• Olivier5
    9
    is postmodernism a totalitarian narrative? In other words, can an argument for a diversity of discourses be a dominating discourse? I'd say: only if you're doing it wrong.Kenosha Kid

    That's a question that resonates both with the current post-truth moment and with the little piece of philosophy history I have wanted to add to the puzzle.

    It's about structuralism or rather, since I never thought very highly of the term 'structuralism', about the contribution of Claude Lévi-Strauss and more broadly ethnology to the issue of cultural diversity vs. universalism.

    You started your OP on the following para:

    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...Kenosha Kid

    The OP goes on to describe a broad historical arch, in which (in short) the horrors of the two world wars led to a form of western self-disgust, to spreading doubts in said metanarratives, and to decolonization. Pomo would have diagnosed this historical condition, or alternatively reenforced it.

    I agree with your description and congratulate you for it. Nice synthesis. But I think an important piece is missing between WW2 and the rise of Pomo: the story of Levi-Strauss' interactions with and contributions to UNESCO on the issues of racism after WW2.

    When you speak of the horrors of the two world wars, you mean (or I hear) the horrors of racism, ultra nationalism, and the Holocaust: the mobilisation of science and technology to murder entire nations on an industrial scale.

    We must remember that racism was politically correct before WW2, and politically useful in justifying colonisation. Many European scientists, philosophers, medical doctors, political activists etc. before WW2 were casually racist. The 'white race' was typically seen as the pinacle of human genetic evolution, and Europe as the pinacle of cultural evolution. Other 'races' and nations were seen as evidently inferior, genetically and/or culturally, reason for which Europe was able to colonize them. That metanarrative was fundamentally ethnocentrism and racist, and a lot of European academics - right or left - were just fine with it, not just Heidegger.

    Yet WW1 had already put a dent on it. Ergo dadaism and surrealism can be seen as reactions against grand but bloody nationalistic, colonial and scientistic discourses. E.g. the love of 'native arts' by the surrealists is a way of saying: "Europe is full of itself but Africans are artists too, 'savages' have an important culture too."

    By that time, between the two WW, ethnographers / anthropologists were starting to say the same thing. It was a science which originally had served colonisation well: the colonizer needed to understand the colonized, in order to better control and rule him, and ethnographers were commissioned to do this decrypting of the colonized. There was also the idea that ancestral customs would disappear quite fast thanks to colonization and you know, the inevitable progress of the one and unique form of civilization (European). So these ancient customs had to be documented before they disappear.

    The problem was, these people (ethnographers) often fell in awe with the cultures they were documenting. And many of them started to argue against colonization. Leiris is a case in point.

    All this changed radically after the Holocaust. Racism was suddenly seen as downright evil, and the very concept of race was being redefined or denied validity. The recently created United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), headquartered in Paris, saw this fight against racism as it main mission.

    In the early 1950's UNESCO published its statement on race as a social construct and the essay Race and History by Claude Lévi-Strauss. LS had contributed to the UNESCO statement on race, together with other scientists and academics. Two decades later, in 1971 Levi Strauss gave a conference at UNESCO entitled Race and Culture, which made a nice little scandal.

    Historically this sequence fits right in between WW2 and the rise of Pomo in the late 60's. (There's an epilogue in 2005 but it doesn't add much, it's a mere confirmation of points already made in 52 and 71). The story is analysed in some detail here:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326674/

    The two papers (Race and History + Race and Culture) competently build upon modern genetics and ethnography, and draw the same broad picture of a world threatened by a fake form of universalism.

    TBC...
  • Amity
    9
    That is precisely the value of Pomo to me: to make scientists (and others) better aware of the permanent presence of cultural a priori and biases in their own mind, as unsaid, unarticulated présuppositions, as these permeates their work more that they sometime should. Hence I am also totally in favour of diversity at school, work and politics, including in my own work.Olivier5

    I am reading this thread for the first time. I admit to never understanding or concerning myself with postmodernism.

    Perhaps I have absorbed the 'era' without even realising it, or giving it a label.
    As to the values listed here, they can't all have been the consequence of Pomo alone, could they ?
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    On the contrary, your red lumpy legs indicate that mosquitoes like you quite a lot.Olivier5

    Then why do they want to change me?!?

    In MoDo, reason is inadequate yet indispensable.180 Proof

    Is this true? Did Descartes think that reason was inadequate? Did Leibniz, Spinoza? I'm sure there's exceptions you'll know better than I, but I expect your inadequacy of reason is coming in at Kant, who is precisely who conservative philosophers blame for the alleged death knell of modernism and midwifery of pomo.

    MoDo – gradual / radical essays in (attempts at) emanicipation from cultural-socioeconomic enchantments, mystifications, reifications, etc – is also the problem of (with) MoDo180 Proof

    It's a nice story, but do you like horror stories too? Cultural-socioeconomic enchantments like Marx? The terror? The technological Utopia? Reifications like Freud? How about spiritualism? The pomo-vs-modernism debate boils down to picking and choosing to forward some story, like a defense attorney versus the prosecution. Referring to your next point, (attempts at) getting beyond that seem justification enough.

    My question for the apologists: What has p0m0 proposed in philosophy that e.g. atomists, skeptics, kynics, freethinkers, anarchists, fallibilists, critical rationalists or absurdists have not already proposed more clearly, cogently and also that is less co-optable – commodifiable – by late capitalism (i.e. Neoliberal "post-truth" populism)? Asking for an old friend. :cool:180 Proof

    Since you didn't like my last answer, I'll do you one better and make it the subject of the next thread. This one was about whether or not the postmodern era ever happened. The results of the poll seem pretty static now and no one is backing up the argument that it didn't, or the anachronistic argument that pomo caused it. So the next question for me is: do we need a postmodern philosophy (irrespective of the one we got) which will naturally involve looking at the one we got.
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    Great post!

    It's not just the Holocaust that changed minds about race in WWII. The US armed forces, for instance, were forced to have black and white people fighting side by side, which helped a bit. (Not the ones that got killed, obviously.)

    I agree with the influence of anthropology. CLS made it quite rock-'n'-roll so it had a broader impact than just other academics.

    As for the interwar years generally, yes, that makes sense to me as I've mentioned a couple of times. The French existentialists were also sexy (not literally, urgh! Except Camus. Even I'd let him do me) pop cultural icons that had a genuine impact on "real" people.

    This is precisely why I put in option 2 in the poll: I think a lot of people think of postmodernism as post-everything social constructivists WHO ARE RUINING EVERYTHING when a) they're not nearly free enough from their own metanarratives to qualify and b) postmodernism is first and foremost a description of the present in context of the past, and only after that a prescription (can't be a totalitarian proscription) for the future.
  • Olivier5
    9
    Then why do they want to change me?!?Kenosha Kid

    I called them and they confirmed that they want you to stay exactly as you are. The red lumps are but a minor side effect to their accessing your blood stream; hope you don't mind too much. Thanks for your continued support to their reproduction cycle.
  • Olivier5
    9
    I think a lot of people think of postmodernism as post-everything social constructivists WHO ARE RUINING EVERYTHING when a) they're not nearly free enough from their own metanarratives to qualify and b) postmodernism is first and foremost a description of the present in context of the past, and only after that a prescription (can't be a totalitarian proscription) for the future.Kenosha Kid

    My own diagnostic is more pessimistic: I believe that any school or tradition of philosophy that captures enough of the public's and academia's attention is liable to degenerescence over time, due to too much security and not enough challenge. Power corrupts. Money, or automatic tenure too. German idealism, English analytic philosophy, 'French theory', they all fell victim to their own academic success.
  • ssu
    29
    a) they're not nearly free enough from their own metanarratives to qualifyKenosha Kid
    - As if postmodernist would be.

    I believe that any school or tradition of philosophy that captures enough of the public's and academia's attention is liable to degenerescence over time, due to too much security and not enough challenge. Power corrupts.Olivier5
    Put this another way: when some school of philosophy becomes popular enough, a lot of mediocre and simply bad academicians jump on the bandwagon making it stupid.
  • 180 Proof
    41
    German idealism, English analytic philosophy, 'French theory', they all fell victim to their own academic success.Olivier5
    :100:

    :up:
  • Janus
    35
    As an aside, I also think it's interesting to see what system most convinces you, evidence aside. Which is to say that things like idealism, physicalism, skepticism, determinism etc., can't be refuted (or confirmed) by evidence, only evaluated based on reasoning.Manuel

    I like entertaining any and all of those positions to see where they logically lead, but if I was asked to say what I would definitely commit to, I think the one position which is true to our actual situation, epistemologically speaking, is skepticism.

    I think overconfidence in one position or another is a prevalent intellectual failing that grows out of the common emotional incapacity to live with uncertainty. In my view the richer intellectual life is "grounded" in uncertainty, because uncertainty opens the mind.

    I think philosophical positions generally are not testable; which means philosophy is more art than science.

    My own diagnostic is more pessimistic: I believe that any school or tradition of philosophy that captures enough of the public's and academia's attention is liable to degenerescence over time, due to too much security and not enough challenge. Power corrupts. Money, or automatic tenure too. German idealism, English analytic philosophy, 'French theory', they all fell victim to their own academic success.Olivier5

    I think this diagnosis is relevant only to the "populist" followers of the schools you mentioned; it has no bearing on the seminal thinkers.
  • Olivier5
    9
    CLS made it quite rock-'n'-rollKenosha Kid

    He did. Let me come back to what he was saying about race, and how it is relevant to postmodernism and to your question about how it could ever become a dominating discourse.

    According to Wiktor Stoczkowski, a historian of anthropology, the two contributions by CLS to the debate on racism under the aegis of UNESCO were perfectly coherent. The basic message was that collaboration between different civilizations is the engine of history.

    And it is here that we touch the absurdity of declaring one culture superior to another. For, insofar as it stands alone, a culture could never be superior [because its development would slow down very much] ... But - as we said above - no culture is alone; it is always given in coalition with other cultures, and this is what allows it to build cumulative series [i.e. cumulative history].
    (my translation from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000005546 -- see also https://www.cairn.info/revue-etudes-2010-4-page-485.htm for an article by Wiktor Stoczkowski on the topic)

    The main argument of Lévi-Strauss’ Race et histoire in 1952 — namely that human progress is linked to a universal “aptitude … to establish mutual exchanges with others” — lined up well with the ideology of cooperation, whose propagation UNESCO wished to promote. In contrast, Lévi-Strauss’ 1971 intervention emphasized "the right of every culture to remain deaf to the values of the Other" as a condition for cultural creativity, and this clashed with the programme of “educational action on a world-wide scale” that UNESCO wanted to deploy to combat racism. Hence the scandal.

    Lévi-Strauss was therefore fighting at UNESCO for the rights of the 'primitive' to be left alone by Western civilization, to be protected from it (including from UNESCO itself). He prophetized that globalization - if it was to result in one unique world culture - would kill human creativity, precisely because he saw exchanges between different culture as positive.

    The paradox he highlighted in his argument was that ethnocentrism is universal. Each culture believes it is 'special' and 'better' than the others, at least in certain ways. And each culture tries to preserve itself, while incorporating interesting elements from other cultures. This is not a bad thing. Rather, it is the sine qua non condition for future creativity, for the historical agency of nations and cultures.

    This lead CLS to both appreciate cultural 'métissage' as an engine of 'progress' or at least evolution (CLS did not actually believe in progress) and yet to warn against too much cultural 'métissage', as it could destroy cultural diversity.

    Nowadays, everybody is familiar with the need to protect cultural diversity. But as the pendulum has moved away from universalism, the need for exchange and métissage between cultures is now de-emphasized. It's called 'cultural appropriation' and is seen as a bad thing. This is obviously a pretense, a form of hypocrisy, and one that CLS did not appreciate one bit. Today's 'metanarrative' is that the West is (by default) wrong and guilty, and other cultures are always right and wonderful. All the while, Western capitalism is destroying the planet and our common future, and those academics who meekly condemn Western cultures bask in the limelight of their self-disgust and enjoy the material comfort they provide... It's downright obscene.
  • Janus
    35
    Today's 'metanarrative' is that the West is (by default) wrong and guilty, and other cultures are always right and wonderful. All the while, Western capitalism is destroying the planet and our common future, and those academics who meekly condemn the West bask in the limelight of it's self-disgust and enjoy the comfort Western culture provides...Olivier5

    :up: There's some truth in that!
  • Manuel
    7
    So, was postmodernism a historical epoch? Is it over?

    Ha. I guess I should not be surprised that people here defend it as an advancement in philosophy. But it's not clear if it says something new that's not terminological in nature: "metanarratives", "episteme", etc.

    I suppose I'd like to know what has replaced it, post-post modernism?

    Seems to me modernism never finished...
  • Janus
    35
    Seems to me modernism never finished...Manuel

    :up: Right, PM is just a passing moment in the self-reflective sub-processes of modernism, or better, modernity.
  • Olivier5
    9
    Seems to me modernism never finished...Manuel
    As an ideology, modernism is non-dead in the sense that there are still some folks who believe that science, technology and western democracy will save us from the doom they themselves engendered (climate change). And other folks pretend to believe it because the narrative suits their short-term interest. So modernism a zombie idea, like communism or christianism.

    What we need now is what Lévi-Strauss might have labelled post-humanism: the understanding that the human race is its worst enemy, that it was a mistake to cast ourselves outside of nature, that we are animals and depend on other animals and plants, that our future survival as a civilization is threatened by too much emphasis on human needs and fancies, and not enough respect for other species' right for survival.

    The present century will be when the CO2 shit hits the climatic fan. We don't have much time.
  • 180 Proof
    41
    Seems to me modernism never finished...Manuel
    Yeah, in other words, MoDo hasn't attained its "final vocabulary" (Rorty's p0m0 – no shit, big whup) yet, and isn't this (contra pre-MoDo 'scriptural infallibility' & 'scholastic dogma') what makes MoDo MoDo? Hey Derrida et al: nothing significantly new in "your texts" about texts, just interminably prolix, tedious, anti-philosophical jabberwocky in several (neoliberal) languages. A few decades of p0m0 hustling at MoDo's expense seems to have mostly played (sold) itself out ...

    Does 'post-p0m0' even make sense? :smirk:
  • 180 Proof
    41
    Modern. Modernity. Modernism. From latin "modo", which means "just now, current, new" ... I use MoDo only when discussing p0m0 (postmodernism, etc) as playful riff or parody à la p0m0.
  • Manuel
    7


    There's an apparent limit to obscurity. I just hope the next hip thing in philosophy is at least intelligible.
  • Saphsin
    5
    My impression is contemporary Continental Philosophy is getting much better at that though.
  • 180 Proof
    41
    Well, if "the next thing" is "hip", will it even matter to philosophy? I don't think so, especially if it's not intelligible. Youtube, for instance, is a busted sewer main flooding the streets with obscure sophistries for the kids to play in. Intelligibility, I'm afraid" won't ever be "hip" again (was it ever?) thanks to 20th century p0m0.

    That said, I've been a "fan" of speculative realism for over a decade now which was once "the next thing" that was never really "hip" even though Žižek, etc talked it up for a while.
  • Manuel
    7


    That's my impression too.



    It's more difficult to gain a following if one speaks in plain sentences.

    I agree, speculative realism and object oriented ontology are interesting and make sense in that the general ideas can be grasped. It's by now extremely hard to come up with some philosophical work that will "revolutionize" the field. But who knows?
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    Lévi-Strauss was therefore fighting at UNESCO for the rights of the 'primitive' to be left alone by Western civilization, to be protected from it (including from UNESCO itself). He prophetized that globalization - if it was to result in one unique world culture - would kill human creativity, precisely because he saw exchanges between different culture as positive.

    The paradox he highlighted in his argument was that ethnocentrism is universal. Each culture believes it is 'special' and 'better' than the others, at least in certain ways. And each culture tries to preserve itself, while incorporating interesting elements from other cultures. This is not a bad thing. Rather, it is the sine qua non condition for future creativity, for the historical agency of nations and cultures.
    Olivier5

    Are you basing the second paragraph on your understanding in the first? Because it doesn't follow. CLS wasn't appealing to an innate ethnocentrism in isolated groups; he was compelling external societies to keep away for the sake of diversity. Ethnocentrism isn't the right conclusion here.

    Today's 'metanarrative' is that the West is (by default) wrong and guilty, and other cultures are always right and wonderful. All the while, Western capitalism is destroying the planet and our common future, and those academics who meekly condemn Western cultures bask in the limelight of their self-disgust and enjoy the material comfort they provide... It's downright obscene.Olivier5

    That's the obscene bit, not the destruction of the planet? This is another false dichotomy: you can't without hypocrisy criticise the extremes of Western capitalism and enjoy the bare minimum of it. Of course you can. It's not capitalism versus primitivism, it's unsustainable, destructive capitalism versus sustainable, green capitalism.
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    Right, PM is just a passing moment in the self-reflective sub-processes of modernism, or better, modernity.Janus

    Or possibly: we can just redefine 'modernism' to mean whatever we need it to mean.

    EDIT: Kind of analogous with lots of other isms: communism, Americanism, and even environmentalism (e.g. David Cameron redefining natural gas as not a fossil fuel).

    An alternative term to 'postmodernism' is 'late modernism'. I'm not so interested in debating terminology, but if both sides agree that post-/late modernism occurred, and just disagree whether we're at a late stage of the same category or an early stage of a new one, given that either category and where it starts or ends is arbitrary, the sensible thing to do is compare the start of modernism with the disputed end/late stage. Otherwise we're in danger of confusing transition with some meaningless assertion of continuity.
  • ssu
    29
    One vague term is balanced by using another vague term.
  • Olivier5
    9
    Are you basing the second paragraph on your understanding in the first? Because it doesn't follow. CLS wasn't appealing to an innate ethnocentrism in isolated groups; he was compelling external societies to keep away for the sake of diversity.Kenosha Kid

    There was a pessimistic vibe in CLS -- and a prescient one at that, having 70 years ago predicted ecological doom by way of overpopulation and overdevelopment -- which optimist humanists tended to hate, not see, or misrepresent.

    Toute création véritable implique une certaine surdité à l’appel d’autres valeurs, pouvant aller jusqu’à leur refus, sinon même à leur négation. Car on ne peut à la fois se fondre dans la jouissance de l’autre, s’identifier à lui et se maintenir différent. Pleinement réussie la communication intégrale avec l’autre condamne, à plus ou moins brève échéance, l’originalité de sa et de ma création.
    CLS, Race et culture, 1971

    Ethnocentrism is to be understood as the equivalent in ethnography of Enstein's relativism: any and all human being will perceive other cultures from the prism of her own culture, and will tend to defend and promote her own culture more often than not. It is a universal phenomenon.

    That's the obscene bit, not the destruction of the planet?Kenosha Kid

    The destruction of our environment is a tragedy, far worse than a mere obscenity.
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    There was a pessimistic vibe in CLS -- and a prescient one at that, having 70 years ago predicted ecological doom by way of overpopulation and overdevelopment -- which optimist humanists tended to hate, not see, or misrepresent.Olivier5

    Ah I think I misread you originally anyway, ignore me.
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