Rabu, 07 November 2007

posmo, gramsci november 7 2007

Draft Hadis

Rasul menganggap kita juga sebagai sahabat, dalam hadis, ketika rasul menyuruh menyampaikan salam kepada generasi mendatang dan dianggap sahabat-sahabatnya sehingga sahabat bertanya apakah kami juga bukan sahabat? Ya sahabat kata rasul.

Ia juga melaksanakat salat jamaah dengan singkat dan melakukan salat sendirian dengan waktu yang lama.

Ketika ia bersedih ia akan berlindung dengan salat dan puasa

Jika beliau telah selesai menunaikan salat subuh ia segera mendatangi orang-orang dan bertanya,” apakah di tengah-tengah kalian ada orang yang sakit sehinga aku bis amenjenguknya dan kalau dijawab tidak, beliau akan bertanya lagi apakah di antara kalian ada yagn meninggal sehingga aku bisa mengantarkanya ke kuburan? Dan jika dijawab tidabk juga, beliau bertanya apakah di antara kalian ada yang bermimpi danmau menceritakanny apada kami?

Celoteh hati

Anak dididik dengan ngepel agar mereka terlatih parigel? dari seorang ibu

Aku harus berdoa dan subuh, ya allah mereka adalah sahabat-sahabatku dan umatku mereka adalah murid-muridku mereka adalah mitraku dan engkau tela ciptakan mereka untukku, engkah pencipta maha sempurna, engkau telah memmerpcaayai kehiduapn kepada mereka, mana mungkin aku menyia-nyiakan makhlukm, menghina makhlukmu, tidak respek dan membiarkan makhlukmu, tidak menyhakiti makhlukmu tidak menggibahmaklukmu, tidak memberi hadiah kepada makhlukmu, tidak mendoakan kepada makhlukmu, tidak mencintai makhlukmu,

Hanya ide, bikin tunggku masakan besar, training anak remaja di cilebut, beli bola, pesta bakar ikan cilebut bogor, musik symponi, festival budaya di cilebut,???

Aku tidak taktis berargumen? Protos pro toto,

Aku tidak nyaman bicara ilmiah, di kalangan sebagianbesar orang?

Aku tidak bisa fokus dengan kalimat yang berputar-putar? Mengapa?

Kenikmatan bermunajat menghalangi seseorang untuk mengingat dosanya?

Kenikmatan spiritual, atau kenikmatan dengan kata-kata fasih, lezat dengan susunan munajat, gejala apa ini, apakah itu spiritual atau semu?

Mengapa aib yang lain tampak jelas dan aib sendiri tertutupi? Apakah mindset hitam-putih, kalau begitu pasti begitu, if X then Y, logika ? contraria,

ya, dakwah lewat tulisan saja, buletin, blog, seminar, launching?

Apakah anda Kaya mental kata supardi lee, atau kaya sosial?

Seminggu 40 lembar inggris, mengapa dalam sesuatu yang kusukai ingin perfect tapi salat tidak bisa perfect? Sebetulnya jangan terlalu bermuluk-muluk? Dunia cukup dan ibadah semakin baik, kualitas dan kuantitas, awas pikiran membuat kita kehilangan fokus, pikiran duniawi? Sampai terbawa tidur, sehingga konsentrasi salat, dan waktu tidur, jaga, sehat terbanting, apakah itu cinta spiritual yang duniawi ?

Ingat di zaman islam dulu, kata ibnu khaldun, ketika ekspansi berhasil dan islam menjadi kaya, timbullah cinta duniawi, korup dsb! Di tengah umat islam!

Ketika karir melesat, tawaran job banyak sehingga uang (alat yang tak terbatas fungsinya) mudah diraih, apa yang terjadi? Tambah soleh tambah salah?!

Ilusi bayangkan memikirkan apa? Masa depan? Masa depan materi atau spiritual?

Gestures, filsafat

Skepticism barat dan skepticism timur,

Prophetic,

Seiring pertumbuhan kenikmatan maka hasratpun semakin meningkat.

Anak kawan mau lahir, manusa memang diistimewakan ketika tiba di dunia.

Theory of baby universe?

Tulislah di papan tulis, kata suci, itu bukan dzat, itu tulisan, itu papan tulis seperti Allah dalam tulisan , Allah dalam kehidupan itu yang penting. Apakah kita merasakan kehadiran-Nya?

Sampai sejuta tahun, rasa haus kita akan ilmu tidak akan terpuaskan. Selalu ada

Ilmu itu berdekatan dengan alam, karena yang mengilmui berarti memiliki alam. Ilmu juga memberikan kesempurnaan pada jiwa, karena jiwa itu adalah berpikir, ketika jiwa berpikir maka ada yang dipikirkan, dan yang dipikirkan adalah konsep, realitas, koherensi, kolektivitas, universal, partikular, hubungan sebab-akibat,induksi, deduksi. Dalam epistemologi memang dibicarakan cara mendapatkan ilmu tetapi

Renungan untuk mata kuliah

Belajar, mendidik,

Manusia dan aktifitas, manusia pembelajar dari yang rendah hingga yang tinggi

Pendidikan jiwa, mendidikan mengubah diri, apakahanda merasa bahw ailmu merubah dan mendidik anda. Apa yang didik itu mental apa mental it ukebiasaan, karakter,

Kebiasaan = karakter

Ilmu dan pengalama = kebiasan

Ilmu dan pengalaman = paradigma

Paradigma, ilmu ilmu itu apa?

Subjek, objek, metoda, teori.

Pendapat para pakar, klasik-modern, kontemporer,

Ayat-ayat al-quran dan tafsirannya. Poto copi, temukan ayat-ayat itu

Referensi-2 dan kutipan-kutipan tentang posmodern

Postmodernism is a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding, modernism.

Postmodernism (sometimes abbreviated Pomo[1]) was originally a reaction to modernism (not necessarily "post" in the purely temporal sense of "after"). Largely influenced by the disillusionment induced by the Second World War, 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.[2]

Postmodernity is a derivative referring to non-art aspects of history that were influenced by the new movement, namely the evolutions in society, economy and culture since the 1960s.[3]. When the idea of a reaction to - or even a rejection of - the movement of modernism (a late 19th, early 20th centuries art movement) 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.[4]

The term was coined in 1949 to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, leading to the postmodern architecture movement.[5]. Later, the term was applied to several movements, including in art, music, and literature, that reacted against modern movements, and are typically marked by revival of traditional elements and techniques.[6] 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.

If used in other contexts, it is a concept without a universally accepted, short and simple definition; in a variety of contexts it is used to describe social conditions, movements in the arts, and scholarship (incl. criticism) in reaction to modernism.

Postmodernist ideas in the philosophy and the analysis of culture and society, expanded the importance of critical theory, and 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 1950/1960, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968 — are described with the term postmodernity, as opposed to the "-ism" referring to an opinion or movement. As something being "postmodernist" would be part of the movement, "postmodern" would refer to aspects of the period of the time since the 1950s, a part of contemporary history;[citation needed] still both terms may be synonymous under some circumstances.

Postmodernism is a movement of ideas arising from, but also critical of elements of modernism. Because of the wide range of uses of the term, different elements of modernity are viewed as being coterminous; and different elements of modernity are held to be critiqued.

Each of the different usages of 'postmodernism' is also inevitably related to some argument about the nature of knowledge, known in philosophy as epistemology. Individuals who invoke the expression nowadays are implicitly arguing either that there is something fundamentally different about the transmission of meaning in postmodern works of art; or else that there inheres in modernism certain fundamental flaws in its epistemology.[citation needed]

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 widesperead 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 quantum leap 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[citation needed] 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".[7] 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". [8]

The 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 function[9] and dismissal of frivolous ornament[10]. 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.[11] 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

hinkers 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 Surrealisms 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. Also, Richard Rorty wrote Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes are also influential in 1970s postmodern theory.

Philosophical Movements and contributors

Influencer

Year

Influence

Karl Barth

c.1930

fideist approach to theology brought a rise in subjectivity

Martin Heidegger

c.1930

rejected the philosophical grounding of the concepts of "subjectivity" and "objectivity"

Ludwig Wittgenstein

c.1950

anti-foundationalism, on certainty, a philosophy of language

Thomas Samuel Kuhn

c.1962

posited the rapid change of the basis of scientific knowledge to a provisional consensus of scientists, popularized the term "paradigm shift"

W.V.O. Quine

c. 1962

developed the theses of indeterminacy of translation and ontological relativity, and argued against the possibility of a priori knowledge

Jacques Derrida

c.1970

re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy in general; sought to undermine the language of western metaphysics (deconstruction)

Michel Foucault

c.1975

examined discursive power in Discipline and Punish, with Bentham's panopticon as his model, and also known for saying "language is oppression" (Meaning that language was developed to allow only those who spoke the language not to be oppressed. All other people that don't speak the language would then be oppressed.)

Jean-François Lyotard

c.1979

opposed universality, meta-narratives, and generality

Richard Rorty

c.1979

philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods; argues for dissolving traditional philosophical problems; anti-foundationalism and anti-essentialism

Jean Baudrillard

c.1981

Simulacra and Simulation - reality created by media

[edit] Deconstructivism and deconstruction

Deconstruction is a term which is used to denote the application of postmodern ideas of criticism, or theory, to a "text" or "artifact", based on the architecture 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.

[edit] Social construction, structuralism, poststructuralism

Further information: Manifestations of Postmodernism

Often 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.

[edit] Negative criticism

The term postmodernism is used pejoratively if to describe 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.[12][13]

The criticisms of postmodernism are often complicated by the still-fluid nature of the term [citation needed], 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 [citation needed].

[edit] As meaningless and disingenuous

The 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 distorted to make it nonsensical. It was nevertheless published by Social Text, a journal which he and most of the scientific community considered postmodernist. Interestingly, Social Text never acknowledged that the article's publication had been a mistake but supported a counter-argument defending the "interpretative validity" of Sokal's article, despite the author's later rebuttal of his own article. (see the online Postmodernism Generator[14])

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."[15]

There are lots of things I don't understand -- say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. --- even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest --- write things that I also don't understand, but (1) and (2) don't hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of "theory" that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out.

Noam Chomsky

[edit] As political

Michel 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 modernism 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.

Introduction to posmodern

Postmodernism

Postmodernism is a complicated term, or set of ideas, one that has only emerged as an area of academic study since the mid-1980s. Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology. It's hard to locate it temporally or historically, because it's not clear exactly when postmodernism begins.

Perhaps the easiest way to start thinking about postmodernism is by thinking about modernism, the movement from which postmodernism seems to grow or emerge. Modernism has two facets, or two modes of definition, both of which are relevant to understanding postmodernism.

The first facet or definition of modernism comes from the aesthetic movement broadly labeled "modernism." This movement is roughly coterminous with twentieth century Western ideas about art (though traces of it in emergent forms can be found in the nineteenth century as well). Modernism, as you probably know, is the movement in visual arts, music, literature, and drama which rejected the old Victorian standards of how art should be made, consumed, and what it should mean. In the period of "high modernism," from around 1910 to 1930, the major figures of modernism literature helped radically to redefine what poetry and fiction could be and do: figures like Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Proust, Mallarme, Kafka, and Rilke are considered the founders of twentieth-century modernism.

From a literary perspective, the main characteristics of modernism include:

1. an emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity in writing (and in visual arts as well); an emphasis on HOW seeing (or reading or perception itself) takes place, rather than on WHAT is perceived. An example of this would be stream-of-consciousness writing.

2. a movement away from the apparent objectivity provided by omniscient third-person narrators, fixed narrative points of view, and clear-cut moral positions. Faulkner's multiply-narrated stories are an example of this aspect of modernism.

3. a blurring of distinctions between genres, so that poetry seems more documentary (as in T.S. Eliot or ee cummings) and prose seems more poetic (as in Woolf or Joyce).

4. an emphasis on fragmented forms, discontinuous narratives, and random-seeming collages of different materials.

5. a tendency toward reflexivity, or self-consciousness, about the production of the work of art, so that each piece calls attention to its own status as a production, as something constructed and consumed in particular ways.

6. a rejection of elaborate formal aesthetics in favor of minimalist designs (as in the poetry of William Carlos Williams) and a rejection, in large part, of formal aesthetic theories, in favor of spontaneity and discovery in creation.

7. A rejection of the distinction between "high" and "low" or popular culture, both in choice of materials used to produce art and in methods of displaying, distributing, and consuming art.

Postmodernism, like modernism, follows most of these same ideas, rejecting boundaries between high and low forms of art, rejecting rigid genre distinctions, emphasizing pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness. Postmodern art (and thought) favors reflexivity and self-consciousness, fragmentation and discontinuity (especially in narrative structures), ambiguity, simultaneity, and an emphasis on the destructured, decentered, dehumanized subject.

But--while postmodernism seems very much like modernism in these ways, it differs from modernism in its attitude toward a lot of these trends. Modernism, for example, tends to present a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history (think of The Wasteland, for instance, or of Woolf's To the Lighthouse), but presents that fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and mourned as a loss. Many modernist works try to uphold the idea that works of art can provide the unity, coherence, and meaning which has been lost in most of modern life; art will do what other human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament the idea of fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that. The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's just play with nonsense.

Another way of looking at the relation between modernism and postmodernism helps to clarify some of these distinctions. According to Frederic Jameson, modernism and postmodernism are cultural formations which accompany particular stages of capitalism. Jameson outlines three primary phases of capitalism which dictate particular cultural practices (including what kind of art and literature is produced). The first is market capitalism, which occurred in the eighteenth through the late nineteenth centuries in Western Europe, England, and the United States (and all their spheres of influence). This first phase is associated with particular technological developments, namely, the steam-driven motor, and with a particular kind of aesthetics, namely, realism. The second phase occurred from the late nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century (about WWII); this phase, monopoly capitalism, is associated with electric and internal combustion motors, and with modernism. The third, the phase we're in now, is multinational or consumer capitalism (with the emphasis placed on marketing, selling, and consuming commodities, not on producing them), associated with nuclear and electronic technologies, and correlated with postmodernism.

Like Jameson's characterization of postmodernism in terms of modes of production and technologies, the second facet, or definition, of postmodernism comes more from history and sociology than from literature or art history. This approach defines postmodernism as the name of an entire social formation, or set of social/historical attitudes; more precisely,this approach contrasts "postmodernity" with "modernity," rather than "postmodernism" with "modernism."

What's the difference? "Modernism" generally refers to the broad aesthetic movements of the twentieth century; "modernity" refers to a set of philosophical, political, and ethical ideas which provide the basis for the aesthetic aspect of modernism. "Modernity" is older than "modernism;" the label "modern," first articulated in nineteenth-century sociology, was meant to distinguish the present era from the previous one, which was labeled "antiquity." Scholars are always debating when exactly the "modern" period began, and how to distinguish between what is modern and what is not modern; it seems like the modern period starts earlier and earlier every time historians look at it. But generally, the "modern" era is associated with the European Enlightenment, which begins roughly in the middle of the eighteenth century. (Other historians trace elements of enlightenment thought back to the Renaissance or earlier, and one could argue that Enlightenment thinking begins with the eighteenth century. I usually date "modern" from 1750, if only because I got my Ph.D. from a program at Stanford called "Modern Thought and Literature," and that program focused on works written after 1750).

The basic ideas of the Enlightenment are roughly the same as the basic ideas of humanism. Jane Flax's article gives a good summary of these ideas or premises (on p. 41). I'll add a few things to her list.

1. There is a stable, coherent, knowable self. This self is conscious, rational, autonomous, and universal--no physical conditions or differences substantially affect how this self operates.

2. This self knows itself and the world through reason, or rationality, posited as the highest form of mental functioning, and the only objective form.

3. The mode of knowing produced by the objective rational self is "science," which can provide universal truths about the world, regardless of the individual status of the knower.

4. The knowledge produced by science is "truth," and is eternal.

5. The knowledge/truth produced by science (by the rational objective knowing self) will always lead toward progress and perfection. All human institutions and practices can be analyzed by science (reason/objectivity) and improved.

6. Reason is the ultimate judge of what is true, and therefore of what is right, and what is good (what is legal and what is ethical). Freedom consists of obedience to the laws that conform to the knowledge discovered by reason.

7. In a world governed by reason, the true will always be the same as the good and the right (and the beautiful); there can be no conflict between what is true and what is right (etc.).

8. Science thus stands as the paradigm for any and all socially useful forms of knowledge. Science is neutral and objective; scientists, those who produce scientific knowledge through their unbiased rational capacities, must be free to follow the laws of reason, and not be motivated by other concerns (such as money or power).

9. Language, or the mode of expression used in producing and disseminating knowledge, must be rational also. To be rational, language must be transparent; it must function only to represent the real/perceivable world which the rational mind observes. There must be a firm and objective connection between the objects of perception and the words used to name them (between signifier and signified).

These are some of the fundamental premises of humanism, or of modernism. They serve--as you can probably tell--to justify and explain virtually all of our social structures and institutions, including democracy, law, science, ethics, and aesthetics.

Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out of chaos. The assumption is that creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order, and that the more ordered a society is, the better it will function (the more rationally it will function). Because modernity is about the pursuit of ever-increasing levels of order, modern societies constantly are on guard against anything and everything labeled as "disorder," which might disrupt order. Thus modern societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between "order" and "disorder," so that they can assert the superiority of "order." But to do this, they have to have things that represent "disorder"--modern societies thus continually have to create/construct "disorder." In western culture, this disorder becomes "the other"--defined in relation to other binary oppositions. Thus anything non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-hygienic, non-rational, (etc.) becomes part of "disorder," and has to be eliminated from the ordered, rational modern society.

The ways that modern societies go about creating categories labeled as "order" or "disorder" have to do with the effort to achieve stability. Francois Lyotard (the theorist whose works Sarup describes in his article on postmodernism) equates that stability with the idea of "totality," or a totalized system (think here of Derrida's idea of "totality" as the wholeness or completeness of a system). Totality, and stability, and order, Lyotard argues, are maintained in modern societies through the means of "grand narratives" or "master narratives," which are stories a culture tells itself about its practices and beliefs. A "grand narrative" in American culture might be the story that democracy is the most enlightened (rational) form of government, and that democracy can and will lead to universal human happiness. Every belief system or ideology has its grand narratives, according to Lyotard; for Marxism, for instance, the "grand narrative" is the idea that capitalism will collapse in on itself and a utopian socialist world will evolve. You might think of grand narratives as a kind of meta-theory, or meta-ideology, that is, an ideology that explains an ideology (as with Marxism); a story that is told to explain the belief systems that exist.

Lyotard argues that all aspects of modern societies, including science as the primary form of knowledge, depend on these grand narratives. Postmodernism then is the critique of grand narratives, the awareness that such narratives serve to mask the contradictions and instabilities that are inherent in any social organization or practice. In other words, every attempt to create "order" always demands the creation of an equal amount of "disorder," but a "grand narrative" masks the constructedness of these categories by explaining that "disorder" REALLY IS chaotic and bad, and that "order" REALLY IS rational and good. Postmodernism, in rejecting grand narratives, favors "mini-narratives," stories that explain small practices, local events, rather than large-scale universal or global concepts. Postmodern "mini-narratives" are always situational, provisional, contingent, and temporary, making no claim to universality, truth, reason, or stability.

Another aspect of Enlightenment thought--the final of my 9 points--is the idea that language is transparent, that words serve only as representations of thoughts or things, and don't have any function beyond that. Modern societies depend on the idea that signifiers always point to signifieds, and that reality resides in signifieds. In postmodernism, however, there are only signifiers. The idea of any stable or permanent reality disappears, and with it the idea of signifieds that signifiers point to. Rather, for postmodern societies, there are only surfaces, without depth; only signifiers, with no signifieds.

Another way of saying this, according to Jean Baudrillard, is that in postmodern society there are no originals, only copies--or what he calls "simulacra." You might think, for example, about painting or sculpture, where there is an original work (by Van Gogh, for instance), and there might also be thousands of copies, but the original is the one with the highest value (particularly monetary value). Contrast that with cds or music recordings, where there is no "original," as in painting--no recording that is hung on a wall, or kept in a vault; rather, there are only copies, by the millions, that are all the same, and all sold for (approximately) the same amount of money. Another version of Baudrillard's "simulacrum" would be the concept of virtual reality, a reality created by simulation, for which there is no original. This is particularly evident in computer games/simulations--think of Sim City, Sim Ant, etc.

Finally, postmodernism is concerned with questions of the organization of knowledge. In modern societies, knowledge was equated with science, and was contrasted to narrative; science was good knowledge, and narrative was bad, primitive, irrational (and thus associated with women, children, primitives, and insane people). Knowledge, however, was good for its own sake; one gained knowledge, via education, in order to be knowledgeable in general, to become an educated person. This is the ideal of the liberal arts education. In a postmodern society, however, knowledge becomes functional--you learn things, not to know them, but to use that knowledge. As Sarup points out (p. 138), educational policy today puts emphasis on skills and training, rather than on a vague humanist ideal of education in general. This is particularly acute for English majors. "What will you DO with your degree?"

Not only is knowledge in postmodern societies characterized by its utility, but knowledge is also distributed, stored, and arranged differently in postmodern societies than in modern ones. Specifically, the advent of electronic computer technologies has revolutionized the modes of knowledge production, distribution, and consumption in our society (indeed, some might argue that postmodernism is best described by, and correlated with, the emergence of computer technology, starting in the 1960s, as the dominant force in all aspects of social life). In postmodern societies, anything which is not able to be translated into a form recognizable and storable by a computer--i.e. anything that's not digitizable--will cease to be knowledge. In this paradigm, the opposite of "knowledge" is not "ignorance," as it is the modern/humanist paradigm, but rather "noise." Anything that doesn't qualify as a kind of knowledge is "noise," is something that is not recognizable as anything within this system.

Lyotard says (and this is what Sarup spends a lot of time explaining) that the important question for postmodern societies is who decides what knowledge is (and what "noise" is), and who knows what needs to be decided. Such decisions about knowledge don't involve the old modern/humanist qualifications: for example, to assess knowledge as truth (its technical quality), or as goodness or justice (its ethical quality) or as beauty (its aesthetic quality). Rather, Lyotard argues, knowledge follows the paradigm of a language game, as laid out by Wittgenstein. I won't go into the details of Wittgenstein's ideas of language games; Sarup gives a pretty good explanation of this concept in his article, for those who are interested.

There are lots of questions to be asked about postmodernism, and one of the most important is about the politics involved--or, more simply, is this movement toward fragmentation, provisionality, performance, and instability something good or something bad? There are various answers to that; in our contemporary society, however, the desire to return to the pre-postmodern era (modern/humanist/Enlightenment thinking) tends to get associated with conservative political, religious, and philosophical groups. In fact, one of the consequences of postmodernism seems to be the rise of religious fundamentalism, as a form of resistance to the questioning of the "grand narratives" of religious truth. This is perhaps most obvious (to us in the US, anyway) in muslim fundamentalism in the Middle East, which ban postmodern books--like Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses --because they deconstruct such grand narratives.

This association between the rejection of postmodernism and conservatism or fundamentalism may explain in part why the postmodern avowal of fragmentation and multiplicity tends to attract liberals and radicals. This is why, in part, feminist theorists have found postmodernism so attractive, as Sarup, Flax, and Butler all point out.

On another level, however, postmodernism seems to offer some alternatives to joining the global culture of consumption, where commodities and forms of knowledge are offered by forces far beyond any individual's control. These alternatives focus on thinking of any and all action (or social struggle) as necessarily local, limited, and partial--but nonetheless effective. By discarding "grand narratives" (like the liberation of the entire working class) and focusing on specific local goals (such as improved day care centers for working mothers in your own community), postmodernist politics offers a way to theorize local situations as fluid and unpredictable, though influenced by global trends. Hence the motto for postmodern politics might well be "think globally, act locally"--and don't worry about any grand scheme or master plan.


All materials on this site are written by, and remain the propery of, Dr. Mary Klages, Associate Professor, English Department, University of Colorado, Boulder. You are welcome to quote from this essay, or to link this page to your own site, with proper attribution. For more information, see Citing Electronic Sources.


The Flax article referred to is Jane Flax, "Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory," in Linda J. Nicholson, ed., Feminism/Postmodernism, Routledge, 1990.

Postmodernism

First published Fri 30 Sep, 2005

That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.

The term “postmodernism” first entered the philosophical lexicon in 1979, with the publication of The Postmodern Condition by Jean-François Lyotard. I therefore give Lyotard pride of place in the sections that follow. An economy of selection dictated the choice of other figures for this entry. I have selected only those most commonly cited in discussions of philosophical postmodernism, five French and two Italian, although individually they may resist common affiliation. Ordering them by nationality might duplicate a modernist schema they would question, but there are strong differences among them, and these tend to divide along linguistic and cultural lines. The French, for example, work with concepts developed during the structuralist revolution in Paris in the 1950s and early 1960s, including structuralist readings of Marx and Freud. For this reason they are often called “poststructuralists.” They also cite the events of May 1968 as a watershed moment for modern thought and its institutions, especially the universities. The Italians, by contrast, draw upon a tradition of aesthetics and rhetoric including figures such as Giambattista Vico and Benedetto Croce. Their emphasis is strongly historical, and they exhibit no fascination with a revolutionary moment. Instead, they emphasize continuity, narrative, and difference within continuity, rather than counter-strategies and discursive gaps. Neither side, however, suggests that postmodernism is an attack upon modernity or a complete departure from it. Rather, its differences lie within modernity itself, and postmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.

Finally, I have included a summary of Habermas's critique of postmodernism, representing the main lines of discussion on both sides of the Atlantic. Habermas argues that postmodernism contradicts itself through self-reference, and notes that postmodernists presuppose concepts they otherwise seek to undermine, e.g., freedom, subjectivity, or creativity. He sees in this a rhetorical application of strategies employed by the artistic avant-garde of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, an avant-garde that is possible only because modernity separates artistic values from science and politics in the first place. On his view, postmodernism is an illicit aestheticization of knowledge and public discourse. Against this, Habermas seeks to rehabilitate modern reason as a system of procedural rules for achieving consensus and agreement among communicating subjects. Insofar as postmodernism introduces aesthetic playfulness and subversion into science and politics, he resists it in the name of a modernity moving toward completion rather than self-transformation.


1. Precursors

The philosophical modernism at issue in postmodernism begins with Kant's “Copernican revolution,” that is, his assumption that we cannot know things in themselves and that objects of knowledge must conform to our faculties of representation (Kant 1964). Ideas such as God, freedom, immortality, the world, first beginning, and final end have only a regulative function for knowledge, since they cannot find fulfilling instances among objects of experience. With Hegel, the immediacy of the subject-object relation itself is shown to be illusory. As he states in The Phenomenology of Spirit, “we find that neither the one nor the other is only immediately present in sense-certainty, but each is at the same time mediated” (Hegel 1977, 59), because subject and object are both instances of a “this” and a “now,” neither of which are immediately sensed. So-called immediate perception therefore lacks the certainty of immediacy itself, a certainty that must be deferred to the working out of a complete system of experience. However, later thinkers point out that Hegel's logic pre-supposes concepts, such as identity and negation (see Hegel 1969), which cannot themselves be accepted as immediately given, and which therefore must be accounted for in some other, non-dialectical way.

The later nineteenth century is the age of modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions. There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience. Indeed, many proponents of postmodernism challenge the viability of such a distinction tout court, seeing in achieved modernism the emergence of a problem the philosophical tradition has repressed. A consequence of achieved modernism is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realization. De-realization affects both the subject and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved. Important precursors to this notion are found in Kierkegaard, Marx and Nietzsche. Kierkegaard, for example, describes modern society as a network of relations in which individuals are leveled into an abstract phantom known as “the public” (Kierkegaard 1962, 59). The modern public, in contrast to ancient and medieval communities, is a creation of the press, which is the only instrument capable of holding together the mass of unreal individuals “who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization” (Kierkegaard 1962 , 60). In this sense, society has become a realization of abstract thought, held together by an artificial and all-pervasive medium speaking for everyone and for no one. In Marx, on the other hand, we have an analysis of the fetishism of commodities (Marx 1983, 444-461) where objects lose the solidity of their use value and become spectral figures under the aspect of exchange value. Their ghostly nature results from their absorption into a network of social relations, where their values fluctuate independently of their corporeal being. Human subjects themselves experience this de-realization because commodities are products of their labor. Workers paradoxically lose their being in realizing themselves, and this becomes emblematic for those professing a postmodern sensibility.

We also find suggestions of de-realization in Nietzsche, who speaks of being as “the last breath of a vaporizing reality” and remarks upon the dissolution of the distinction between the “real” and the “apparent” world. In Twilight of the Idols, he traces the history of this distinction from Plato to his own time, where the “true world” becomes a useless and superfluous idea (Nietzsche 1954, 485-86). However, with the notion of the true world, he says, we have also done away with the apparent one. What is left is neither real nor apparent, but something in between, and therefore something akin to the virtual reality of more recent vintage.

The notion of a collapse between the real and the apparent is suggested in Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche 1967a), where he presents Greek tragedy as a synthesis of natural art impulses represented by the gods Apollo and Dionysus. Where Apollo is the god of beautiful forms and images, Dionysus is the god of frenzy and intoxication, under whose sway the spell of individuated existence is broken in a moment of undifferentiated oneness with nature. While tragic art is life-affirming in joining these two impulses, logic and science are built upon Apollonian representations that have become frozen and lifeless. Hence, Nietzsche believes only a return of the Dionysian art impulse can save modern society from sterility and nihilism. This interpretation presages postmodern concepts of art and representation, and also anticipates postmodernists' fascination with the prospect of a revolutionary moment auguring a new, anarchic sense of community.

Nietzsche is also a precursor for postmodernism in his genealogical analyses of fundamental concepts, especially what he takes to be the core concept of Western metaphysics, the “I.” On Nietzsche's account, the concept of the “I” arises out of a moral imperative to be responsible for our actions. In order to be responsible we must assume that we are the cause of our actions, and this cause must hold over time, retaining its identity, so that rewards and punishments are accepted as consequences for actions deemed beneficial or detrimental to others (Nietzsche 1954, 482-83; 1967b, 24-26, 58-60). In this way, the concept of the “I” comes about as a social construction and moral illusion. According to Nietzsche, the moral sense of the “I” as an identical cause is projected onto events in the world, where the identity of things, causes, effects, etc., takes shape in easily communicable representations. Thus logic is born from the demand to adhere to common social norms which shape the human herd into a society of knowing and acting subjects.

For postmodernists, Nietzsche's genealogy of concepts in “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (Nietzsche 1979, 77-97) is also an important reference. In this text, Nietzsche puts forward the hypothesis that scientific concepts are chains of metaphors hardened into accepted truths. On this account, metaphor begins when a nerve stimulus is copied as an image, which is then imitated in sound, giving rise, when repeated, to the word, which becomes a concept when the word is used to designate multiple instances of singular events. Conceptual metaphors are thus lies because they equate unequal things, just as the chain of metaphors moves from one level to another. Hegel's problem with the repetition of the “this” and the “now” is thus expanded to include the repetition of instances across discontinuous gaps between kinds and levels of things.

In close connection with this genealogy, Nietzsche criticizes the historicism of the nineteenth century in the 1874 essay, “On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life” (Nietzsche 1983, 57-123). On Nietzsche's view, the life of an individual and a culture depend upon their ability to repeat an unhistorical moment, a kind of forgetfulness, along with their continuous development through time, and the study of history ought therefore to emphasize how each person or culture attains and repeats this moment. There is no question, then, of reaching a standpoint outside of history or of conceiving past times as stages on the way to the present. Historical repetition is not linear, but each age worthy of its designation repeats the unhistorical moment that is its own present as “new.” In this respect, Nietzsche would agree with Charles Baudelaire, who describes modernity as “the transient, the fleeting, the contingent” that is repeated in all ages (Cahoone 2003, 100), and postmodernists read Nietzsche's remarks on the eternal return accordingly.

Nietzsche presents this concept in The Gay Science (Nietzsche 1974, 273), and in a more developed form in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche 1954, 269-272). Many have taken the concept to imply an endless, identical repetition of everything in the universe, such that nothing occurs that has not already occurred an infinite number of times before. However, others, including postmodernists, read these passages in conjunction with the notion that history is the repetition of an unhistorical moment, a moment that is always new in each case. In their view, Nietzsche can only mean that the new eternally repeats as new, and therefore recurrence is a matter of difference rather than identity. Furthermore, postmodernists join the concept of eternal return with the loss of the distinction between the real and the apparent world. The distinction itself does not reappear, and what repeats is neither real nor apparent in the traditional sense, but is a phantasm or simulacrum.

Nietzsche is a common interest between postmodern philosophers and Martin Heidegger, whose meditations on art, technology, and the withdrawal of being they regularly cite and comment upon. Heidegger's contribution to the sense of de-realization of the world stems from oft repeated remarks such as: “Everywhere we are underway amid beings, and yet we no longer know how it stands with being” (Heidegger 2000, 217), and “precisely nowhere does man today any longer encounter himself, i.e., his essence” (Heidegger 1993, 332). Heidegger sees modern technology as the fulfillment of Western metaphysics, which he characterizes as the metaphysics of presence. From the time of the earliest philosophers, but definitively with Plato, says Heidegger, Western thought has conceived of being as the presence of beings, which in the modern world has come to mean the availability of beings for use. In fact, as he writes in Being and Time, the presence of beings tends to disappear into the transparency of their usefulness as things ready-to-hand (Heidegger 1962, 95-107). The essence of technology, which he names “the enframing,” reduces the being of entities to a calculative order (Heidegger 1993, 311-341). Hence, the mountain is not a mountain but a standing supply of coal, the Rhine is not the Rhine but an engine for hydro-electric energy, and humans are not humans but reserves of manpower. The experience of the modern world, then, is the experience of being's withdrawal in face of the enframing and its sway over beings. However, humans are affected by this withdrawal in moments of anxiety or boredom, and therein lies the way to a possible return of being, which would be tantamount to a repetition of the experience of being opened up by Parmenides and Heraclitus.

Heidegger sees this as the realization of the will to power, another Nietzschean conception, which, conjoined with the eternal return, represents the exhaustion of the metaphysical tradition (Heidegger 1991a, 199-203). For Heidegger, the will to power is the eternal recurrence as becoming, and the permanence of becoming is the terminal moment of the metaphysics of presence. On this reading, becoming is the emerging and passing away of beings within and among other beings instead of an emergence from being. Thus, for Heidegger, Nietzsche marks the end of metaphysical thinking but not a passage beyond it, and therefore Heidegger sees him as the last metaphysician in whom the oblivion of being is complete (Heidegger 1991a, 204-206; 1991b, 199-203). Hope for a passage into non-metaphysical thinking lies rather with Hölderlin, whose verses give voice to signs granted by being in its withdrawal (Heidegger 1994, 115-118). While postmodernists owe much to Heidegger's reflections on the non-presence of being and the de-realization of beings through the technological enframing, they sharply diverge from his reading of Nietzsche.

Many postmodern philosophers find in Heidegger a nostalgia for being they do not share. They prefer, instead, the sense of cheerful forgetting and playful creativity in Nietzsche's eternal return as a repetition of the different and the new. Some have gone so far as to turn the tables on Heidegger, and to read his ruminations on metaphysics as the repetition of an original metaphysical gesture, the gathering of thought to its “proper” essence and vocation (see Derrida 1989). In this gathering, which follows the lineaments of an exclusively Greco-Christian-German tradition, something more original than being is forgotten, and that is the difference and alterity against which, and with which, the tradition composes itself. Prominent authors associated with postmodernism have noted that the forgotten and excluded “other” of the West, including Heidegger, is figured by the Jew (see Lyotard 1990, and Lacoue-Labarthe 1990). In this way, they are able to distinguish their projects from Heidegger's thinking and to critically account for his involvement with National Socialism and his silence about the Holocaust, albeit in terms that do not address these as personal failings. Those looking for personal condemnations of Heidegger for his actions and his “refusal to accept responsibility” will not find them in postmodernist commentaries. They will, however, find many departures from Heidegger on Nietzsche's philosophical significance (see Derrida 1979), and many instances where Nietzsche's ideas are critically activated against Heidegger and his self-presentation.

2. The Postmodern Condition

The term “postmodern” came into the philosophical lexicon with the publication of Jean-François Lyotard's La Condition Postmoderne in 1979 (English: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1984), where he employs Wittgenstein's model of language games (see Wittgenstein 1953) and concepts taken from speech act theory to account for what he calls a transformation of the game rules for science, art, and literature since the end of the nineteenth century. He describes his text as a combination of two very different language games, that of the philosopher and that of the expert. Where the expert knows what he knows and what he doesn't know, the philosopher knows neither, but poses questions. In light of this ambiguity, Lyotard states that his portrayal of the state of knowledge “makes no claims to being original or even true,” and that his hypotheses “should not be accorded predictive value in relation to reality, but strategic value in relation to the questions raised” (Lyotard 1984, 7). The book, then, is as much an experiment in the combination of language games as it is an objective “report.”

On Lyotard's account, the computer age has transformed knowledge into information, that is, coded messages within a system of transmission and communication. Analysis of this knowledge calls for a pragmatics of communication insofar as the phrasing of messages, their transmission and reception, must follow rules in order to be accepted by those who judge them. However, as Lyotard points out, the position of judge or legislator is also a position within a language game, and this raises the question of legitimation. As he insists, “there is a strict interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics” (Lyotard 1984, 8), and this interlinkage constitutes the cultural perspective of the West. Science is therefore tightly interwoven with government and administration, especially in the information age, where enormous amounts of capital and large installations are needed for research.

Lyotard points out that while science has sought to distinguish itself from narrative knowledge in the form of tribal wisdom communicated through myths and legends, modern philosophy has sought to provide legitimating narratives for science in the form of “the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth, “ (Lyotard 1984, xxiii). Science, however, plays the language game of denotation to the exclusion of all others, and in this respect it displaces narrative knowledge, including the meta-narratives of philosophy. This is due, in part, to what Lyotard characterizes as the rapid growth of technologies and techniques in the second half of the twentieth century, where the emphasis of knowledge has shifted from the ends of human action to its means (Lyotard 1984, 37). This has eroded the speculative game of philosophy and set each science free to develop independently of philosophical grounding or systematic organization. “I define postmodern as incredulity toward meta-narratives,” says Lyotard (Lyotard 1984, xxiv). As a result, new, hybrid disciplines develop without connection to old epistemic traditions, especially philosophy, and this means science only plays its own game and cannot legitimate others, such as moral prescription.

The compartmentalization of knowledge and the dissolution of epistemic coherence is a concern for researchers and philosophers alike. As Lyotard notes, “Lamenting the ‘loss of meaning’ in postmodernity boils down to mourning the fact that knowledge is no longer principally narrative” (Lyotard 1984, 26). Indeed, for Lyotard, the de-realization of the world means the disintegration of narrative elements into “clouds” of linguistic combinations and collisions among innumerable, heterogeneous language games. Furthermore, within each game the subject moves from position to position, now as sender, now as addressee, now as referent, and so on. The loss of a continuous meta-narrative therefore breaks the subject into heterogeneous moments of subjectivity that do not cohere into an identity. But as Lyotard points out, while the combinations we experience are not necessarily stable or communicable, we learn to move with a certain nimbleness among them.

Postmodern sensibility does not lament the loss of narrative coherence any more than the loss of being. However, the dissolution of narrative leaves the field of legitimation to a new unifying criterion: the performativity of the knowledge-producing system whose form of capital is information. Performative legitimation means maximizing the flow of information and minimizing static (non-functional moves) in the system, so whatever cannot be communicated as information must be eliminated. The performativity criterion threatens anything not meeting its requirements, such as speculative narratives, with de-legitimation and exclusion. Nevertheless, capital also demands the continual re-invention of the “new” in the form of new language games and new denotative statements, and so, paradoxically, a certain paralogy is required by the system itself. In this regard, the modern paradigm of progress as new moves under established rules gives way to the postmodern paradigm of inventing new rules and changing the game.

Inventing new codes and reshaping information is a large part of the production of knowledge, and in its inventive moment science does not adhere to performative efficiency. By the same token, the meta-prescriptives of science, its rules, are themselves objects of invention and experimentation for the sake of producing new statements. In this respect, says Lyotard, the model of knowledge as the progressive development of consensus is outmoded. In fact, attempts to retrieve the model of consensus can only repeat the standard of coherence demanded for functional efficiency, and they will thus lend themselves to the domination of capital. On the other hand, the paralogical inventiveness of science raises the possibility of a new sense of justice, as well as knowledge, as we move among the language games now entangling us.

Lyotard takes up the question of justice in Just Gaming (see Lyotard 1985) and The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (see Lyotard 1988), where he combines the model of language games with Kant's division of the faculties (understanding, imagination, reason) and types of judgment (theoretical, practical, aesthetic) in order to explore the problem of justice set out in The Postmodern Condition. Without the formal unity of the subject, the faculties are set free to operate on their own. Where Kant insists that reason must assign domains and limits to the other faculties, its dependence upon the unity of the subject for the identity of concepts as laws or rules de-legitimizes its juridical authority in the postmodern age. Instead, because we are faced with an irreducible plurality of judgments and “phrase regimes,” the faculty of judgment itself is brought to the fore. Kant's third Critique therefore provides the conceptual materials for Lyotard's analysis, especially the analytic of aesthetic judgment (see Kant 1987)..

As Lyotard argues, aesthetic judgment is the appropriate model for the problem of justice in postmodern experience because we are confronted with a plurality of games and rules without a concept under which to unify them. Judgment must therefore be reflective rather than determining. Furthermore, judgment must be aesthetic insofar as it does not produce denotative knowledge about a determinable state of affairs, but refers to the way our faculties interact with each other as we move from one mode of phrasing to another, i.e. the denotative, the prescriptive, the performative, the political, the cognitive, the artistic, etc. In Kantian terms, this interaction registers as an aesthetic feeling. Where Kant emphasizes the feeling of the beautiful as a harmonious interaction between imagination and understanding, Lyotard stresses the mode in which faculties (imagination and reason,) are in disharmony, i.e. the feeling of the sublime. For Kant, the sublime occurs when our faculties of sensible presentation are overwhelmed by impressions of absolute power and magnitude, and reason is thrown back upon its own power to conceive Ideas (such as the moral law) which surpass the sensible world. For Lyotard, however, the postmodern sublime occurs when we are affected by a multitude of unpresentables without reference to reason as their unifying origin. Justice, then, would not be a definable rule, but an ability to move and judge among rules in their heterogeneity and multiplicity. In this respect, it would be more akin to the production of art than a moral judgment in Kant's sense.

In “What is Postmodernism?,” which appears as an appendix to the English edition of The Postmodern Condition, Lyotard addresses the importance of avant-garde art in terms of the aesthetic of the sublime. Modern art, he says, is emblematic of a sublime sensibility, that is, a sensibility that there is something non-presentable demanding to be put into sensible form and yet overwhelms all attempts to do so. But where modern art presents the unpresentable as a missing content within a beautiful form, as in Marcel Proust, postmodern art, exemplified by James Joyce, puts forward the unpresentable by forgoing beautiful form itself, thus denying what Kant would call the consensus of taste. Furthermore, says Lyotard, a work can become modern only if it is first postmodern, for postmodernism is not modernism at its end but in its nascent state, that is, at the moment it attempts to present the unpresentable, “and this state is constant” (Lyotard 1984, 79). The postmodern, then, is a repetition of the modern as the “new,” and this means the ever-new demand for another repetition.

3. Genealogy and Subjectivity

The Nietzschean method of genealogy, in its application to modern subjectivity, is another facet of philosophical postmodernism. Michel Foucault's application of genealogy to formative moments in modernity's history and his exhortations to experiment with subjectivity place him within the scope of postmodern discourse. In the 1971 essay “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” Foucault spells out his adaptation of the genealogical method in his historical studies. First and foremost, he says, genealogy “opposes itself to the search for ‘origins’” (Foucault 1977, 141). That is, genealogy studies the accidents and contingencies that converge at crucial moments, giving rise to new epochs, concepts, and institutions. As Foucault remarks: “What is found at the historical beginning of things is not the inviolable identity of their origin; it is the dissension of other things. It is disparity” (Foucault 1977, 142). In Nietzschean fashion, Foucault exposes history conceived as the origin and development of an identical subject, e.g., “modernity,” as a fiction modern discourses invent after the fact. Underlying the fiction of modernity is a sense of temporality that excludes the elements of chance and contingency in play at every moment. In short, linear, progressive history covers up the discontinuities and interruptions that mark points of succession in historical time.

Foucault deploys genealogy to create what he calls a “counter-memory” or “a transformation of history into a totally different form of time” (Foucault 1977, 160). This entails dissolving identity for the subject in history by using the materials and techniques of modern historical research. Just as Nietzsche postulates that the religious will to truth in Christianity results in the destruction of Christianity by science (see Nietzsche 1974, 280-83), Foucault postulates that genealogical research will result in the disintegration of the epistemic subject, as the continuity of the subject is broken up by the gaps and accidents that historical research uncovers. The first example of this research is Histoire de la folie à l'age classique, published in 1961, translated in abridegd form as Madness and Civilization, in 1965. Here, Foucault gives an account of the historical beginnings of modern reason as it comes to define itself against madness in the seventeenth century. His thesis is that the practice of confining the mad is a transformation of the medieval practice of confining lepers in lazar houses. These institutions managed to survive long after the lepers disappeared, and thus an institutional structure of confinement was already in place when the modern concept of madness as a disease took shape. However, while institutions of confinement are held over from a previous time, the practice of confining the mad constitutes a break with the past.

Foucault focuses upon the moment of transition, as modern reason begins to take shape in a confluence of concepts, institutions, and practices, or, as he would say, of knowledge and power. In its nascency, reason is a power that defines itself against an other, an other whose truth and identity is also assigned by reason, thus giving reason the sense of originating from itself. For Foucault, the issue is that madness is not allowed to speak for itself and is at the disposal of a power that dictates the terms of their relationship. As he remarks: “What is originative is the caesura that establishes the distance between reason and non-reason; reason's subjugation of non-reason, wresting from it its truth as madness, crime, or disease, derives explicitly from this point” (Foucault 1965, x). The truth of reason is found when madness comes to stand in the place of non-reason, when the difference between them is inscribed in their opposition, but is not identical to its dominant side. In other words, the reason that stands in opposition to madness is not identical to the reason that inscribes their difference. The latter would be reason without an opposite, a free-floating power without definite shape. As Foucault suggests, this free-floating mystery might be represented in the ship of fools motif, which, in medieval times, represented madness. Such is the paradoxical structure of historical transformation.

In his later writings, most notably in The Use of Pleasure (Foucault 1985), Foucault employs historical research to open possibilities for experimenting with subjectivity, by showing that subjectivation is a formative power of the self, surpassing the structures of knowledge and power from out of which it emerges. This is a power of thought, which Foucault says is the ability of human beings to problematize the conditions under which they live. For philosophy, this means “the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known” (Foucault 1985, 9). He thus joins Lyotard in promoting creative experimentation as a leading power of thought, a power that surpasses reason, narrowly defined, and without which thought would be inert. In this regard, Foucault stands in league with others who profess a postmodern sensibility in regard to contemporary science, art, and society. We should note, as well, that Foucault's writings are a hybrid of philosophy and historical research, just as Lyotard combines the language games of the expert and the philosopher in The Postmodern Condition. This mixing of philosophy with concepts and methods from other disciplines is characteristic of postmodernism in its broadest sense.

4. Productive Difference

The concept of difference as a productive mechanism, rather than a negation of identity, is also a hallmark of postmodernism in philosophy. Gilles Deleuze deploys this concept throughout his work, beginning with Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962, English 1983), where he sets Nietzsche against the models of thinking at work in Kant and Hegel. Here, he proposes to think against reason in resistance to Kant's assertion of the self-justifying authority of reason alone (Deleuze 1983b, 93). In a phrase echoed by Foucault, he states that the purpose of his critique of reason “is not justification but a different way of feeling: another sensibility” (Deleuze 1983b, 94). Philosophical critique, he declares, is an encounter between thought and what forces it into action: it is a matter of sensibility rather than a tribunal where reason judges itself by its own laws (see Kant 1964, 9). Furthermore, the critique of reason is not a method, but is achieved by “culture” in the Nietzschean sense: training, discipline, inventiveness, and a certain cruelty (see Nietzsche 1967b). Since thought cannot activate itself as thinking, Deleuze says it must suffer violence if it is to awaken and move. Art, science, and philosophy deploy such violence insofar as they are transformative and experimental.

Against Hegel, Deleuze asserts that while dialectic is structured by negation and opposition within a posited identity, “difference is the only principle of genesis or production” (Deleuze 1983b, 157). Opposition occurs on the same logical plane, but difference moves across planes and levels, and not only in one direction. Furthermore, where Hegel takes the work of the negative to be dialectic's driving power, Deleuze declares that difference is thinkable only as repetition repeating itself (as in Nietzsche's eternal return), where difference affirms itself in eternally differing from itself. Its movement is productive, but without logical opposition, negation, or necessity. Instead, chance and multiplicity are repeated, just as a dice-throw repeats the randomness of the throw along with every number. On the other hand, dialectic cancels out chance and affirms the movement of the negative as a working out of identity, as in the Science of Logic where being in its immediacy is posited as equal only to itself (Hegel 1969, 82). For Deleuze, however, sensibility introduces an aleatory moment into thought's development, making accidentality and contingency conditions for thinking. These conditions upset logical identity and opposition, and place the limit of thinking beyond any dialectical system.

In Difference and Repetition (1968, English 1994), Deleuze develops his project in multiple directions. His work, he says, stems from the convergence of two lines of research: the concept of difference without negation, and the concept of repetition, in which physical and mechanical repetitions are masks for a hidden differential that is disguised and displaced. His major focus is a thoroughgoing critique of representational thinking, including identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance (Deleuze 1994, 132). For Deleuze, "appearances of" are not representations, but sensory intensities free of subjective or objective identities (Deleuze 1994, 144). Without these identities, appearances are simulacra of an non-apparent differential he calls the “dark precursor” or “the in-itself of difference” (Deleuze 1994, 119). This differential is the non-sensible being of the sensible, a being not identical to the sensible, or to itself, but irreducibly problematic insofar as it forces us to encounter the sensible as “given.”

Furthermore, any move against representational thinking impinges upon the identity of the subject. Where Kant founds the representational unity of space and time upon the formal unity of consciousness (Kant 1964, 135-137), difference re-distributes intuitions of past, present, and future, fracturing consciousness into multiple states not predicable of a single subject. Intensive qualities are individuating by themselves, says Delueze, and individuality is not characteristic of a self or an ego, but of a differential forever dividing itself and changing its configuration (Deleuze 1994, 246, 254, 257). In Nietzschean fashion, the “I” refers not to the unity of consciousness, but to a multitude of simulacra without an identical subject for whom this multitude appears. Instead, subjects arise and multiply as “effects” of the intensive qualities saturating space and time. This leads Deleuze to postulate multiple faculties for subjectivity, which are correlates of the sensible insofar as it gives rise to feeling, thought, and action. “Each faculty, including thought, has only involuntary adventures,” he says, and “involuntary operation remains embedded in the empirical” (Deleuze 1994, 145). Subjectively, the paradox of the differential breaks up the faculties' common function and places them before their own limits: thought before the unthinkable, memory before the immemorial, sensibility before the imperceptible, etc. (Deleuze 1994, 227). This fracturing and multiplying of the subject, he notes, leads to the realization that “schizophrenia is not only a human fact but also a possibility for thought” (Deleuze 1994, 148), thus expanding the term into a philosophical concept, beyond its clinical application.

The dissolution of the subject and its implications for society is the theme of Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which Deleuze published with Félix Guattari in 1972 (English 1983). The book, in large part, is written against an established intellectual orthodoxy of the political Left in France during the 1950s and 1960s, an orthodoxy consisting of Marx, Freud, and structuralist concepts applied to them by Louis Althusser and Jacques Lacan. Deleuze and Guattari argue that this mixture is still limited by representational thinking, including concepts of production based upon lack, and concepts of alienation based upon identity and negation. Furthermore, the Oedipus concept in psychoanalysis, they say, institutes a theater of desire in which the psyche is embedded in a family drama closed off from the extra-familial and extra-psychic forces at work in society. They characterize these forces as “desiring machines” whose function is to connect, disconnect, and reconnect with one another without meaning or intention.

The authors portray society as a series “terrritorializations” or inscriptions upon the “body without organs,”or the free-flowing matter of intensive qualities filling space in their varying degrees. The first inscriptions are relations of kinship and filiation structuring primitive societies, often involving the marking and scarring of human bodies. As an interruption and encoding of “flows,” the primitive inscriptions constitute a nexus of desiring machines, both technical and social, whose elements are humans and their organs. The full body of society is the sacred earth, which appropriates to itself all social products as their natural or divine precondition, and to whom all members of society are bound by direct filiation (Deleuze 1983b, 141-42). These first inscriptions are then de-territoriaized and re-coded by the “despotic machine,” establishing new relations of alliance and filiation through the body of the ruler or emperor, who alone stands in direct filiation to the deity (Deleuze 1983b, 192) and who institutes the mechanism of the state upon pre-existing social arrangements. Finally, capitalism de-terrritorializes the inscriptions of the despotic machine and re-codes all relations of alliance and filiation into flows of money (Deleuze 1983b, 224-27). The organs of society and the state are appropriated into the functioning of capital, and humans become secondary to the filiation of money with itself.

Deleuze and Guattari see in the capitalist money system “an axiomatic of abstract quantities that keeps moving further and further in the direction of the deterritorialization of the socius” (Deleuze 1983a, 33), which is to say that capital is inherently schizophrenic. However, because capital also re-territorializes all flows into money, schizophrenia remains capitalism's external limit. Nevertheless, it is precisely that limit against which thinking can subject capitalism to philosophical critique. Psychoanalysis, they say, is part of the reign of capital because it re-terrritorializes the subject as “private” and “individual,” instituting psychic identity through images of the Oedipal family. However, the Oedipal triangle is merely a representational simulacrum of kinship and filiation, re-coded within a system of debt and payment. In this system, they insist, flows of desire have become mere representations of desire, cut off from the body without organs and the extra-familial mechanisms of society. A radical critique of capital cannot therefore be accomplished by psychoanalysis, but requires a schizoanalysis “to overturn the theater of representation into the order of desiring-production” (Deleuze 1983b, 271). Here, the authors see a revolutionary potential in modern art and science, where, in bringing about the “new,” they circulate de-coded and de-territorialized flows within society without automatically re-coding them into money (Deleuze 1983a, 379). In this revolutionary aspect, Anti-Oedipus reads as a statement of the desire that took to the streets of Paris in May of 1968, and which continues, even now, to make itself felt in intellectual life.

5. Deconstruction

The term "deconstruction," like "postmodernism," has taken on many meanings in the popular imagination. However, in philosophy, it signifies certain strategies for reading and writing texts. The term was introduced into philosophical literature in 1967, with the publication of three texts by Jacques Derrida: Of Grammatology (English 1974), Writing and Difference (English 1978), and Speech and Phenomena (English 1973). This so-called “publication blitz” immediately established Derrida as a major figure in the new movement in philosophy and the human sciences centered in Paris, and brought the idiom “deconstruction” into its vocabulary. Derrida and deconstruction are routinely associated with postmodernism, although like Deleuze and Foucault, he does not use the term and would resist affiliation with “-isms” of any sort. Of the three books from 1967, Of Grammatology is the more comprehensive in laying out the background for deconstruction as a way of reading modern theories of language, especially structuralism, and Heidegger's meditations on the non-presence of being. It also sets out Derrida's difference with Heidegger over Nietzsche. Where Heidegger places Nietzsche within the metaphysics of presence, Derrida insists that “reading, and therefore writing, the text were for Nietzsche ‘originary’ operations,” (Derrida 1974, 19), and this puts him at the closure of metaphysics (not the end), a closure that liberates writing from the traditional logos, which takes writing to be a sign (a visible mark) for another sign (speech), whose “signified” is a fully present meaning.

This closure has emerged, says Derrida, with the latest developments in linguistics, the human sciences, mathematics, and cybernetics, where the written mark or signifier is purely technical, that is, a matter of function rather than meaning. Precisely the liberation of function over meaning indicates that the epoch of what Heidegger calls the metaphysics of presence has come to closure, although this closure does not mean its termination. Just as in the essay “On the Question of Being” (Heidegger 1998, 291-322) Heidegger sees fit to cross out the word “being,” leaving it visible, nevertheless, under the mark, Derrida takes the closure of metaphysics to be its “erasure,” where it does not entirely disappear, but remains inscribed as one side of a difference, and where the mark of deletion is itself a trace of the difference that joins and separates this mark and what it crosses out. Derrida calls this joining and separating of signs différance (Derrida 1974, 23), a device that can only be read and not heard when différance and différence are pronounced in French. The “a” is a written mark that differentiates independently of the voice, the privileged medium of metaphysics. In this sense, différance as the spacing of difference, as archi-writing, would be the gram of grammatology. However, as Derrida remarks: “There cannot be a science of difference itself in its operation, as it is impossible to have a science of the origin of presence itself, that is to say of a certain non-origin” (Derrida 1974, 63). Instead, there is only the marking of the trace of difference, that is, deconstruction.

Because at its functional level all language is a system of differences, says Derrida, all language, even when spoken, is writing, and this truth is suppressed when meaning is taken as an origin, present and complete unto itself. Texts that take meaning or being as their theme are therefore particularly susceptible to deconstruction, as are all other texts insofar as they are conjoined with these. For Derrida, written marks or signifiers do not arrange themselves within natural limits, but form chains of signification that radiate in all directions. As Derrida famously remarks, “there is no outside-text” (Derrida 1974, 158), that is, the text includes the difference between any “inside” or “outside.” A text, then, is not a book, and does not, strictly speaking, have an author. On the contrary, the name of the author is a signifier linked with others, and there is no master signifier (such as the phallus in Lacan) present or even absent in a text. This goes for the term “différance” as well, which can only serve as a supplement for the productive spacing between signs. Therefore, Derrida insists that “différance is literally neither a word nor a concept” (Derrida 1982, 3). Instead, it can only be marked as a wandering play of differences that is both a spacing of signifiers in relation to one another and a deferral of meaning or presence when they are read.

How, then, can différance be characterized? Derrida refuses to answer questions as to “who” or “what” differs, because to do so would suggest there is a proper name for difference instead of endless supplements, of which “différance” is but one. Structurally, this supplemental displacement functions just as, for Heidegger, all names for being reduce being to the presence of beings, thus ignoring the “ontological difference” between them. However, Derrida takes the ontological difference as one difference among others, as a product of what the idiom “différance” supplements. As he remarks: “différance, in a certain and very strange way, (is) ‘older’ than the ontological difference or than the truth of Being” (Derrida 1982, 22). Deconstruction, then, traces the repetitions of the supplement. It is not so much a theory about texts as a practice of reading and transforming texts, where tracing the movements of différance produces other texts interwoven with the first. While there is a certain arbitrariness in the play of differences that result, it is not the arbitrariness of a reader getting the text to mean whatever he or she wants. It is a question of function rather than meaning, if meaning is understood as a terminal presence, and the signifying connections traced in deconstruction are first offered by the text itself. A deconstructive reading, then, does not assert or impose meaning, but marks out places where the function of the text works against its apparent meaning, or against the history of its interpretation.

6. Hyperreality

Hyperreality is closely related to the concept of the simulacrum: a copy or image without reference to an original. In postmodernism, hyperreality is the result of the technological mediation of experience, where what passes for reality is a network of images and signs without an external referent, such that what is represented is representation itself. In Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976) (English 1993), Jean Baudrillard uses Lacan's concepts of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real to develop this concept while attacking orthodoxies of the political Left, beginning with the assumed reality of power, production, desire, society, and political legitimacy. Baudrillard argues that all of these realities have become simulations, that is, signs without any referent, because the real and the imaginary have been absorbed into the symbolic.

Baudrillard presents hyperreality as the terminal stage of simulation, where a sign or image has no relation to any reality whatsoever, but is “its own pure simulacrum” (Baudrillard 1994, 6). The real, he says, has become an operational effect of symbolic processes, just as images are technologically generated and coded before we actually perceive them. This means technological mediation has usurped the productive role of the Kantian subject, the locus of an original synthesis of concepts and intuitions, as well as the Marxian worker, the producer of capital though labor, and the Freudian unconscious, the mechanism of repression and desire. “From now on,” says Baudrillard, “signs are exchanged against each other rather than against the real” (Baudrillard 1993, 7), so production now means signs producing other signs. The system of symbolic exchange is therefore no longer real but “hyperreal.” Where the real is “that of which it is possible to provide an equivalent reproduction,” the hyperreal, says Baudrillard, is “that which is always already reproduced” (Baudrillard 1993, 73). The hyperreal is a system of simulation simulating itself.

The lesson Baudrillard draws from the events of May 1968 is that the student movement was provoked by the realization that “we were no longer productive” (Baudrillard 1993, 29), and that direct opposition within the system of communication and exchange only reproduces the mechanisms of the system itself. Strategically, he says, capital can only be defeated by introducing something inexchangeable into the symbolic order, that is, something having the irreversible function of natural death, which the symbolic order excludes and renders invisible. The system, he points out, simulates natural death with fascinating images of violent death and catastrophe, where death is the result of artificial processes and “accidents.” But, as Baudrillard remarks: “Only the death-function cannot be programmed and localized” (Baudrillard 1993, 126), and by this he means death as the simple and irreversible finality of life. Therefore he calls for the development of “fatal strategies” to make the system suffer reversal and collapse.

Because these strategies must be carried out within the symbolic order, they are matters of rhetoric and art, or a hybrid of both. They also function as gifts or sacrifices, for which the system has no counter-move or equivalence. Baudrillard finds a prime example of this strategy with graffiti artists who experiment with symbolic markings and codes in order to suggest communication while blocking it, and who sign their inscriptions with pseudonyms instead of recognizable names. “They are seeking not to escape the combinatory in order to regain an identity,” says Baudrillard, “but to turn indeterminacy against the system, to turn indeterminacy into extermination” (Baudrillard 1993, 78). Some of his own remarks, such as “I have nothing to do with postmodernism,” have, no doubt, the same strategic intent. To the extent that “postmodernism” has become a sign exchangeable for other signs, he would indeed want nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, his concepts of simulation and hyperreality, and his call for strategic experimentation with signs and codes, bring him into close proximity with figures such as Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida.

7. Postmodern Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics, the science of textual interpretation, also plays a role in postmodern philosophy. Unlike deconstruction, which focuses upon the functional structures of a text, hermeneutics seeks to arrive at an agreement or consensus as to what the text means, or is about. Gianni Vattimo formulates a postmodern hermeneutics in The End of Modernity (English 1988), where he distinguishes himself from his Parisian counterparts by posing the question of post-modernity as a matter for ontological hermeneutics. Instead of calling for experimentation with counter-strategies and functional structures, he sees the heterogeneity and diversity in our experience of the world as a hermeneutical problem to be solved by developing a sense continuity between the present and the past. This continuity is to be a unity of meaning rather than the repetition of a functional structure, and the meaning is ontological. In this respect, Vattimo's project is an extension of Heidegger's inquiries into the meaning of being. However, where Heidegger situates Nietzsche within the limits of metaphysics, Vattimo joins Heidegger's ontological hermeneutics with Nietzsche's attempt to think beyond nihilism and historicism with his concept of eternal return. The result, says Vattimo, is a certain distortion of Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, allowing Heidegger and Nietzsche to be interpreted through one another (Vattimo 1988, 176). This is a significant point of difference between Vattimo and the French postmodernists, who read Nietzsche against Heidegger, and prefer Nietzsche's textual strategies over Heidegger's pursuit of the meaning of being.

On Vattimo's account, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be brought together under the common theme of overcoming. Where Nietzsche announces the overcoming of nihilism through the active nihilism of the eternal return, Heidegger proposes to overcome metaphysics through a non-metaphysical experience of being. In both cases, he argues, what is to be overcome is modernity, characterized by the image that philosophy and science are progressive developments in which thought and knowledge increasingly appropriate their own origins and foundations. Overcoming modernity, however, cannot mean progressing into a new historical phase. As Vattimo observes: “Both philosophers find themselves obliged, on the one hand, to take up a critical distance from Western thought insofar as it is foundational; on the other hand, however, they find themselves unable to criticize Western thought in the name of another, and truer, foundation” (Vattimo 1988, 2). Overcoming modernity must therefore mean a Verwindung, in the sense of twisting or distorting modernity itself, rather than an Überwindung or progression beyond it.

While Vattimo takes post-modernity as a new turn in modernity, it entails the dissolution of the category of the new in the historical sense, which means the end of universal history. “While the notion of historicity has become ever more problematic for theory,” he says, “at the same time for historiography and its own methodological self-awareness the idea of history as a unitary process is rapidly dissolving” (Vattimo 1988, 6). This does not mean historical change ceases to occur, but that its unitary development is no longer conceivable, so only local histories are possible. The de-historicization of experience has been accelerated by technology, especially television, says Vattimo, so that “everything tends to flatten out at the level of contemporaneity and simultaneity” (Vattimo 1988, 10). As a result, we no longer experience a strong sense of teleology in worldly events, but, instead, we are confronted with a manifold of differences and partial teleologies that can only be judged aesthetically. The truth of postmodern experience is therefore best realized in art and rhetoric.

The Nietzschean sense of overcoming modernity is “to dissolve modernity through a radicalization of its own innate tendencies,” says Vattimo (Vattimo 1988, 166). These include the production of “the new” as a value and the drive for critical overcoming in the sense of appropriating foundations and origins. In this respect, however, Nietzsche shows that modernity results in nihilism: all values, including “truth” and “the new,” collapse under critical appropriation. The way out of this collapse is the moment of eternal recurrence, when we affirm the necessity of error in the absence of foundations. Vattimo also finds this new attitude toward modernity in Heidegger's sense of overcoming metaphysics, insofar as he suggests that overcoming the enframing lies with the possibility of a turn within the enframing itself. Such a turn would mean deepening and distorting the technological essence, not destroying it or leaving it behind. Furthermore, this would be the meaning of being, understood as the history of interpretation (as “weak” being) instead of a grounding truth, and the hermeneutics of being would be a distorted historicism. Unlike traditional hermeneutics, Vattimo argues that reconstructing the continuity of contemporary experience cannot be accomplished without unifying art and rhetoric with information from the sciences, and this requires philosophy “to propose a ‘rhetorically persuasive’, unified view of the world, which includes in itself traces, residues, or isolated elements of scientific knowledge” (Vattimo 1988, 179). Vattimo's philosophy is therefore the project of a postmodern hermeneutics, in contrast to the Parisian thinkers who do not concern themselves with meaning or history as continuous unities.

8. Postmodern Rhetoric and Aesthetics

Rhetoric and aesthetics pertain to the sharing of experience through activities of participation and imitation. In the postmodern sense, such activities involve sharing or participating in differences that have opened between the old and the new, the natural and the artificial, or even between life and death. The leading exponent of this line of postmodern thought is Mario Preniola. Like Vattimo, Perniola insists that postmodern philosophy must not break with the legacies of modernity in science and politics. As he says in Enigmas, “the relationship between thought and reality that the Enlightenment, idealism, and Marxism have embodied must not be broken” (Perniola 1995, 43). However, he does not base this continuity upon an internal essence, spirit, or meaning, but upon the continuing effects of modernity in the world. One such effect, visible in art and in the relation between art and society, is the collapse of the past and future into the present, which he characterizes as “Egyptian” or “baroque” in nature. This temporal effect is accomplished through the collapse of the difference between humans and things, where “humans are becoming more similar to things, and equally, the inorganic world, thanks to electronic technology, seems to be taking over the human role in the perception of events” (Perniola 1995, viii). This amounts to a kind of “Egyptianism,” as described by Hegel in his Aesthetics (see Hegel 1975, 347-361), where the spiritual and the natural are mixed to such a degree that they cannot be separated, as, for example, in the figure of the Sphinx. However, in the postmodern world the inorganic is not natural, but already artificial, insofar as our perceptions are mediated by technological operations.

Likewise, says Perniola, art collections in modern museums produce a “baroque effect,” where “The field that is opened up by a collection is not that of cultivated public opinion, nor of social participation, but a space that attracts precisely because it cannot be controlled or possessed” (Perniola 1995, 87). That is, in the collection, art is removed from its natural or historical context and creates a new sense of space and time, not reducible to linear history or any sense of origin. The collection, then, is emblematic of postmodern society, a moment of its “truth.” Furthermore, Perniola insists that baroque sensibility is characteristic of Italian society and culture in general. “The very idea of truth as something essentially naked,” he says, “is at loggerheads with the Baroque idea, so firmly rooted in Italy, that truth is something essentially clothed” (Perniola 1995, 145). This corresponds to a sensibility that is intermediate between internal feelings and external things. “The Italian enigma,” he says, “lies in the fact that the human component is equipped with an external emotionality that does not belong to him or her intimately, but in which they nonetheless participate” (Perniola 1995, 145). To account for this enigmatic experience, the philosopher must become “the intermediary, the passage, the transit to something different and foreign” (Perniola 1995, 40). Hence, philosophical reading and writing are not activities of an identical subject, but processes of mediation and indeterminacy between self and other, and philosophical narrative is an overcoming of their differences.

These differences cannot be overcome, in Hegelian fashion, by cancelling them under a higher-order synthesis, but must be eroded or defaced in the course of traversing them. In Ritual Thinking, Perniola illustrates this process through the concepts of transit, the simulacrum, and ritual without myth. Transit derives from a sense of the simultaneity of the present, where we are suspended in a state of temporariness and indeterminacy, and move “from the same to the same”; the simulacrum is the result of an endless mimesis in which there are only copies of copies without reference to an original; and ritual without myth is the repetition of patterns of action having no connection to the inner life of a subject or of society. Thus Perniola sees social and political interaction as repetitive patterns of action having no inherent meaning but constituting, nonetheless, an intermediary realm where oppositions, particularly life and death, are overcome in a to-and-fro movement within their space of difference.

To illustrate these concepts Perniola refers to practices associated with Romanism, particularly Roman religion. “Ritual without myth,” he says, “is the very essence of Romanism” (Perniola 2001, 81). It is a passage between life and death via their mutual simulation, for example, in the labyrinthine movements of the ritual known as the troiae lusus. These movements, he says, mediate between life and death by reversing their pattern of natural succession, and mediate their difference through actions having no intrinsic meaning. Unlike Vattimo's project of constructing meaning to overcome historical differences, Perniola's concept of transit into the space of difference is one of “art” in the sense of artifice or technique, and is not aimed at a synthesis or unification of opposing elements. In this respect, Perniola has an affinity with the French postmodernists, who emphasize functional repetition over the creation of meaning. However, as Perniola's notion of ritual without myth illustrates, the functional repetitions of social interaction and technology do not disseminate differences, but efface them. This is clear in his account of the ritualized passage between life and death, as compared with Baudrillard, who calls for strategies introducing the irreversibility of death into the system of symbolic exchange. In this respect, Perniola's postmodernism is strongly aesthetic, and remains, with Vattimo, in the aesthetic and historical dimensions of experience.

9. Habermas's Critique

The most prominent and comprehensive critic of philosophical postmodernism is Jürgen Habermas. In The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Habermas 1987), he confronts postmodernism at the level of society and “communicative action.” He does not defend the concept of the subject, conceived as consciousness or an autonomous self, against postmodernists' attacks, but defends argumentative reason in inter-subjective communication against their experimental, avant-garde strategies. For example, he claims that Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrrida and Foucault commit a performative contradiction in their critiques of modernism by employing concepts and methods that only modern reason can provide. He criticizes Nietzsche's Dionysianism as a compensatory gesture toward the loss of unity in Western culture that, in pre-modern times, was provided by religion. Nietzsche's sense of a new Dionysus in modern art, moreover, is based upon an aesthetic modernism in which art acquires its experimental power by separating itself from the values of science and morality, a separation accomplished by the modern Enlightenment, resulting in the loss of organic unity Nietzsche seeks to restore via art itself (see Habermas 1987, 81-105). Habermas sees Heidegger and Derrida as heirs to this “Dionysian messianism.” Heidegger, for example, anticipates a new experience of being, which has withdrawn. However, says Habermas, the withdrawal of being is the result of an inverted philosophy of the subject, where Heidegger's destruction of the subject leads to hope for a unity to come, a unity of nothing other than the subject that is now missing (Habermas 1987, 160). Derrida, he says, develops the notion of différance or “archi-writing” in similar fashion: here, we see the god Dionysus revealing himself once again in his absence, as meaning infinitely deferred (Habermas 1987, 180-81).

Habermas also criticizes Derrida for leveling the distinction between philosophy and literature in a textualism that brings logic and argumentative reason into the domain of rhetoric. In this way, he says, Derrida hopes to avoid the logical problem of self-reference in his critique of reason. However, as Habermas remarks: “Whoever transposes the radical critique of reason into the domain of rhetoric in order to blunt the paradox of self-referentiality, also dulls the sword of the critique of reason itself” (Habermas 1987, 210). In similar fashion, he criticizes Foucault for not subjecting his own genealogical method to genealogical unmasking, which would reveal Foucault's re-installation of a modern subject able to critically gaze at its own history. Thus, he says, “Foucault cannot adequately deal with the persistent problems that come up in connection with an interpretive approach to the object domain, a self-referential denial of universal validity claims, and a normative justification of critique” (Habermas 1987, 286).

Habermas's critique of postmodernism on the basis of performative contradiction and the paradox of self-reference sets the tone and the terms for much of the critical debate now under way. While postmodernists have rejected these criticisms, or responded to them with rhetorical counter-strategies. Lyotard, for example, rejects the notion that intersubjective communication implies a set of rules already agreed upon, and that universal consensus is the ultimate goal of discourse (see Lyotard 1984, 65-66). That postmodernists openly respond to Habermas is due to the fact that he takes postmodernism seriously and does not, like other critics, reject it as mere nonsense. Indeed, that he is able to read postmodernist texts closely and discursively testifies to their intelligibility. He also agrees with the postmodernists that the focus of debate should be upon modernity as it is realized in social practices and institutions, rather than upon theories of cognition or formal linguistics as autonomous domains. In this respect, Habermas's concern with inter-subjective communication helps clarify the basis upon which the modernist-postmodernist debates continue to play out.

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Basic Premises

Postmodernism is highly debated even among postmodernists themselves. For an initial characterization of its basic premises, consider anthropological critic Melford Spiro's excellent synopsis of the basic tenets of postmodernism:

“The postmodernist critique of science consists of two interrelated arguments, epistemological and ideological. Both are based on subjectivity. First, because of the subjectivity of the human object, anthropology, according to the epistemological argument cannot be a science; and in any event the subjectivity of the human subject precludes the possibility of science discovering objective truth. Second, since objectivity is an illusion, science according to the ideological argument, subverts oppressed groups, females, ethnics, third-world peoples (Spiro 1996).

Modernity Modernity came into being with the Renaissance. Modernity implies “the progressive economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation of the social world” (Sarup 1993). In essence this term emerged in the context of the development of the capitalist state. Anthropologists have been working towards studying modern times, but have now gone past that. The fundamental act of modernity is to question the foundations of past knowledge.

Postmodernity Logically postmodernism literally means “after modernity. It refers to the incipient or actual dissolution of those social forms associated with modernity" (Sarup 1993).

Modernization “This term is often used to refer to the stages of social development which are based upon industrialization. Modernization is a diverse unity of socio-economic changes generated by scientific and technological discoveries and innovations...” (Sarup 1993).

Modernism Modernism is an experiment in finding the inner truths of a situation. It can be characterized by self-consciousness and reflexiveness. This is very closely related to Postmodernism (Sarup 1993).

Postmodernism (For more information see Comments Section)

“There is a sense in which if one sees modernism as the culture of modernity, postmodernism is the culture of postmodernity” (Sarup 1993).

“Modern, overloaded individuals, desperately trying to maintain rootedness and integrity...ultimately are pushed to the point where there is little reason not to believe that all value-orientations are equally well-founded. Therefore, increasingly, choice becomes meaningless. According to Baudrillard (1984: 38-9), we must now come to terms with the second revolution, “that of the Twentieth Century, of postmodernity, which is the immense process of the destruction of meaning equal to the earlier destruction of appearances. Whoever lives by meaning dies by meaning" (Ashley 1990).

Ryan Bishop, in a concise article in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (1996), defines post-modernism as an eclectic movement, originating in aesthetics, architecture and philosophy. Postmodernism espouses a systematic skepticism of grounded theoretical perspectives. Applied to anthropology, this skepticism has shifted focus from the observation of a particular society to the observation of the (anthropological) observer.

Postmodernity concentrates on the tensions of difference and similarity erupting from processes of globalization: the the accelerating circulation of people, the increasingly dense and frequent cross-cultural interactions, and the unavoidable intersections of local and global knowledge.

"Postmodernists are suspicious of authoritative definitions and singular narratives of any trajectory of events.” (Bishop 1996: 993). Post-modern attacks on ethnography are based on the belief that there is no true objectivity. The authentic implementation of the scientific method is impossible.

According to Rosenau, postmodernists can be divided into two very broad camps, Skeptics and Affirmatives.

  • Skeptical Postmodernists- They are extremely critical of the modern subject. They consider the subject to be a “linguistic convention” (Rosenau 1992:43). They also reject any understanding of time because for them the modern understanding of time is oppressive in that it controls and measures individuals. They reject Theory because theories are abundant, and no theory is considered more correct that any other. They feel that “theory conceals, distorts, and obfuscates, it is alienated, disparated, dissonant, it means to exclude, order, and control rival powers” (Rosenau 1992: 81).
  • Affirmative Postmodernists- Affirmatives also reject Theory by denying claims of truth. They do not, however, feel that Theory needs to be abolished but merely transformed. Affirmatives are less rigid than Skeptics. They support movements organized around peace, environment, and feminism (Rosenau 1993: 42).

Here are some proposed differences between modern and postmodern thought.

Contrast of Modern and Postmodern Thinking

Modern

Postmodern

Reasoning

From foundation upwards

Multiple factors of multiple levels of reasoning. Web-oriented.

Science

Universal Optimism

Realism of Limitations

Part/Whole

Parts comprise the whole

The whole is more than the parts

God

Acts by violating "natural" laws" or by "immanence" in everything that is

Top-Down causation

Language

Referential

Meaning in social context through usage

Source: http://private.fuller.edu/~clameter/phd/postmodern.html

Points of Reaction

"Modernity" takes its Latin origin from “modo,” which means “just now”. The Postmodern,, then literally means “after just now” Appignanesi and Garratt 1995). Points of reaction from within postmodernism are associated with other “posts”: postcolonialism and poststructuralism.

Postcolonialism

Postcolonialism has been defined as:

1. A description of institutional conditions in formerly colonial societies.
2. An abstract representation of the global situation after the colonial period.
3. A description of discourses informed by psychological and epistemological orientations.

Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993) represents discourse analysis and postcolonial theory as tools for rethinking forms of knowledge and the social identities of postcolonial systems. An important feature of postcolonialist thought is its assertion that modernism and modernity are part of the colonial project of domination.

Debates about Postcolonialism are unresolved, yet issues raised in Said’s Orientalism (1978), a critique of Western descriptions of Non-Euro-American Others, suggest that colonialism as a discourse is based on the ability of Westerners to examine other societies in order to produce knowledge and use it as a form of power deployed against the very subjects of inquiry. As should be readily apparent, the issues of postcolonialism are uncomfortably relevant to contemporary anthropological investigations.

Poststructuralism

In reaction to the abstraction of cultural data characteristic of model building, cultural relativists argue that model building hindered understanding of thought and action. From this claim arose poststructuralist concepts such as developed in the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1972). He asserts that structural models should not be replaced but enriched. Post structuralist like Bourdieu are concerned with reflexivity and the search for logical practice. By doing so, accounts of the participants' behavior and meanings are not objectified by the observer. (For definition of reflexivity, see key concepts)

Leading Figures

Jean-Francois Lyotard “The Postmodern would be that which in the modern invokes the unpresentable in presentation itself, that which refuses the consolation of correct forms, refuses the consensus of taste permitting a common experience of nostalgia for the impossible, and inquires into new presentations--not to take pleasure in them, but to better produce the feeling that there is something unpresentable.” Lyotard attacks many of the modern age traditions, such as the "Grand" Narrative or what Lyotard termed the Meta(master) narrative (Lyotard 1984). In contrast to the ethnographies written by anthropologists in the first half of the 20th Century, Lyotard states that an all encompasing account of a culture cannot be accomplished.

Jean Baudrillard Baudrillard is a sociologist who began his career exploring the Marxist critique of capitalism (Sarup 1993: 161). During this phase of his work he argued that, “consumer objects constitute a system of signs that differentiate the population” (Sarup 1993: 162). Eventually, however, Baudrillard felt that Marxist tenets did not effectively evaluate commodities, so he turned to postmodernism. Rosenau labels Baudrillard as a skeptical postmodernist because ofstatements like, “everything has already happened....nothing new can occur, “ or “there is no real world” (Rosenau 1992: 64, 110). Baudrillard breaks down modernity and postmodernity in an effort to explain the world as a set of models. He identifies early modernity as the period between the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, modernity as the period at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and postmodernity as the period of mass media (cinema and photography). Baudrillard states that we live in a world of images but images that are only simulations. Baudrillard implies that many people fail to understand this concept that, “we have now moved into an epoch...where truth is entirely a product of consensus values, and where ‘science’ itself is just the name we attach to certain modes of explanation,” (Norris 1990: 169).

Jacques Derrida (1930 - ) Derrida is identified as a poststructuralist and a skeptical postmodernist. Much of his writing is concerned with the deconstruction of texts and probing the relationship of meaning between texts (Bishop 1996: 1270). He observes that “a text employs its own strategems against it, producing a force of dislocation that spreads itself through an entire system.” (Rosenau 1993: 120). Derrida directly attacks Western philosophy's understanding of reason. He sees reason as dominated by “a metaphysics of presence.” Derrida agrees with structuralism's insight, that meaning is not inherent in signs, but he proposes that it is incorrect to infer that anything reasoned can be used as a stable and timeless model (Appignanesi 1995: 77). “He tries to problematize the grounds of reason, truth, and knowledge...he questions the highest point by demanding reasoning for reasoning itself,” (Norris 1990: 199).

Michel Foucault (1926- 1984) Foucault was a French philosopher who attempted to show that what most people think of as the permanent truths of human nature and society actually change throughout the course of history. While challenging the influences of Marx and Freud, Foucault postulated that everyday practices enabled people to define their identities and systemize knowledge. Foucault’s study of power and its shifting patterns is one of the foundations of postmodernism. Foucault is considered a postmodern theorist precisely because his work upsets the conventional understanding of history as a chronology of inevitable facts. Alternatively, he depicts history as underlayers of suppressed and unconscious knowledge in and throughout history. These underlayers are the codes and assumptions of order, the structures of exclusion, that legitimate the epistemes by which societies achieve identities (Appignanesi 1995: 83, http://www.connect.net/ron).

Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1944-) She is a professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. In her work "Primacy of the Ethical" Scheper-Hughes argues that, "If we cannot begin to think about social institutions and practices in moral or ethical terms, then anthropology strikes me as quite weak and useless." (1995: 410). She advocates that ethnographies be used as tools for critical reflection and human liberation because she feels that "ethics" make culture possible. Since culture is preceded by ethics, therefore ethics cannot be culturally bound as argued by anthropologists in the past. These philosophies are evident in her other works such as, "Death Without Weeping." The crux of her postmodern perspective is that, "Anthropologists, no less than any other professionals, should be held accountable for how we have used and how we have failed to use anthropology as a critical tool at crucial historical moments. It is the act of "witnessing" that lends our word its moral, at times almost theological, character." (1995: 419)

Key Works

  • Foucault, Michel (1970) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Pantheon.
  • Lyotard, Jean-Francois (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Marcus, George E. and Michael M. J. Fischer (1986) Anthropology as Cultural Critique. An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Norris, Christopher (1979) Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge.
  • Tyler, Stephen (1986) Post-Modern Ethnography: From Document of the Occult To Occult Document. In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Vattimo, Gianni (1988) The End of Modernity: Nihilism and Hermeneutics. In Post-Modern Critique. London: Polity.

Principal Concepts

Realism “...is the platonic doctrine that universals or abstractions have being independently of mind” (Gellner 1980: 60).

“Realism is a mode of writing that seeks to represent the reality of the whole world or form of life. Realist ethnographies are written to allude to a whole by means of parts or foci of analytical attention which can constantly evoke a social and cultural totality. (Marcus and Fischer 1986, p.23).

Self-Reflexivity Reflexivity can be defined as “The scientific observer's objectification of structure as well as strategy was seen as placing the actors in a framework not of their own making but one produced by the observer, “ (Bishop 1996: 1270). Self-Reflexivity leads to a consciousness of the process of knowledge creation (Bishop 1996: 995). It emphasizes the point of theoretical and practical questioning changing the ethnographers' view of themselves and their work. There is an increased awareness of the collection of data and the limitation of methodological systems. This idea underlies the postmodernist affinity for studying the culture of anthropology and ethnography.

Relativism Gellner writes about the relativistic-functionalist view of thought that goes back to the Enlightment: "The (unresolved) dilemma, which the thought of the Enlightenment faced, was between a relativistic-functionalist view of thought, and the absolutist claims of enlightened Reason. Viewing man as part of nature...requires (us) to see cognitive and evaluative activities as part of nature too, and hence varying from organism to organism and context to context. (Clifford & Marcus (eds), 1986, p.147). Anthropological theory of the 1960's may be best understood as the heir of relativism. Contenporary interpretative anthropology is the essence of relativism as a mode of inquiry about communication in and between cultures (Marcus & Fischer, 1986, p.32).

Methodologies

One of the essential elements of Postmodernism is that it constitutes an attack against theory and methodology. In a sense proponents claim to relinquish all attempts to create new knowledge in a systematic fashion, but substitutes an “anti-rules” fashion of discourse(Rosenau p.117). Despite this claim, however, there are two methodologies characteristic of Postmodernism. These methodologies are interdependent in that Interpretation is inherent in Deconstruction. “Post-modern methodology is post-positivist or anti-positivist. As substitutes for the scientific method the affirmatives look to feelings and personal experience.....the skeptical post modernists most of the substitutes for method because they argue we can never really know anything (Rosenau 1993, p.117).

Deconstruction Deconstruction emphasizes negative critical capacity. Deconstruction involves demystifying a text to reveal internal arbitrary hierarchies and presuppositions. By examining the margins of a text, the effort of deconstruction examines what it represses, what it does not say, and its incongruities. It does not solely unmask error, but redefines the text by undoing and reversing polar opposites. Deconstruction does not resolve inconsistencies, but rather exposes hierarchies involved for the distillation of information .

Rosenau’s Guidelines for Deconstruction Analysis:

  • Find an exception to a generalization in a text and push it to the limit so that this generalization appears absurd. Use the exception to undermine the principle.
  • Interpret the arguments in a text being deconstructed in their most extreme form.
  • Avoid absolute statements and cultivate intellectual excitement by making statements that are both startling and sensational.
  • Deny the legitimacy of dichotomies because there are always a few exceptions.
  • Nothing is to be accepted, nothing is to be rejected. It is extremely difficult to criticize a deconstructive argument if no clear viewpoint is expressed.
  • Write so as to permit the greatest number of interpretations possible.....Obscurity may “protect from serious scrutiny” (Ellis 1989: 148). The idea is “to create a text without finality or completion, one with which the reader can never be finished” (Wellberg, 1985: 234).
  • Employ new and unusual terminology in order that “familiar positions may not seem too familiar and otherwise obvious scholarship may not seem so obviously relevant”(Ellis 1989: 142).
  • “Never consent to a change of terminology and always insist that the wording of the deconstructive argument is sacrosanct.” More familiar formulations undermine any sense that the deconstructive position is unique (Ellis 1989: 145). (Rosenau 1993, p.121)

Intuitive Interpretation “Postmodern interpretation is introspective and anti-objectivist which is a form of individualized understanding. It is more a vision than data observation. In anthropology interpretation gravitates toward narrative and centers on listening to and talking with the other, “(Rosenau 1993, p.119). For postmodernists there are an endless number of interpretations. Foucault argues that everything is interpretation (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 106). “There is no final meaning for any particular sign, no notion of unitary sense of text, no interpretation can be regarded as superior to any other (Latour 1988: 182-3). Anti-positivists defend the notion that every interpretation is false. “Interpretative anthropology is a covering label for a diverse set of reflections upon the practice of ethnography and the concept of culture” (Marcus and Fisher 1986: 60)

Accomplishments

Demystification Perhaps the greatest accomplishments of postmodernism is the focus upon uncovering and criticizing the epistemological and ideological motivations in the social sciences.

Critical Examination of Ethnographic Explanation The unrelenting re-examination of the nature of ethnography inevitably leads to a questioning of ethnography itself as a mode of cultural analysis. Postmodernism adamantly insists that anthropologists must consider the role of their own culture in the explanation of the "other" cultures being studied. Postmodernist theory has led to a heightened sensitivity within anthropology to the collection of data.

Criticisms

Roy D’Andrade (1931-) In the article "Moral Models in Anthropology," D'Andrade critiques postmodernism's definition of objectivity and subjectivity by examining the moral nature of their models. He argues that these moral models are purely subjective. D'Andrade argues that despite the fact that utterly value-free objectivity is impossible, it is the goal of the anthropologist to get as close as possible to that ideal. He argues that there must be a separation between moral and objective models because “they are counterproductive in discovering how the world works.” (D’Andrade 1995: 402). From there he takes issue with the postmodernist attack on objectivity. He states that objectivity is in no way dehumanizing nor is objectivity impossible. He states, “Science works not because it produces unbiased accounts but because its accounts are objective enough to be proved or disproved no matter what anyone wants to be true.” (D’Andrade 1995: 404).

Rosenau (1993)identifies seven contradictions in Postmodernism:

1. Its anti-theoretical position is essentially a theoretical stand.
2. While Postmodernism stresses the irrational, instruments of reason are freely employed to advance its perspective.
3. The Postmodern prescription to focus on the marginal is itself an evaluative emphasis of precisely the sort that it otherwise attacks.
4. Postmodernism stress intertextuality but often treats text in isolation.
5. By adamently rejecting modern criteria for assessing theory, Postmodernists cannot argue that there are no valid criteria for judgement.
6. Postmodernism criticizes the inconsistency of modernism, but refuses to be held to norms of consistency itself.
7. Postmodernists contradict themselves by relinquishing truth claims in their own writings.

Melford Spiro argues that postmodern anthropologists do not convincingly dismiss the scientific method. If anthropology turns away from the scientific method then anthropology will become the study of meanings not the discovering of causes which shape what it is to be human. Spiro further states that “the causal account of culture refers to ecological niches, modes of production, subsistence techniques, and so forth, just as a causal account of mind refers to the firing of neurons, the secretions of hormones, the action of neurotransmitters... .”

Spiro critically addresses six interrelated propositions from John Searle’s 1993 work, “Rationality and Realism":

1. Reality exists independently of human representations. If this is true then, contrary to postmodernism, this postulate supports the existence of “mind-independent external reality” which is called “metaphysical realism”.
2. Language communicates meanings but also refers to objects and situations in the world which exist independently of language. Contrary to postmodernism, this postulate supports the concept of language as have communicative and referential functions.
3. Statements are true or false depending on whether the objects and situations to which they refer correspond to a greater or lesser degree to the statements. This “correspondence theory” of truth is to some extent the theory of truth for postmodernists, but this concept is rejected by many postmodernists as “essentialist.”
4. Knowledge is objective. This signifies that the truth of a knowledge claim is independent of the motive, culture, or gender of the person who makes the claim. Knowledge depends on empirical support.
5. Logic and rationality provide a set of procedures and methods, which contrary to postmodernism, enables a researcher to assess competing knowledge claims through proof, validity, and reason.
6. Objective and intersubjective criteria judge the merit of statements, theories, interpretations, and all accounts.

Spiro specifically assaults the assumption that the disciplines that study humanity, like anthropology, cannot be "scientific" because subjectivity renders observers incapable of discovering truth. Spiro agrees with postmodernists that the social sciences require very different techniques for the study of humanity than do the natural sciences, but “while insight and empathy are critical in the study of mind and culture...intellectual responsibility requires objective (scientific methods) in the social sciences. Without objective procedures ethnography is empirically dubious and intellectually irresponsible (Spiro 1996).”

“The Postmodernist genre of ethnography has been criticized for fostering a self-indulgent subjectivity, and for exaggerating the esoteric and unique aspects of a culture at the expense of more prosiac but significant questions.” (Bishop 1996: 58)

Christopher Norris believes that Lyotard, Foucault, and Baudrillard are too caught up in the idea of the primacy of moral judgments (Norris p.50). Also in reaction to the Postmodern movement Marshall Sahlins addresses several post-modern issues which includes the definition of power. "The current Foucauldian-Gramscian-Nietzschean obsession with power is the lastest incarnation of anthropology's incurable functionalism...Now 'power' is the intellectual black hole into which all kinds of cultural contents get sucked, if before it was social solidarity or material advantage." (Sahlins, 1993, p.15).

Comments

Schematic Differences between
Modernism and Postmodernism

Modernism

Postmodernism

romanticism/symbolism

paraphysics/Dadaism

purpose

play

design

chance

hierarchy

anarchy

matery, logos

exhaustion, silence

art object, finished word

process, performance

distance

participation

creation, totalization

deconstruction

synthesis

antithesis

presence

absence

centering

dispersal

genre, boundary

text, intertext

semantics

rhetoric

paradigm

syntagm

hypotaxis

parataxis

metaphor

metonymy

selection

combination

depth

surface

interpretation

against interpretation

reading

misreading

signified

signifier

lisible (readerly)

scriptible

narrative

anti-narrative

grande histoire

petite histoire

master code

idiolect

symptom

desire

type

mutant

genital, phallic

polymorphous

paranoia

schizophrenia

origin, cause

difference-difference

God the Father

The Holy Ghost

Metaphysics

irony

determinacy

indeterminacy

transcendence

immanence

(SOURCE: Hassan "The Culture of Postmodernism" Theory, Culture, and Society, V 2 1985, 123-4.)

For more information on the foundational theories of Postmodernism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, and Marxism, you may wish to reference such philosophers as Heidegger, Hegel, Marx, and Kant. This information may be accessed easily from the this Web site, http://www.connect/net/ron

Sources

  • Ashley, David (1990) Habermas and the Project of Modernity. In Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity. Bryan Turner (ed). London: SAGE
  • Appignanesi, Richard and Chris Garratt (1995) Introducing Postmodernism. New York: Totem Books.
  • Bishop, Ryan (1996) Postmodernism. In DavidLevinson and Melvin Ember (eds.), Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • Brown, Richard Harvey (1995) Postmodern Representations. Chicago: University of Illinois Press
  • Clifford, James and George E. Marcus (eds) (1986) Writing Culture. The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • D'Andrade, Roy (1995) Moral Models in Anthropology. In Current Anthropology. V 36(3): 399-407.
  • Dreyfus, Hubert and Paul Rabinow (1983) Michel Foucault, Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. 2nd. ed Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gellner, Ernest (1980) Society and Western Anthropology. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Hall, John A. and I.C. Jarive (eds) (1992) Transition to Modernity. Essays on power, wealth, and belief. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lash, Scott (1990) Sociology of Postmodernism. London: Routledge.
    Latour, Bruno (1988) The Pasteurization of France. Cambridge: Harvard
  • Lyotard, Jean-Francois (1992) The Postmodern Explained. Sidney: Power Publications.
  • Marcus, George E. and Michael M. J. Fischer (1986) Anthropology as Cultural Critique. An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Norris, Christopher (1990) What’s Wrong with Postmodernism. England: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
  • Sahlins, Marshall (1993) Waiting for Foucault. Cambridge: Prickly Pear Press.
  • Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism. New York: Routledge.
  • Sarup, Madan (1993) An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Atlanta: University of Georgia Press.
  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy (1995) The Primacy of the Ethical. In Current Anthropology. V 36(3): p.409-420.
  • Spiro, Melford E. (1992) Cultural Relativism and the Future of Anthropology. In George E. Marcus (ed) Rereading Cultural Anthropology. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Spiro, Melford E. (1996) Postmodernist Anthropology, Subjectivity, and Science. A Modernist Critique. In Comparative Studies in Society and History. V. p.759-780.
  • Tester, Keith (1993) The Life and Times of Postmodernity. London: Routledge.
  • Turner, Bryan S. (1990) Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Winthrop, Robert H. (1991) Dictionary of Concepts in Cultural Anthropology. New York: Greenwood Press.

Relevant Web Sites

Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci (IPA: ['ɡramʃi]) (January 22, 1891April 27, 1937) was an Italian writer, politician and political theorist. A founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy, he was imprisoned by Mussolini's Fascist regime. His writings are heavily concerned with the analysis of culture and political leadership and he is notable as a highly original thinker within the Marxist tradition. He is renowned for his concept of cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining the state in a capitalist society.

Early life

Gramsci was born in Ales, Italy, on the island of Sardinia. He was the fourth of seven sons of Francesco Gramsci, a low-level official. His father's family was Arbëreshë and the family name was probably related to Gramsh, an Albanian town. Francesco's financial difficulties and troubles with the police forced the family to move about through several villages in Sardinia until they finally settled in Ghilarza.

In 1898 Francesco was convicted of embezzlement and imprisoned, reducing his family to destitution and forcing the young Antonio to abandon his schooling and work at various casual jobs until his father's release in 1904. The boy suffered from health problems: a malformation of the spine owing to a childhood accident left him hunch-backed and underdeveloped, while he was also plagued by various internal disorders throughout his life.

Gramsci completed secondary school in Cagliari, where he lodged with his elder brother Gennaro, a former soldier whose time on the mainland had made him a militant socialist. However, Gramsci's sympathies at the time did not lie with socialism, but rather with the grievances of impoverished Sardinian peasants and miners, who saw their neglect as a result of the privileges enjoyed by the rapidly industrialising North and who tended to turn to Sardinian nationalism as a response.

[edit] Turin

A brilliant student, in 1911 Gramsci won a scholarship that allowed him to study at the University of Turin, sitting the exam at the same time as future cohort Palmiro Togliatti. At Turin, he read literature and took a keen interest in linguistics. Gramsci found the city at the time going through a process of industrialization, with the Fiat and Lancia factories recruiting workers from poorer regions. Trade unions became established, and the first industrial social conflicts started to emerge. Gramsci had a close involvement with these developments, frequenting socialist circles as well as associating with Sardinian emigrants, which gave him continuity with his native culture. His worldview shaped by both his earlier experiences in Sardinia and his environment on the mainland, Gramsci joined the Italian Socialist Party in late 1913.

Despite showing talent for his studies, Gramsci's financial problems and poor health, as well as his growing political commitment, forced him to abandon his education in early 1915. By this time, he had acquired an extensive knowledge of history and philosophy. At university, he had come into contact with the thought of Antonio Labriola, Rodolfo Mondolfo, Giovanni Gentile and, most importantly, Benedetto Croce, possibly the most widely respected Italian intellectual of his day. Such thinkers espoused a brand of Hegelian Marxism to which Labriola had given the name "philosophy of praxis". Though Gramsci would later use this phrase to escape the prison censors, his relationship toward this current of thought was ambiguous throughout his career.

From 1914 onward Gramsci's writings for socialist newspapers such as Il Grido del Popolo earned him a reputation as a notable journalist, and in 1916 he became co-editor of the Piedmont edition of Avanti!, the Socialist Party official organ. An articulate and prolific writer of political theory, Gramsci proved a formidable commentator, writing on all aspects of Turin's social and political life.

Gramsci was, at this time, also involved in the education and organisation of Turin workers: he spoke in public for the first time in 1916 and gave talks on topics such as Romain Rolland, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune and the emancipation of women. In the wake of the arrest of Socialist Party leaders that followed the revolutionary riots of August 1917, Gramsci became one of Turin's leading socialists when he was both elected to the party's Provisional Committee and made editor of Il Grido del Popolo.

In April 1919 with Togliatti, Angelo Tasca and Umberto Terracini Gramsci set up the weekly newspaper L'Ordine Nuovo. In October of the same year, despite being divided into various hostile factions, the Socialist Party moved by a large majority to join the Third International. The L'Ordine Nuovo group was seen by Lenin as closest in orientation to the Bolsheviks, and it received his backing against the anti-parliamentary programme of the extreme left Amadeo Bordiga.

Amongst the various tactical debates that took place within the party, Gramsci's group was mainly distinguished by its advocacy of workers' councils, which had come into existence in Turin spontaneously during the large strikes of 1919 and 1920. For Gramsci these councils were the proper means of enabling workers to take control of the task of organising production. Although he believed his position at this time to be in keeping with Lenin's policy of "All power to the Soviets", his stance was attacked by Bordiga for betraying a syndicalist tendency influenced by the thought of Georges Sorel and Daniel DeLeon. By the time of the defeat of the Turin workers in spring 1920, Gramsci was almost alone in his defence of the councils.

[edit] In the PCI

The failure of the workers' councils to develop into a national movement led Gramsci to believe that a Communist Party in the Leninist sense was needed. The group around L'Ordine Nuovo declaimed incessantly against the PSI's centrist leadership and ultimately allied with Bordiga's far larger "abstentionist" faction. On January 21, 1921, in the town of Livorno, the Communist Party of Italy (Partito Comunista d'Italia - PCI) was founded. Gramsci supported against Bordiga the Arditi del Popolo, a militant anti-fascist group which struggled against the Blackshirts.

Gramsci would be a leader of the party from its inception but was subordinate to Bordiga, whose emphasis on discipline, centralism and purity of principles dominated the party's programme until the latter lost the leadership in 1924.

In 1922 Gramsci travelled to Russia as a representative of the new party. Here, he met his wife, Julia Schucht, a young violinist with whom Gramsci had two sons. [1]

Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow

Antonio Gramsci commemorative plaque, Mokhovaya Street 16, Moscow

The Russian mission coincided with the advent of Fascism in Italy, and Gramsci returned with instructions to foster, against the wishes of the PCI leadership, a united front of leftist parties against fascism. Such a front would ideally have had the PCI at its centre, through which Moscow would have controlled all the leftist forces, but others disputed this potential supremacy: socialists did have a certain tradition in Italy too, while the communist party seemed relatively young and too radical. Many believed that an eventual coalition led by communists would have functioned too remotely from political debate, and thus would have run the risk of isolation.

In late 1922 and early 1923, Mussolini's government embarked on a campaign of repression against the opposition parties, arresting most of the PCI leadership, including Bordiga. At the end of 1923, Gramsci travelled from Moscow to Vienna, where he tried to revive a party torn by factional strife.

In 1924 Gramsci, now recognised as head of the PCI, gained election as a deputy for the Veneto. He started organising the launch of the official newspaper of the party, called L'Unità (Unity), living in Rome while his family stayed in Moscow. At its Lyons Congress in January 1926, Gramsci's theses calling for a united front to restore democracy to Italy were adopted by the party.

In 1926 Stalin's manoeuvres inside the Bolshevik party moved Gramsci to write a letter to the Comintern, in which he deplored opposition led by Trotsky, but also underlined some presumed faults of the leader. Togliatti, in Moscow as a representative of the party, received the letter, opened it, read it, and decided not to deliver it. This caused a difficult conflict between Gramsci and Togliatti which they never completely resolved.

[edit] Imprisonment

Grave of Gramsci in Rome.

Grave of Gramsci in Rome.

On November 9, 1926 the Fascist government enacted a new wave of emergency laws, taking as a pretext an alleged attempt on Mussolini's life that had occurred several days earlier. The fascist police arrested Gramsci, despite his parliamentary immunity, and brought him to Regina Coeli, the famous Roman prison. At his trial, Gramsci's prosecutor famously stated, "For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning".[1] He received an immediate sentence of 5 years in confinement (on the remote island of Ustica); the following year he received a sentence of 20 years of prison (in Turi, near Bari). His condition caused him to suffer from constantly declining health, and he received an individual cell and little assistance. In 1932, a project for exchanging political prisoners (including Gramsci) between Italy and the Soviet Union failed. In 1934 his health deteriorated severely and he gained conditional freedom, after having already visited some hospitals in Civitavecchia, Formia and Rome. He died in Rome at the age of 46, shortly after being released from prison; he is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there.

[edit] Thought

Hegemony

Hegemony was a concept previously used by Marxists such as Lenin to indicate the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution, but developed by Gramsci into an acute analysis to explain why the 'inevitable' socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Capitalism, it seemed, was even more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the 'common sense' values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

The working class needed to develop a culture of its own, which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented 'natural' or 'normal' values for society, and would attract the oppressed and intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat. Lenin held that culture was 'ancillary' to political objectives but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. In Gramsci’s view, any class that wishes to dominate in modern conditions has to move beyond its own narrow ‘economic-corporate’ interests, to exert intellectual and moral leadership, and to make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces a ‘historic bloc’, taking a term from Georges Sorel. This bloc forms the basis of consent to a certain social order, which produces and re-produces the hegemony of the dominant class through a nexus of institutions, social relations and ideas.

Gramsci stated that, in the West, bourgeois cultural values were tied to Christianity, and therefore much of his polemic against hegemonic culture is aimed at religious norms and values. He was impressed by the power Roman Catholicism had over men's minds and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated. Gramsci believed that it was Marxism's task to marry the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism to the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to recognise it as an expression of their own experience.

[edit] Intellectuals and Education

Gramsci gave much thought to the question of the role of intellectuals in society. Famously, he stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He claimed that modern intellectuals were not simply talkers, but directors and organisers who helped build society and produce hegemony by means of ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a 'traditional' intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks 'organically'. Such 'organic' intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci's call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, who would not simply introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but rather renovate and make critical of the status quo the already existing intellectual activity of the masses. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day.

[edit] State and Civil Society

Gramsci’s theory of hegemony is tied to his conception of the capitalist state, which he claims rules through force plus consent. The state is not to be understood in the narrow sense of the government; instead, Gramsci divides it between 'political society', which is the arena of political institutions and legal constitutional control, and 'civil society', which is commonly seen as the 'private' or 'non-state' sphere, including the economy. The former is the realm of force and the latter of consent. He stresses, however, that the division is purely conceptual and that the two, in reality, often overlap.

Gramsci claims that under modern capitalism, the bourgeoisie can maintain its economic control by allowing certain demands made by trade unions and mass political parties within civil society to be met by the political sphere. Thus, the bourgeoisie engages in 'passive revolution' by going beyond its immediate economic interests and allowing the forms of its hegemony to change. Gramsci posits that movements such as reformism and fascism, as well as the 'scientific management' and assembly line methods of Frederick Taylor and Henry Ford respectively, are examples of this.

Drawing from Machiavelli, he argues that 'The Modern Prince' - the revolutionary party - is the force that will allow the working-class to develop organic intellectuals and an alternative hegemony within civil society. For Gramsci, the complex nature of modern civil society means that the only tactic capable of undermining bourgeois hegemony and leading to socialism is a 'war of position' (analogous to trench warfare); this war of position would then give way to a 'war of movement' (or frontal attack). Gramsci saw 'war of movement' as being exemplified by the storming of the Winter Palace during the Russian Revolution.

Despite his claim that the lines between the two may be blurred, Gramsci rejects the state-worship that results from identifying political society with civil society, as was done by the Jacobins and Fascists. He believes the proletariat's historical task is to create a 'regulated society' and defines the 'withering away of the state' as the full development of civil society's ability to regulate itself.

[edit] Historicism

Gramsci, like the early Marx, was an emphatic proponent of historicism. In Gramsci's view, all meaning derives from the relation between human practical activity (or 'praxis') and the "objective" historical and social processes of which it is a part. Ideas cannot be understood outside their social and historical context, apart from their function and origin. The concepts by which we organise our knowledge of the world do not derive primarily from our relation to things, but rather from the social relations between the users of those concepts. Resultantly, there is no such thing as an unchanging "human nature", but only an idea of such which varies historically. Furthermore, philosophy and science do not "reflect" a reality independent of man, but rather are only "true" in that they express the real developmental trend of a given historical situation. The majority of Marxists held the common sense view that truth was truth no matter when and where it is known, and that scientific knowledge (which included Marxism) accumulates historically as the advance of truth in this everyday sense, and therefore did not belong to the illusory realm of the superstructure. For Gramsci, however, Marxism was "true" in the socially pragmatic sense, in that by articulating the class consciousness of the proletariat, it expressed the "truth" of its times better than any other theory. This anti-scientistic and anti-positivist stance was indebted to the influence of Benedetto Croce. However, it should be underlined that Gramsci's was an "absolute historicism" that broke with the Hegelian and idealist tenor of Croce's thinking and its tendency to secure a metaphysical synthesis in historical "destiny". Though Gramsci repudiates the charge, his historical account of truth has been criticised as a form of relativism.

[edit] Critique of "Economism"

In a famous pre-prison article entitled "The Revolution against Das Kapital" [2], Gramsci claimed that the October Revolution in Russia had invalidated the idea that socialist revolution had to await the full development of capitalist forces of production. This reflected his view that Marxism was not a deterministic philosophy. The principle of the causal "primacy" of the forces of production, he held, was a misconception of Marxism. Both economic changes and cultural changes are expressions of a "basic historical process", and it is difficult to say which sphere has primacy over the other. The fatalistic belief, widespread within the workers’ movement in its earliest years, that it would inevitably triumph due to "historical laws", was, in Gramsci's view, a product of the historical circumstances of an oppressed class restricted mainly to defensive action, and was to be abandoned as a hindrance once the working-class became able to take the initiative. Because Marxism is a "philosophy of praxis", it cannot rely on unseen "historical laws" as the agents of social change. History is defined by human praxis and therefore includes human will. Nonetheless, will-power cannot achieve anything it likes in any given situation: when the consciousness of the working-class reaches the stage of development necessary for action, historical circumstances will be encountered which cannot be arbitrarily altered. It is not, however, predetermined by historical inevitability as to which of several possible developments will take place as a result.

His critique of economism also extended to that practiced by the syndicalists of the Italian trade unions. He believed that many trade unionists had settled for a reformist, gradualist approach in that they had refused to struggle on the political front in addition to the economic front. While Gramsci envisioned the trade unions as one organ of a counter-hegemonic force in capitalist society, the trade union leaders simply saw these organizations as a means to improve conditions within the existing structure. Gramsci referred to the views of these trade unionists as "vulgar economism," which he equated to covert reformism and even liberalism.

[edit] Critique of Materialism

By virtue of his belief that human history and collective praxis determine whether any philosophical question is meaningful or not, Gramsci’s views run contrary to the metaphysical materialism and 'copy' theory of perception advanced by Engels and Lenin, though he does not explicitly state this. For Gramsci, Marxism does not deal with a reality which exists in and for itself, independent of humanity. The concept of an objective universe outside of human history and human praxis was, in his view, analogous to belief in God; there could be no objectivity, but only a universal intersubjectivity to be established in a future communist society. Natural history was thus only meaningful in relation to human history. On his view philosophical materialism, like primitive common sense, resulted from a lack of critical thought, and could not, as Lenin [3] claimed, be said to oppose religious superstition. Despite this, Gramsci resigned himself to the existence of this arguably cruder form of Marxism: the proletariat’s status as a dependent class meant that Marxism, as its philosophy, could often only be expressed in the form of popular superstition and common sense. Nonetheless, it was necessary to effectively challenge the ideologies of the educated classes, and to do so Marxists must present their philosophy in a more sophisticated guise, and attempt to genuinely understand their opponents’ views.

[edit] Influence

Although Gramsci's thought emanates from the organized left, he has also become an important figure in current academic discussions within cultural studies and critical theory. Political theorists from the center and the right have also found insight in his concepts; his idea of hegemony, for example, has become widely cited. His influence is particularly strong in contemporary political science, on the subject of the prevalence of neoliberal thinking among political elites, in the form of Neo-gramscianism. His work also heavily influenced intellectual discourse on popular culture and scholarly popular culture studies in whom many have found the potential for political or ideological resistance to dominant government and business interests.

His critics charge him with fostering a notion of power struggle through ideas. They find the Gramscian approach to philosophical analysis, reflected in current academic controversies, to be in conflict with open-ended, liberal inquiry grounded in apolitical readings of the classics of Western culture. To credit or blame Gramsci for the travails of current academic politics is an odd turn of history, since Gramsci himself was never an academic, and was in fact deeply intellectually engaged with Italian culture, history, and current liberal thought.

As a socialist, Gramsci's legacy has been disputed. Togliatti, who led the Party (renamed as PCI) after World War II and whose gradualist approach was a forerunner to Eurocommunism, claimed that the PCI's practices during this period were congruent with Gramscian thought. Others, however, have argued that Gramsci was a Left Communist, who would have been expelled from his Party if prison had not prevented him from regular contact with Moscow during the leadership of Stalin.

[edit] Influences on Gramsci's thought

  • Niccolò Machiavelli — 16th century Italian writer who greatly influenced Gramsci's theory of the state.
  • Karl Marx — philosopher, historian, economist and founder of Marxism.
  • Antonio LabriolaItaly's first notable Marxist theorist, believed Marxism's main feature was the nexus it established between history and philosophy.
  • Georges Sorel — French syndicalist writer who rejected the inevitability of historical progress.
  • Vilfredo Pareto — Italian economist and sociologist, known for his theory on mass and elite interaction.
  • Henri Bergson — French irrationalist philosopher and theorist of voluntarism.
  • Benedetto Croce — Italian liberal, anti-Marxist and idealist philosopher whose thought Gramsci subjected to careful and thorough critique...

[edit] Later thinkers influenced by Gramsci

Kultural studi

Cultural studies is an academic discipline which combines political economy, communication, sociology, social theory, literary theory, media theory, film/video studies, cultural anthropology, philosophy, museum studies and art history/criticism to study cultural phenomena in various societies. Cultural studies researchers often concentrate on how a particular phenomenon relates to matters of ideology, nationality, ethnicity, social class, and/or gender.

In a loosely related but separate usage, the phrase cultural studies sometimes serves as a rough synonym for area studies, as a general term referring to the academic study of particular cultures in departments and programs such as Islamic studies, Asian studies, African American studies, et al.. However, strictly speaking, cultural studies programs are not concerned with specific areas of the world so much as specific cultural practices.

The term was coined by Richard Hoggart in 1964 when he founded the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies or CCCS. It has since become strongly associated with Stuart Hall, who succeeded Hoggart as Director.

From the 1970s onward, Stuart Hall's pioneering work, along with his colleagues Paul Willis, Dick Hebdige, Tony Jefferson, and Angela McRobbie, created an international intellectual movement. Many cultural studies scholars employed Marxist methods of analysis, exploring the relationships between cultural forms (the superstructure) and that of the political economy (the base). By the 1970s, however, the politically formidable British working classes were in decline. Britain's manufacturing industries were fading and union rolls were shrinking. Yet, millions of working class Britons backed the rise of Margaret Thatcher. For Stuart Hall and other Marxist theorists, this shift in loyalty from the Labour Party to the Conservative Party was antithetical to the interests of the working class and had to be explained in terms of cultural politics.

In order to understand the changing political circumstances of class, politics, and culture in the United Kingdom, scholars at the CCCS turned to the work Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci had been concerned with similar issues: why would Italian laborers and peasants vote for fascists? Why, in other words, would working people vote to give more control to corporations, and see their own rights and freedoms abrogated? Gramsci updated classical Marxism in seeing culture as a key instrument of political and social control. In this view, capitalists use not only brute force (police, prisons, repression, military) to maintain control, but also penetrate the everyday culture of working people. Thus, the key rubric for Gramsci and for cultural studies is that of cultural hegemony.

Scott Lash writes,

In the work of Hall, Hebdige and McRobbie, popular culture came to the fore... What Gramsci gave to this was the importance of consent and culture. If the fundamental Marxists saw power in terms of class versus class, then Gramsci gave to us a question of class alliance. The rise of cultural studies itself was based on the decline of the prominence of fundamental class-versus-class politics.[1]

Write Edgar and Sedgwick:

The theory of hegemony was of central importance to the development of British cultural studies [particularly the CCCS]. It facilitated analysis of the ways in which subordinate groups actively resist and respond to political and economic domination. The subordinate groups need not be seen merely as the passive dupes of the dominant class and its ideology. [2]

This line of thinking opened up fruitful work exploring agency; a theoretical outlook which reinserted the active, critical capacities of all people. Notions of agency have supplanted much scholarly emphasis on groups of people (e.g. the working class, primitives, colonized peoples, women) whose political consciousness and scope of action was generally limited to their position within certain economic and political structures. In other words, many economists, sociologists, political scientists, and historians have traditionally deprived everyday people of a role in shaping their world or outlook, although anthropologists since the 1960s have foregrounded the power of agents to contest structure, first in the work of transactionalists like Barth, and then in works inspired by resistance theory and post-colonial theory.

At times, cultural studies' romance with agency nearly excluded the possibility of oppression, overlooks the fact that the subaltern have their own politics, and romanticizes agency, overblowing its potentiality and pervasiveness. In work of this kind, popular in the 1990s, many cultural studies scholars discovered in consumers ways of creatively using and subverting commodities and dominant ideologies. This orientation has come under fire for a variety of reasons.

Cultural studies concerns itself with the meaning and practices of everyday life. Cultural practices comprise the ways people do particular things (such as watching television, or eating out) in a given culture. In any given practice, people use various objects (such as iPods or handguns). Hence, this field studies the meanings and uses people attribute to various objects and practices. Recently, as capitalism has spread throughout the world (a process called globalization), cultural studies has begun to critique local and global forms of resistance to Western hegemony.

[edit] Overview

In his book Introducing Cultural Studies, Ziauddin Sardar lists the following five main characteristics of cultural studies:

  • Cultural studies aims to examine its subject matter in terms of cultural practices and their relation to power. For example, a study of a subculture (such as white working class youth in London) would consider the social practices of the youth as they relate to the dominant classes.
  • It has the objective of understanding culture in all its complex forms and of analyzing the social and political context in which culture manifests itself.
  • It is both the object of study and the location of political criticism and action. For example, not only would a cultural studies scholar study an object, but she/he would connect this study to a larger, progressive political project.
  • It attempts to expose and reconcile the division of knowledge, to overcome the split between tacit cultural knowledge and objective (universal) forms of knowledge.
  • It has a commitment to an ethical evaluation of modern society and to a radical line of political action.

Since cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field, its practitioners draw a diverse array of theories and practices.

[edit] Approaches

Scholars in the United Kingdom and the United States developed somewhat different versions of cultural studies after the field's inception in the late 1970s. The British version of cultural studies was developed in the 1950s and 1960s mainly under the influence first of Richard Hoggart, E. P. Thompson, and Raymond Williams, and later Stuart Hall and others at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. This included overtly political, left-wing views, and criticisms of popular culture as 'capitalist' mass culture; it absorbed some of the ideas of the Frankfurt School critique of the "culture industry" (i.e. mass culture). This emerges in the writings of early British cultural-studies scholars and their influences: see the work of (for example) Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Paul Willis, and Paul Gilroy.

In contrast, the American version of cultural studies initially concerned itself more with understanding the subjective and appropriative side of audience reactions to, and uses of, mass culture; American cultural-studies advocates wrote about the liberatory aspects of fandom. For example, see the writings of critics such as John Guillory or Constance Penley. The distinction between American and British strands, however, has faded.

In Canada, cultural studies has sometimes focused on issues of technology and society, continuing the emphasis in the work of Marshall McLuhan and others. The oldest cultural studies program in Canada has a special focus on art and society. In Australia, there has sometimes been a special emphasis on cultural policy. In South Africa, human rights and Third World issues are among the topics treated. There were a number of exchanges between Birmingham and Italy, resulting in work on Italian leftism, and theories of postmodernism. On the other hand, there is a debate in Latin America about the relevance of cultural studies, with some researchers calling for more action-oriented research. Cultural Studies is relatively undeveloped in France, where there is a stronger tradition of semiotics, as in the writings of Roland Barthes. Also in Germany it is undeveloped, probably due to the continued influence of the Frankfurt School, which has developed a body of writing on such topics as mass culture, modern art and music.

Some researchers, especially in early British cultural studies, apply a Marxist model to the field. This strain of thinking has some influence from the Frankfurt School, but especially from the structuralist Marxism of Louis Althusser and others. The main focus of an orthodox Marxist approach concentrates on the production of meaning. This model assumes a mass production of culture and identifies power as residing with those producing cultural artifacts. In a Marxist view, those who control the means of production (the economic base) essentially control a culture.

Other approaches to cultural studies, such as feminist cultural studies and later American developments of the field, distance themselves from this view. They criticize the Marxist assumption of a single, dominant meaning, shared by all, for any cultural product. The non-Marxist approaches suggest that different ways of consuming cultural artifacts affect the meaning of the product. This view is best exemplified by the book Doing Cultural Studies: The Case of the Sony Walkman (by Paul du Gay et al), which seeks to challenge the notion that those who produce commodities control the meanings that people attribute to them.

Ultimately, this perspective criticizes the traditional view assuming a passive consumer, particularly by underlining the different ways people read, receive, and interpret cultural texts. On this view, a consumer can appropriate, actively reject, or challenge the meaning of a product. These different approaches have shifted the focus away from the production of items. Instead, they argue that consumption plays an equally important role, since the way consumers consume a product gives meaning to an item. Some closely link the act of consuming with cultural identity. Stuart Hall and John Fiske have become influential in these developments.

In the context of cultural studies, the idea of a text not only includes written language, but also films, photographs, fashion or hairstyles: the texts of cultural studies comprise all the meaningful artifacts of culture. Similarly, the discipline widens the concept of "culture". "Culture" for a cultural studies researcher not only includes traditional high culture (the culture of ruling social groups)[3] and popular culture, but also everyday meanings and practices. The last two, in fact, have become the main focus of cultural studies. A further and recent approach is comparative cultural studies, based on the discipline of comparative literature and cultural studies.

[edit] Critical views

Cultural studies is not a unified theory but a diverse field of study encompassing many different approaches, methods, and academic perspectives; as in any academic discipline, cultural studies academics frequently debate among themselves. However, some academics from other fields have criticised the discipline as a whole. It has been popular to dismiss cultural studies as an academic fad. Yale literature professor Harold Bloom has been an outspoken critic of the cultural studies model of literary studies. Critics such as Bloom see cultural studies as it applies to literary scholarship as a vehicle of careerism by academics, instead promoting essentialist theories of culture, mobilising arguments that scholars should promote the public interest by studying what makes beautiful literary works beautiful.

Bloom stated his position during the 3 September 2000 episode of C-SPAN's Booknotes:

[T]here are two enemies of reading now in the world, not just in the English-speaking world. One [is] the lunatic destruction of literary studies...and its replacement by what is called cultural studies in all of the universities and colleges in the English-speaking world, and everyone knows what that phenomenon is. I mean, the...now-weary phrase 'political correctness' remains a perfectly good descriptive phrase for what has gone on and is, alas, still going on almost everywhere and which dominates, I would say, rather more than three-fifths of the tenured faculties in the English-speaking world, who really do represent a treason of the intellectuals, I think, a 'betrayal of the clerks'."[4]

Literary critic Terry Eagleton is not wholly opposed to cultural studies theory like Bloom, but has criticised certain aspects of it, highlighting what he sees as its strengths and weaknesses in books such as After Theory (2003). For Eagleton, literary and cultural theory have the potential to say important things about the "fundamental questions" in life, but theorists have rarely realized this potential.

One of the most sensationalized critiques of cultural studies came from physicist Alan Sokal, who submitted an article to a cultural-studies journal, Social Text. This article was what Sokal thought would be a parody of what he perceived to be the "fashionable nonsense" of postmodernists working in cultural studies. As the paper was coming out, Sokal published an article in a self-described "academic gossip" magazine Lingua Franca, revealing the hoax. His explanation for doing this was:[citation needed]

Politically, I'm angered because most (though not all) of this silliness is emanating from the self-proclaimed Left. We're witnessing here a profound historical volte-face. For most of the past two centuries, the Left has been identified with science and against obscurantism; we have believed that rational thought and the fearless analysis of objective reality (both natural and social) are incisive tools for combating the mystifications promoted by the powerful -- not to mention being desirable human ends in their own right. The recent turn of many "progressive" or "leftist" academic humanists and social scientists toward one or another form of epistemic relativism betrays this worthy heritage and undermines the already fragile prospects for progressive social critique. Theorizing about "the social construction of reality" won't help us find an effective treatment for AIDS or devise strategies for preventing global warming. Nor can we combat false ideas in history, sociology, economics and politics if we reject the notions of truth and falsity.

The reaction from cultural-studies scholars argues that Sokal bases his critique on a misunderstanding of the aims the discipline, as well as those of cultural critique in general. No one, for example, has reasonably argued that cultural studies is a substitute for efforts to find the cure for AIDS, any more than Sokal himself, as a physicist, should be expected to do so. But what cultural studies can do is to demonstrate the way in which finding the cure for AIDS is embedded in a political context, in which representations, metaphors, and other semiotic processes come to have enormous power, so that (to further this particular example) Ronald Reagan did not authorize funding for HIV research until years after the epidemic began, and people around the globe are marginalized (or worse) for having the stigma of HIV. These are the dynamics that cultural studies aims to analyze.

A more serious criticism comes from the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, who has also written on topics such as photography, art museums, and modern literature. Bourdieu's point is that cultural studies lacks scientific method. His own work makes innovative use of statistics and in-depth interviews. Cultural studies is relatively unstructured as an academic field. It is difficult to hold researchers accountable for their claims because there is no agreement on method and validity.

Conversely, cultural studies scholars have criticized more traditional academic disciplines such as literary criticism, science, economics, sociology, anthropology, and art history.

[edit] Cultural Studies in the 21st Century

Though a young discipline, cultural studies has established firm footing in many universities around the globe. With steadily rising enrollments, expanding numbers of departments, and a robust publishing field, cultural studies steps into the 21st century as young yet successful discipline. The "discipline," if it can be called that (and there is considerable debate among scholars to this effect) is filled with discussions about its future directions, methods, and purposes.

Sociologist Scott Lash has recently put forth the idea that cultural studies is entering a new phase. Arguing that the political and economic milieu has fundamentally altered from that of the 1970s, he writes, "I want to suggest that power now... is largely post-hegemonic... Hegemony was the concept that de facto crystallized cultural studies as a discipline. Hegemony means domination through consent as much as coercion. It has meant domination through ideology or discourse..." [5] He writes that the flow of power is becoming more internalized, that there has been "a shift in power from the hegemonic mode of 'power over' to an intensive notion of power from within (including domination from within) and power as a generative force."[6] Resistance to power, in other words, becomes complicated when power and domination are increasingly (re)produced within oneself, within subaltern groups, within exploited people.

In response, however, Richard Johnson argues that Lash appears to have misunderstood the most basic concept of the discipline [7]. 'Hegemony', even in the writings of Antonio Gramsci, is not understood as a mode of domination at all, but as a form of political leadership which involves a complex set of relationships between various groups and individuals and which always proceeds from the immanence of power to all social relations. This complex understanding has been taken much further in the work of Stuart Hall and that of political theorist Ernesto Laclau, who has had some influence on Cultural Studies. It is therefore unclear as to why Lash claims that Cultural Studies has understood hegemony as a form of domination, or where the originality of his theory of power is actually thought to lie.

This illustrates the extent to which Cultural Studies remains a highly contested field of intellectual debate and self-revision.

[edit] See also

[edit] Related authors

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Lash, pp 68-9
  2. ^ Edgar & Sedgewick, 165.
  3. ^ Bakhtin, Mikhail 1981. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin, TX: UT Press, p.4
  4. ^ http://www.booknotes.org/Transcript/?ProgramID=1580
  5. ^ Lash, p. 55
  6. ^ ibid. 56
  7. ^ Johnson, pp. 95-110

[edit] References

  • Du Gay, Paul, et al. Doing Cultural Studies : The Story of the Sony Walkman. Culture, Media and Identities. London ; Thousand Oaks Calif.: Sage in association with The Open University, 1997.
  • During, Simon. The Cultural Studies Reader. 2nd ed. London ; New York: Routledge, 2003.
  • Edgar, Andrew and Peter Sedgwick. 2005. Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts. 2nd edition. NY: Routledge.
  • Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler. Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1992.
  • Hall, Stuart. Culture, Media, Language : Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972-79. London Birmingham, West Midlands: Hutchinson ; Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies University of Birmingham, 1992.
  • Hall, Stuart. "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms." Media, Culture, and Society 2.1 (1980).
  • Hall, Stuart. "Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies." Rethinking Marxism 5.1 (1992): 10-18.
  • Johnson, Richard. "What Is Cultural Studies Anyway?" Social Text 16 (1986-87): 38-80.
  • Johnson, Richard. "Multiplying Methods: From Pluralism to Combination." Practice of Cultural Studies. Ed. Richard Johnson. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2004. 26-43.
  • Johnson, Richard. "Post-Hegemony? I Don't Think So" "Theory, Culture and Society. 24(3): 95-110.
  • Lash, Scott. 2007. "Power after Hegemony: Cultural Studies in Mutation?" Theory, Culture, and Society. 24(3):55-78.
  • Milligan, Don, 2007, Raymond Williams: Hope and Defeat in the Struggle for Socialism.
  • Smith, Paul. Questioning Cultural Studies: An Interview with Paul Smith. 1994. MLG Institute for Culture and Society at Trinity College. Available: http://osf1.gmu.edu/~psmith5/interview1.html. 31 Aug 2005.
  • Smith, Paul. "Looking Backwards and Forwards at Cultural Studies." Companion to Cultural Studies. Ed. Toby Miller. Oxford; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001. 331-40.
  • Smith, Paul. "A Course In "Cultural Studies"." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 24.1, Cultural Studies and New Historicism (1991): 39-49.
  • Williams, Raymond. Keywords : A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society, 1780-1950. New York,: Harper & Row, 1966.

[edit] External links

epistema

Sains dan Kehendak untuk Berkuasa

Knowledge is power
(Francis Bacon)

Sains modern telah memosisikan dirinya sebagai antagonis terhadap filsafat dan ilmu pengetahuan kuno yang bertujuan untuk memperoleh kebijaksanaan dan memahami tata alam demi hidup dalam alam semesta secara selaras (harmoni). Carolyn Merchan dalam The Death of Nature1 mengeritik pandangan atau konsepsi ilmu pengetahuan tradisional (Baconian) yang menurutnya mengandung pandangan mekanistik tentang realitas serta berorientasi laki-laki (maskulinisme) dan dominasi yang ditunjukkan melalui pernyataannya yang terkenal, “knowledge is power”. Bacon sebagai tokoh utama disamping Descartes, Hobbes dan Newton) mengemukakan perlunya pendekatan empiris terhadap ilmu pengetahuan serta peran ilmu pengetahuan sebagai alat untuk memahami hukum-hukum alam yang dapat dimanfaatkan untuk menguasai dan mendominasi alam. Merchan mengemukakan pandangan Bacon tentang keharusan ilmuwan untuk ‘mengejar dan mencecar’ alam agar dapat menguakkan rahasianya. Alam (she) harus dijadikan sebagai objek ‘pemenuhan kebutuhan manusia’, dijadikan sebagai ‘budak’ pemenuh kebutuhan (Merchan, lihat Capra, 258)2.

Akar-akar kehendak untuk berkuasa pada sains dapat kita telusuri jejaknya pada perjalanan dan kemajuan Dunia Barat semenjak Revolusi Industri di Inggris yang ditandai dengan munculnya pelbagai macam penemuan baru di bidang teknologi mekanik seperti mesin uap oleh James Watt. Penemuan-penemuan yang spektakuler untuk ukuran zaman itu telah memposisikan para saintis dan pemikir positivisme pada posisi keyakinan akan supremasi metodologinya untuk kemudian meruntuhkan dan mengeliminir sabda-sabda metafisika yang direpresentasikan oleh dogmatisme gereja dan para folosof platonis yang keras kepala dengan pandangan metafisikanya. Donny Gahral Adian3 menulis bahwa Aristoteles menolak idealisme Plato dengan mengatakan bahwa pengetahuan kita harus berangkat dari benda-benda konkrit yang terpersepsi indera untuk kemudian diabstraksikan menjadi pengetahuan akal budi yang bercirikan universal. Aristoteles berpegang teguh pada diktumnya, “nihil est in intellectu nisi cuod prius in sensu”. Yang artinya, tidak ada satu pun yang terdapat di akal budi yang tidak lebih dulu ada pada indera.

Sains yang merupakan anak kandung metode ilmiah telah menunjukkan dan mengartikulasikan potensi penguasaannya terhadap alam dan manusia. Dalam tataran praksis kehidupan kemanusiaan, sains terbukti dijadikan sebagai instrumen untuk mengeksploitasi sumberdaya alam tanpa pertimbangan ekologis yang selanjutnya berdampak pada masalah-masalah degradasi lingkungan. Karena alam dalam paradigma yang membangun sains (positivisme) berada dalam posisi objek yang terpisah (the other) serta nihilnya nilai-nilai metafisika pada setiap penampakan alam (desakralisasi) menyebabkan manusia yang mengendalikan sains beserta piranti teknologinya merasa yakin dengan kebebasannya untuk memperkaya pemilikan pribadi dengan semena-mena menguras kekayaan alam. Demikian halnya terhadap manusia, sains yang dikampanyekan bebas nilai itu menyebabkan manusia mengalami alienasi dari kediriannya sebagai manusia.

Ketergantungan dan kepercayaan yang berlebihan atas paradigma positivisme yang bervarian sains beserta teknologi modern menimbulkan bencana kemanusiaan yang langgeng hingga hari ini. Ketika metode ilmiah yang biasanya dipakai untuk mencandra objek ilmu alam diadopsi pada penelitian dan peneropongan atas realitas sosial kemanusiaan yang kemudian menghasilkan kesimpulan dan determinisme sosial yang gersang. Penerimaan atas keterberian standar pendefenisian sosial menyebabkan ketimpangan akibat kuasa dan kepentingan yang menelikung membuntuti setiap eksplorasi atas dunia sosial oleh peneliti yang berpikiran mekanik. Manusia terpolakan dalam kertas kerja sebagai objek fisikal yang oleh Herbert Marcuse tereduksi maknanya sebatas makhluk satu dimensi (one dimensional man).

Marcuse4 mengeritik rasionalitas formal (instrumental) dan teknologi modern yang disemangati jiwa kapitalisme. Teknologi modern menurut Marcuse tidak bersifat netral, akan tetapi telah digunakan untuk menguasai rakyat. Kemajuan sebagai teori dialektis, hanya dapat dipikirkan dan dianalisis dengan mengaitkannya dengan kemunduran yang ditimbulkannya. Karena kemajuan hanya terjadi jika ada sesuatu yang dihancurkan atau ditolak seperti menghancurkan rasionalitas mitis. Penghancuran ini dianggap membebaskan manusia dari kekuatan dan ketergantungan pada alam.

Dilihat dari suksesnya sains dan teknologi abad ke-20, orang mengira sains telah mencapai puncaknya. Teori-teori sudah mapan dan semuanya dapat diterangkan dengan teori-teori yang ada. Namun, sejarah mempunyai kisah yang lain. Asumsi-asumsi teoritis yang telah lama mempertahankan mapannya sains modern, satu per satu diruntuhkan oleh penemuan-penemuan terbaru yang tak kalah fantastiknya. Sebut saja teori fisika kuantum yang meruntuhkan asumsi-asumsi atomisme deterministik paradigma newtonian. Metode ilmiah sebagai kerangkeng pengetahuan memenjara manusia pada domain berpikir yang rigid, linier dan gersang (hilangnya nuansa estetika) hingga apatis atas ketimpangan status quo. Metode ilmiah sebagai password menuju kerajaan ilmiah.

Sains sebagai fenomena sosial dijadikan alat untuk menjajah. Pemaksaan metodologi serta simulasi tanda yang terlembagakan dalam institusi pendidikan mengantarkan sains pada posisi menara gading. Ketika invasi kultural ini meluas melalui mekanisme penaklukan atau kolonialisasi dalam waktu yang sangat lama, menyebar ke wilayah dengan corak kebudayaan yang beragam, dengan inkulturasi yang melelahkan antara keunikan lokal dengan kepongahan budaya Barat atau infiltrasi imperialisme. Peran sains dalam menggambarkan realitas sosial-kultural menjadi aktivitas paradoksal. Puncak peradaban positivisme ketika dipaksakan mentah-mentah atas kekhasanan lokalitas kemanusiaan di luar lokus kuasa dan legitimasi. Mereka tidak akan menimbulkan sintesis yang konstruktif, ketika kesenjangan metodologi dipaksakan. Dalam hal ini saintisme modern yang mengeksplorasi dinamika kemanusiaan.

Kerusakan yang terjadi disebabkan paradigma sains yang memandang dunia secara mekanis, berlawanan dengan paradigma holistik yang memandang dunia secara organis. Ketika Eropa atau Barat diposisikan berdasarkan cara pandang sains yang memetakan subjek dan objek dalam posisi yang tidak setara, maka legitimasi Barat untuk menguasai atau menjajah Dunia Timur termasuk Indonesia sebagai salah satu negara yang terkategorikan negara berkembang kalau bukan negara miskin, adalah sesuatu yang absah dan menjadi keniscayaan sejarah.

Barat dalam posisinya sebagai subjek yang rasional menjadikan alasan ke-irasionalan bangsa-bangsa Asia, Afrika dan Amerika Latin untuk melegitimasi penjajahan atasnya. Padahal kriteria rasional yang diyakini oleh Barat sangat berbau kepentingan kuasa dan otoriatarianisme. Bangsa-bangsa yang dijajah oleh Barat dituding sarat dengan praktik-praktik yang tidak ilmiah. Mereka berkubang dalam telaga tahyul, bid’ah, khurafat, mistik dan lain-lain kekayaan budaya non-ilmiah. Karena rasional, maka Barat mengklaim diri sebagai yang modern, sementara Dunia Timur adalah tradisional.

Masyarakat yang masih tradisional selalu identik dengan masyarakat yang bodoh karena legitimasi keilmuannya tidak membutuhkan pengabsahan dari institusi pendidikan formal yang terlembagakan dengan nama sekolah. Sekolahlah yang memegang legitimasi atau memiliki otoritas mengeksekusi kebenaran pengetahuan, sehingga pengetahuan-pengetahuan lokal dan khasanah kearifannya dinyatakan tak bernilai apa-apa kalau bukan omong kosong yang harus ditinggalkan.

Barat yang modern dengan semangat saintismenya mengobarkan perlawanan terhadap kebodohan yang disebabkan oleh ketidakpedulian terhadap sekolah. Bagi Barat, masyarakat yang beradab adalah masyarakat yang menghargai pentingnya pendidikan ala Barat, sehingga verifikasi batas-batas keberadaban suatu kaum atau masyarakat diukur dari sejauh mana tingkat apresiasi dalam bentuk aktualisasi produk materil sains untuk kemaslahatan dan kemajuan masyarakat. Sehingga masyarakat yang tidak kooperatif dalam menanggapi sabda Barat ini dengan sendirinya akan termarjinalkan dan terdefenisikan sebagai masyarakat yang belum beradab.


Catatan kaki:

1. Akhyar Yusuf Lubis, dekonstruksi Epitempologi Modern, 2006, hal.92
2. Ibid, hal.93
3. Donny Gahral adian, Menyoal Objektivisme Ilmu Pengetahuan, 2002, hal.31
4. Akhyar, op.cit., hal.27

# posted by Rus'an Latuconsina @ 10:08 AM

1 komentar:

Anonim mengatakan...

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