving it. I want to dumb this conversation down and saying something about a po-mo mo-fo but I'll save that for a later time when I can work "flickering bricolage" into a conversation. :cool:
  • Jack Cummins
    3.6k

    I think that postmodernism definitely was important as a movement and it lead to a way of analysing meanings, especially in connection with the social construction of many aspects of reality. It aided in thinking about so many fabricated constructs, but, perhaps it went a bit too far, and may have given rise to the perspective where everything is reduced to mere social constructs. This may have lead to the possibility of post truth, and a whole agenda in which nothing can be taken for granted at all. So, in thinking about postmodernism, perhaps we need to think about what was helpful, or unhelpful, and where do we go from here?
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    So, in thinking about postmodernism, perhaps we need to think about what was helpful, or unhelpful, and where do we go from here?Jack Cummins

    I think you would first still need to agree that po-mo had provided a particular lens through which to view things. I am not sure this can be readily established. I really doubt the word has been used in a precise way by anyone, except, in earlier days to sex up pastiche and cynicism.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.6k

    My own view of postmodernism is connected to sociology. In particular, I knew someone who thought of gender as being socially constructed. I thought how useful this was at the time . But, I also see the biological dimensions of gender. So, it may be about various lens, and how we explore and experiment with them until we find those which are both most accurate and helpful for our thinking.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    I checked option 1. My belief is that post-modernism describes a real social condition and period in history, that the 'modern' period began with Newton's publication of his Natural Principles and ended with Einstein's publication of Special Relativity. Between those two bookmarks, the belief that the laws of nature reflected God's handiwork still clung on but the discovery of relativity theory and then quantum mechanics swept all that away. Postmodernism proper begins around the first two decades of the 20th C. 'All that is solid melts into air'. 'Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold'.

    I consider myself fortunate to have finished undergraduate studies before post-modernism thoroughly infected the University I was at; in those days, the intellectual scourge was Marxist political economics, which is related but distinct.

    I have a good anthology, The Truth about the Truth, Walter Truett Anderson, bought after a recommendation on the older version of this forum. Compendium of essays by relevant heavyweights (my favourites were by Huston Smith and Vlaclav Havel).

    BTW - if you don't know it already, check out https://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/ which generates random samples of pomo pseudo-text:

    1. Burroughs and textual precultural theory
    “Sexual identity is part of the collapse of reality,” says Sontag; however,
    according to Dahmus[1] , it is not so much sexual identity
    that is part of the collapse of reality, but rather the fatal flaw, and
    subsequent dialectic, of sexual identity. A number of theories concerning the
    common ground between truth and class may be discovered.

    However, if neodialectic materialism holds, we have to choose between
    patriarchial socialism and Marxist socialism. The premise of Debordist
    situation suggests that the establishment is capable of intent.

    Therefore, in Junky, Burroughs reiterates conceptualist
    postcapitalist theory; in The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, however, he
    examines neodialectic materialism. Debordist situation holds that language is
    used to exploit the underprivileged, given that the premise of conceptualist
    postcapitalist theory is valid.

    I doubt that it is valid, but I'll let it go. :grin:
  • hypericin
    273
    generates random samples of pomo pseudo-text:Wayfarer

    There MUST be published papers written with this thing.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    How could we tell?

    And I'm thinking, the period after post-modern is post-apocalypse. :yikes: Hope not.
  • hypericin
    273
    The last "metanarritive" to fall is the future. This knowledge is now pervasive. Is this late stage postmodernism, or are we now in some new, eschatological condition?
  • hypericin
    273
    How could we tellWayfarer
    It does seem strictly unknowable, like some kind of uncertainty principle of bullshit.
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