Postmodernism is a late-20th-century movement in the arts, architecture, and criticism that was a departure from modernism. Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, economics, architecture, fiction, and literary criticism. It is often associated with deconstruction and post-structuralism because its usage as a term gained significant popularity at the same time as twentieth-century post-structural thought.
The term postmodernism has been applied to a host of movements, many in art, music, and literature, that reacted against tendencies in modernism, and are typically marked by revival of historical elements and techniques.
The term postmodern was first used around the 1870s. John Watkins Chapman suggested "a Postmodern style of painting" as a way to move beyond French Impressionism. J. M. Thompson, in his 1914 article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review), used it to describe changes in attitudes and beliefs in the critique of religion: "The raison d'etre of Post-Modernism is to escape from the double-mindedness of Modernism by being thorough in its criticism by extending it to religion as well as theology, to Catholic feeling as well as to Catholic tradition."
In 1921 and 1925, postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music. In 1942 H. R. Hays described it as a new literary form. However, as a general theory for a historical movement it was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee: "Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914–1918".
In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, and led to the postmodern architecture movement, perhaps also a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style. 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is marked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, and non-orthogonal angles.
In 1971, in a lecture delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Mel Bochner described "post-modernism" in art as having started with Jasper Johns, "who first rejected sense-data and the singular point-of-view as the basis for his art, and treated art as a critical investigation."
More recently, Walter Truett Anderson described postmodernism as belonging to one of four typological world views, which he identifies as either (a) Postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed, (b) Scientific-rational, in which truth is found through methodical, disciplined inquiry, (c) Social-traditional, in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization, or (d) Neo-romantic, in which truth is found through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Postmodernist ideas in philosophy and the analysis of culture and society expanded the importance of critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments—re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since the 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968—are described with the term Postmodernity, Influences on postmodern thought, Paul Lützeler (St. Louis) as opposed to Postmodernism, a term referring to an opinion or movement. Postmodernism has also been used interchangeably with the term post-structuralism out of which postmodernism grew, a proper understanding of postmodernism or doing justice to the postmodernist thought demands an understanding of the poststructuralist movement and the ideas of its advocates. Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism. It is characterized by new ways of thinking through structuralism, contrary to the original form. "Postmodernist" describes part of a movement; "Postmodern" places it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
Influence on art
The idea of Postmodernism in architecture began as a response to the perceived blandness and failed Utopianism of the Modern movement. Modern Architecture, as established and developed by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, was focused on the pursuit of a perceived ideal perfection, and attempted harmony of form and function, and dismissal of "frivolous ornament." Critics of modernism argued that the attributes of perfection and minimalism themselves were subjective, and pointed out anachronisms in modern thought and questioned the benefits of its philosophy. Definitive postmodern architecture such as the work of Michael Graves and Robert Venturi rejects the notion of a 'pure' form or 'perfect' architectonic detail, instead conspicuously drawing from all methods, materials, forms and colors available to architects.
Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is associated with the phrase "less is more"; in contrast Venturi famously said, "Less is a bore." Postmodernist architecture was one of the first aesthetic movements to openly challenge Modernism as antiquated and "totalitarian", favoring personal preferences and variety over objective, ultimate truths or principles.
It is this atmosphere of criticism, skepticism, and emphasis on difference over and against unity that distinguishes the postmodernism aesthetic. Among writers defining the terms of this discourse is Charles Jencks, described by Architectural Design Magazine as "the definer of Post-Modernism for thirty years" and the "internationally acclaimed critic..., whose name became synonymous with Post-modernism in the 80s".
Postmodernism is a rejection of 'totality', of the notion that planning could be 'comprehensive', widely applied regardless of context, and rational. In this sense, Postmodernism is a rejection of its predecessor: Modernism. From the 1920s onwards, the Modern movement sought to design and plan cities which followed the logic of the new model of industrial mass production; reverting to large-scale solutions, aesthetic standardisation and prefabricated design solutions (Goodchild 1990). Postmodern also brought a break from the notion that planning and architecture could result in social reform, which was an integral dimension of the plans of Modernism (Simonsen 1990). Furthermore, Modernism eroded urban living by its failure to recognise differences and aim towards homogenous landscapes (Simonsen 1990, 57). Within Modernism, urban planning represented a 20th-century move towards establishing something stable, structured, and rationalised within what had become a world of chaos, flux and change (Irving 1993, 475). The role of planners predating Postmodernism was one of the 'qualified professional' who believed they could find and implement one single 'right way' of planning new urban establishments (Irving 1993). In fact, after 1945, urban planning became one of the methods through which capitalism could be managed and the interests of developers and corporations could be administered (Irving 1993, 479).
Considering Modernism inclined urban planning to treat buildings and developments as isolated, unrelated parts of the overall urban ecosystems created fragmented, isolated, and homogeneous urban landscapes (Goodchild, 1990). One of the greater problems with Modernist-style of planning was the disregard of resident or public opinion, which resulted in planning being forced upon the majority by a minority consisting of affluent professionals with little to no knowledge of real 'urban' problems characteristic of post-Second World War urban environments; slums, overcrowding, deteriorated infrastructure, pollution and disease, among others (Irving 1993). These were precisely the 'urban ills' Modernism was meant to 'solve', but more often than not, the types of 'comprehensive', 'one size fits all' approaches to planning made things worse., and residents began to show interest in becoming involved in decisions which had once been solely entrusted to professionals of the built environment. Advocacy planning and participatory models of planning emerged in the 1960s to counter these traditional elitist and technocratic approaches to urban planning (Irving 1993; Hatuka & D'Hooghe 2007). Furthermore, an assessment of the 'ills' of Modernism among planners during the 1960s, fuelled development of a participatory model that aimed to expand the range of participants in urban interventions (Hatuka & D'Hooghe 2007, 21).
Jane Jacobs's 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a sustained critique of urban planning as it had developed within Modernism and marked a transition from modernity to postmodernity in thinking about urban planning (Irving 1993, 479). However, the transition from Modernism to Postmodernism is often said to have happened at 3:32pm on the 15th of July in 1972, when Pruitt Igoe; a housing development for low-income people in St. Louis designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, which had been a prize-winning version of Le Corbusier's 'machine for modern living' was deemed uninhabitable and was torn down (Irving 1993, 480). Since then, Postmodernism has involved theories that embrace and aim to create diversity, and it exhaults uncertainty, flexibility and change (Hatuka & D'Hooghe 2007). Postmodern planning aims to accept pluralism and heighten awareness of social differences in order to accept and bring to light the claims of minority and disadvantaged groups (Goodchild 1990). It is important to note that urban planning discourse within Modernity and Postmodernity has developed in different contexts, even though they both grew within a capitalist culture. Modernity was shaped by a capitalist ethic of Fordist-Keynesian paradigm of mass, standardized production and consumption, while postmodernity was created out of a more flexible form of capital accumulation, labor markets and organisations (Irving 1993, 60). Also, there is a distinction between a postmodernism of 'reaction' and one of 'resistance'. A postmodernism of 'reaction' rejects Modernism and seeks to return to the lost traditions and history in order to create a new cultural synthesis, while Postmodernity of 'resistance' seeks to deconstruct Modernism and is a critique of the origins without necessarily returning to them (Irving 1993, 60). As a result of Postmodernism, planners are much less inclined to lay a firm or steady claim to there being one single 'right way' of engaging in urban planning and are more open to different styles and ideas of 'how to plan' (Irving 474).
Literary postmodernism was officially inaugurated in the United States with the first issue of boundary 2, subtitled "Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture", which appeared in 1972. David Antin, Charles Olson, John Cage, and the Black Mountain College school of poetry and the arts were integral figures in the intellectual and artistic exposition of postmodernism at the time. boundary 2 remains an influential journal in postmodernist circles today.
Jorge Luis Borges's (1939) short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, is often considered as predicting postmodernism and conceiving the ideal of the ultimate parody. Samuel Beckett is sometimes seen as an important precursor and influence. Novelists who are commonly connected with postmodern literature include Vladimir Nabokov, William Gaddis, John Hawkes, William Burroughs, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow, Jerzy Kosinski, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon (Pynchon's work has also been described as "high modern"), Ishmael Reed, Kathy Acker, Ana Lydia Vega, and Paul Auster.
In 1971, the Arab-American scholar Ihab Hassan published The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature, an early work of literary criticism from a postmodern perspective, in which the author traces the development of what he calls "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 'Postmodernist Fiction' (1987), Brian McHale details the shift from modernism to postmodernism, arguing that the former is characterized by an epistemological dominant[clarification needed], and that postmodern works have developed out of modernism and are primarily concerned with questions of ontology. In Constructing Postmodernism (1992), McHale's second book, he provides readings of postmodern fiction and of some of the contemporary writers who go under the label of cyberpunk. McHale's "What Was Postmodernism?" (2007), follows Raymond Federman's lead in now using the past tense when discussing postmodernism.
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Postmodern music is either music of the postmodern era, or music that follows aesthetic and philosophical trends of postmodernism. As the name suggests, the postmodernist movement formed partly in reaction to the ideals of the modernist. Because of this, Postmodern music is mostly defined in opposition to modernist music, and a work can either be modernist, or postmodern, but not both. Jonathan Kramer posits the idea (following Umberto Eco and Jean-François Lyotard) that postmodernism (including musical postmodernism) is less a surface style or historical period (i.e., condition) than an attitude.
The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1960s with the advent of musical minimalism. Composers such as Terry Riley, Henryk Górecki, Bradley Joseph, John Adams, George Crumb, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Lou Harrison reacted to the perceived elitism and dissonant sound of atonal academic modernism by producing music with simple textures and relatively consonant harmonies, whilst others, most notably John Cage challenged the prevailing Narratives of beauty and objectivity common to Modernism. Some composers have been openly influenced by popular music and world ethnic musical traditions.
Postmodern Classical music as well is not a musical style, but rather refers to music of the postmodern era. It bears the same relationship to postmodernist music that postmodernity bears to postmodernism. Postmodern music, on the other hand, shares characteristics with postmodernist art—that is, art that comes after and reacts against modernism (see Modernism in Music).
Though representing a general return to certain notions of music-making that are often considered to be classical or romantic, not all postmodern composers have eschewed the experimentalist or academic tenets of modernism. The works of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, for example, exhibit experimentalist preoccupation that is decidedly anti-romantic. Eclecticism and freedom of expression, in reaction to the rigidity and aesthetic limitations of modernism, are the hallmarks of the postmodern influence in musical composition.
Influential postmodernist philosophers
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- Martin Heidegger (1889–1976)
- Rejected the philosophical basis of the concepts of "subjectivity" and "objectivity" and asserted that similar grounding oppositions in logic ultimately refer to one another. Instead of resisting the admission of this paradox in the search for understanding, Heidegger requires that we embrace it through an active process of elucidation he called the "Hermeneutic Circle". He stressed the historicity and cultural construction of concepts while simultaneously advocating the necessity of an atemporal and immanent apprehension of them. In this vein, he asserted that it was the task of contemporary philosophy to recover the original question of (or "openness to") Dasein (translated as Being or Being-in-the-World) present in the Presocratic philosophers but normalized, neutered and standardized since Plato. This was to be done, in part, by tracing the record of Dasein's sublimation or forgetfulness through the history of philosophy which meant that we were to ask again what constituted the grounding conditions in ourselves and in the World for the affinity between beings and between the many usages of the term "being" in philosophy. To do this, however, a non-historical and, to a degree, self-referential engagement with whatever set of ideas, feelings or practices would permit (both the non-fixed concept and reality of) such a continuity was required — a continuity permitting the possible experience, possible existence indeed not only of beings but of all differences as they appeared and tended to develop. Such a conclusion led Heidegger to depart from the Phenomenology of his teacher Husserl and prompt instead an (ironically anachronistic) return to the yet-unasked questions of Ontology, a return that in general did not acknowledge an intrinsic distinction between phenomena and noumena or between things in themselves (de re) and things as they appear (see qualia): Being-in-the-world, or rather, the openness to the process of Dasein's/Being's becoming was to bridge the age-old gap between these two. In this latter premise, Heidegger shares an affinity with the late Romantic philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, another principal forerunner of Post-structuralist and Postmodernist thought. Influential to thinkers associated with Postmodernism are Heidegger's critique of the subject-object or sense-knowledge division implicit in Rationalism, Empiricism and Methodological Naturalism, his repudiation of the idea that facts exist outside or separately from the process of thinking and speaking them (however, Heidegger is not specifically a Nominalist), his related admission that the possibilities of philosophical and scientific discourse are wrapped up in the practices and expectations of a society and that concepts and fundamental constructs are the expression of a lived, historical exercise rather than simple derivations of external, apriori conditions independent from historical mind and changing experience (see Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Heinrich von Kleist, Weltanschauung and Social Constructionism), and his Instrumentalist and Negativist notion that Being (and, by extension, reality) is an action, method, tendency, possibility and question rather than a discrete, positive, identifiable state, answer or entity (see also Process Philosophy, Dynamism, Instrumentalism, Pragmatism and Vitalism).
- Jacques Derrida (1930–2004)
- Re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy in general; sought to undermine the language of 'presence' or metaphysics in an analytical technique which, beginning as a point of departure from Heidegger's notion of Destruktion, came to be known as Deconstruction. Derrida utilized, like Heidegger, references to Greek philosophical notions associated with the Skeptics and the Presocratics, such as Epoché and Aporia to articulate his notion of implicit circularity between premises and conclusions, origins and manifestations, but — in a manner analogous in certain respects to Gilles Deleuze — presented a radical re-reading of canonical philosophical figures such as Plato, Aristotle and Descartes as themselves being informed by such "destabilizing" notions.
- Michel Foucault (1926–1984)
- Introduced concepts such as 'discursive regime', or re-invoked those of older philosophers like 'episteme' and 'genealogy' in order to explain the relationship among meaning, power, and social behavior within social orders (see The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality). In direct contradiction to what have been typified as Modernist perspectives on epistemology, Foucault asserted that rational judgment, social practice and what he called 'biopower' are not only inseparable but co-determinant. While Foucault himself was deeply involved in a number of progressive political causes and maintained close personal ties with members of the far-Left, he was also controversial with Leftist thinkers of his day, including those associated with various strains of Marxism, proponents of Left libertarianism (e.g. Noam Chomsky) and Humanism (e.g. Jürgen Habermas), for his rejection of what he deemed to be Enlightenment concepts of freedom, liberation, self-determination and human nature. Instead, Foucault focused on the ways in which such constructs can foster cultural hegemony, violence and exclusion. In line with his rejection of such 'positive' tenets of Enlightenment-era Humanism, he was active, with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, in the Anti-Psychiatry Movement, considering much of institutionalized psychiatry and, in particular, Freud's concept of repression central to Psychoanalysis (which was still very influential in France during the 1960s and 70s), to be both harmful and misplaced. Foucault was known for his controversial aphorisms, such as "language is oppression", meaning that language functions in such a way as to render nonsensical, false or silent tendencies that might otherwise threaten or undermine the distributions of power backing a society's conventions — even when such distributions purport to celebrate liberation and expression or value minority groups and perspectives. His writings have had a major influence on the larger body of Postmodern academic literature.
- Jean-François Lyotard (1924–1998)
- Identified in The Postmodern Condition a crisis in the "discourses of the Human Sciences" latent in Modernism but catapulted to the fore by the advent of the "computerized" or "telematic" era (see Information Revolution). This crisis, insofar as it pertains to academia, concerns both the motivations and justification procedures for making research claims: unstated givens or values that have validated the basic efforts of academic research since the late 18th century might no longer be valid (particularly, in Social Science & Humanities research, though examples from Mathematics are given by Lyotard as well). As formal conjecture about real-world issues becomes inextricably linked to automated calculation, information storage and retrieval, such knowledge becomes increasingly "exteriorised" from its knowers in the form of information. Knowledge is materialized and made into a commodity exchanged between producers and consumers; it ceases to be either an idealistic end-in-itself or a tool capable of bringing about liberty or social benefit; it is stripped of its humanistic and spiritual associations, its connection with education, teaching and human development, being simply rendered as "data" — omnipresent, material, unending and without any contexts or pre-requisites. Furthermore, the 'diversity' of claims made by various disciplines begins to lack any unifying principle or intuition as objects of study become more and more specialized due to the emphasis on specificity, precision and uniformity of reference that competitive, database-oriented research implies. The value-premises upholding academic research have been maintained by what Lyotard considers to be quasi-mythological beliefs about human purpose, human reason and human progress — large, background constructs he calls "Metanarratives". These Metanarratives still remain in Western society but are now being undermined by rapid Informatization and the commercialization of the University and its functions. The shift of authority from the presence and intuition of knowers — from the good-faith of Reason to seek diverse knowledge integrated for human benefit or truth fidelity — to the automated database and the market had, in Lyotard's view, the power to unravel the very idea of 'justification' or 'legitimation' and, with it, the rationale for research altogether — esp. in disciplines pertaining to human life, society and meaning. We are now controlled not by binding extra-linguistic value paradigms defining notions of collective identity and ultimate purpose, but rather by our automatic responses to different species of "language games" (a concept Lyotard imports from JL Austin's theory of speech acts). In his vision of a solution to this "vertigo," Lyotard opposes the assumptions of universality, consensus, and generality that he identified within the thought of Humanistic, Neo-Kantian philosophers like Jürgen Habermas and proposes a continuation of experimentation and diversity to be assessed pragmatically in the context of language games rather than via appeal to a resurrected series of transcendentals and metaphysical unities.
- Richard Rorty (1931–2007)
- Argues in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that contemporary Analytic philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods. In addition, he denounces the traditional epistemological perspectives of Representationalism and Correspondence theory that rely upon the independence of knowers and observers from phenomena and the passivity of natural phenomena in relation to consciousness. As a proponent of anti-foundationalism and anti-essentialism within a Pragmatist framework, he echoes Postmodern strains of Conventionalism and Philosophical Relativism, but opposes much Postmodern thinking with his commitment to Social Liberalism.
- Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007),
- In Simulacra and Simulation, introduced the concept that reality or the principle of the "Real" is short-circuited by the interchangeability of signs in an era whose communicative and semantic acts are dominated by electronic media and digital technologies. Baudrillard proposes the notion that, in such a state, where subjects are detached from the outcomes of events (political, literary, artistic, personal, or otherwise), events no longer hold any particular sway on the subject nor have any identifiable context; they therefore have the effect of producing widespread indifference, detachment, and passivity in industrialized populations. He claimed that a constant stream of appearances and references without any direct consequences to viewers or readers could eventually render the division between appearance and object indiscernible, resulting, ironically, in the "disappearance" of mankind in what is, in effect, a virtual or holographic state, composed only of appearances.
- Fredric Jameson (born 1934)
- Set forth one of the first expansive theoretical treatments of Postmodernism as a historical period, intellectual trend and social phenomenon in a series of lectures at the Whitney Museum, later expanded as Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). Eclectic in his methodology, Jameson has continued a sustained examination of the role that Periodization continues to play as a grounding assumption of critical methodologies in Humanities disciplines. He has contributed extensive effort to explicating the importance of concepts of Utopianism and Utopia as driving forces in the cultural and intellectual movements of Modernity, and outlining the political and existential uncertainties that may result from the decline or suspension of this trend in the theorized state of Postmodernity. Like Susan Sontag, Jameson served to introduce a wide audience of American readers to key figures of the 20th Century Continental European intellectual Left, particularly those associated with the Frankfurt School, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism. Thus, his importance as a 'translator' of their ideas to the common vocabularies of a variety of disciplines in the Anglo-American academic complex is equally as important as his own critical engagement with them.
- Douglas Kellner (born 1943)
- In "Analysis of the Journey," a journal birthed from postmodernism, Kellner insists that the "assumptions and procedures of modern theory" must be forgotten. His terms defined in the depth of postmodernism is based on advancement, innovation, and adaptation. Extensively, Kellner analyzes the terms of this theory in real life experiences and examples. Kellner used science and technology studies as a major part of his analysis; he urged that the theory is incomplete without it. The scale was larger than just postmodernism alone, it must be interpreted through cultural studies where science and technology studies play a huge role. The reality of the September Eleventh attacks on the United States of America is the catalyst for his explanation. This catalyst is used as a great representation due to the mere fact of the planned ambush and destruction of "symbols of globalization", insinuating the World Trade Centers. One of the numerous, yet appropriate definitions of postmodernism and the qualm aspect aids this attribute to seem perfectly accurate. In response, Kellner continues to examine the repercussions of understanding the effects of the September Eleventh attacks. He questions if the attacks are only able to be understood in a limited form of postmodern theory due to the level of irony. In further studies, he enhances the idea of semiotics in alignment with the theory. Similar to the act of September 11 and the symbols that were interpreted through this postmodern ideal, he continues to even describe this as "semiotic systems" that people use to make sense of their lives and the events that occur in them. Kellner's adamancy that signs are necessary to understand one's culture is what he analyzes from the evidence that most cultures have used signs in place of existence. Finally, he recognizes that many theorists of postmodernism are trapped by their own cogitations. He finds strength in theorist Baudrillard and his idea of Marxism. Kellner acknowledges Marxism's end and lack of importance to his theory.
- The conclusion he depicts is simple: postmodernism, as most utilize it today, will decide what experiences and signs in one's reality will be one's reality as they know it.
One of the most well-known postmodernist concerns is "deconstruction," a concern for philosophy, literary criticism, and textual analysis developed by Jacques Derrida. The notion of a "deconstructive" approach implies an analysis that questions the already evident deconstruction of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference. A deconstructive approach further depends on the techniques of close reading without reference to cultural, ideological, moral opinions or information derived from an authority over the text such as the author. At the same time Derrida famously writes: "Il n'y a pas d'hors-texte (there is no such thing as outside-of-the-text)." Derrida implies that the world follows the grammar of a text undergoing its own deconstruction. Derrida's method frequently involves recognizing and spelling out the different, yet similar interpretations of the meaning of a given text and the problematic implications of binary oppositions within the meaning of a text. Derrida's philosophy influenced a postmodern movement called deconstructivism among architects, characterized by the intentional fragmentation, distortion, and dislocation of architectural elements in designing a building. Derrida discontinued his involvement with the movement after the publication of his collaborative project with architect Peter Eisenmann in Chora L Works: Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman.
Postmodernism and structuralism
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Structuralism was a philosophical movement developed by French academics in the 1950s, partly in response to French Existentialism. It has been seen variously as an expression of Modernism, High modernism, or postmodernism[by whom?]. "Post-structuralists" were thinkers who moved away from the strict interpretations and applications of structuralist ideas. Many American academics consider post-structuralism to be part of the broader, less well-defined postmodernist movement, even though many post-structuralists insisted it was not. Thinkers who have been called structuralists include the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the semiotician Algirdas Greimas. The early writings of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and the literary theorist Roland Barthes have also been called structuralist. Those who began as structuralists but became post-structuralists include Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze. Other post-structuralists include Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-François Lyotard, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray. The American cultural theorists, critics and intellectuals whom they influenced include Judith Butler, John Fiske, Rosalind Krauss, Avital Ronell, and Hayden White.
Post-structuralism is not defined by a set of shared axioms or methodologies, but by an emphasis on how various aspects of a particular culture, from its most ordinary, everyday material details to its most abstract theories and beliefs, determine one another. Post-structuralist thinkers reject Reductionism and Epiphenomenalism and the idea that cause-and-effect relationships are top-down or bottom-up. Like structuralists, they start from the assumption that people's identities, values and economic conditions determine each other rather than having intrinsic properties that can be understood in isolation. Thus the French structuralists considered themselves to be espousing Relativism and Constructionism. But they nevertheless tended to explore how the subjects of their study might be described, reductively, as a set of essential relationships, schematics, or mathematical symbols. (An example is Claude Lévi-Strauss's algebraic formulation of mythological transformation in "The Structural Study of Myth"). Post-structuralists thinkers went further, questioning the existence of any distinction between the nature of a thing and its relationship to other things.
Post-structuralists generally reject the notion of formulations of “essential relations” in primitive cultures, languages, or descriptions of psychological phenomena being forms of Aristotelianism, rationalism, or idealism. Another common thread among thinkers associated with the post-structuralist movement is the criticism of the absolutist, quasi-scientific claims of structuralist theorists as more reflective of the mechanistic bias inspired by bureaucratization and industrialization than of the inner-workings of actual primitive cultures, languages or psyches. Generally, post-structuralists emphasize the inter-determination and contingency of social and historical phenomena with each other and with the cultural values and biases of perspective. Such realities were not to be dissected, in the manner of some structuralists, as a system of facts that could exist independently from values and paradigms (either those of the analysts or the subjects themselves), but to be understood as both causes and effects of each other. For this reason, most post-structuralists hold a more open-ended view of function within systems than did Structuralists and were sometimes accused of circularity and ambiguity. Post-structuralists countered that, when closely examined, all formalized claims describing phenomena, reality, or truth, rely on some form of circular reasoning and self-referential logic that is often paradoxical in nature. Thus, it was important to uncover the hidden patterns of circularity, self-reference and paradox within a given set of statements rather than feign objectivity, as such an investigation might allow new perspectives to have influence and new practices to be sanctioned or adopted. In this latter respect, post-structuralists were, as a group, continuing the philosophical project initiated by Martin Heidegger, and saw themselves as extending the implications of Friedrich Nietzsche's work.
Post-structuralist writing tends to connect observations and references from many, widely varying disciplines into a synthetic view of knowledge and its relationship to experience, the body, society and economy—a synthesis in which it sees itself as participating. Structuralists, while also somewhat inter-disciplinary, were more comfortable within departmental boundaries and often maintained the autonomy of their analytical methods over the objects they analyzed. Post-structuralists, unlike structuralists, did not privilege a system of (abstract) "relations" over the specifics to which such relations were applied, but tended to see the notion of “the relation” or of systemization itself as part-and-parcel of any stated conclusion rather than a reflection of reality as an independent, self-contained state or object. If anything, if a part of objective reality, theorization and systemization to Post-structuralists was an exponent of larger, more nebulous patterns of control in social orders—patterns that could not be encapsulated in theory without simultaneously conditioning it. For this reason, certain post-structural thinkers were also criticized by more realist, naturalist or essentialist thinkers of anti-intellectualism or anti-philosophy. Post-structuralists, in contrast to structuralists, tend to place a great deal of skepticism on the independence of theoretical premises from collective bias and the influence of power, and reject the notion of a "pure" or "scientific" methodology in social analysis, semiotics or philosophical speculation. No theory, they said—especially when concerning human society or psychology—was capable of reducing phenomena to elemental systems or abstract patterns, nor could abstract systems be dismissed as secondary derivatives of a fundamental nature: systemization, phenomena, and values were part of each other.
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Recently metamodernism, post-postmodernism and the "death of postmodernism" have been widely debated: in 2007 Andrew Hoborek noted in his introduction to a special issue of the journal Twentieth Century Literature titled "After Postmodernism" that "declarations of postmodernism's demise have become a critical commonplace". A small group of critics has put forth a range of theories that aim to describe culture or society in the alleged aftermath of postmodernism, most notably Raoul Eshelman (performatism), Gilles Lipovetsky (hypermodernity), Nicolas Bourriaud (altermodern), and Alan Kirby (digimodernism, formerly called pseudo-modernism). None of these new theories and labels have so far gained very widespread acceptance. The exhibition Postmodernism - Style and Subversion 1970–1990 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 24 September 2011 – 15 January 2012) was billed as the first show to document postmodernism as a historical movement.
Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism. For example, Noam Chomsky has argued that postmodernism is meaningless because it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals do not respond like people in other fields when asked, "what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn't already obvious, etc?...If [these requests] can't be met, then I'd suggest recourse to Hume's advice in similar circumstances: 'to the flames'." Christian philosopher William Lane Craig has noted "The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism!"
However, as for continental philosophy, American academics have tended to label it "postmodernist", especially practitioners of "French Theory". Such a trend might derive from U.S. departments of Comparative Literature. It is interesting to note that Félix Guattari, often considered a "postmodernist", rejected its theoretical assumptions by arguing that the structuralist and postmodernist visions of the world were not flexible enough to seek explanations in psychological, social and environmental domains at the same time.
Philosopher Daniel Dennett declared, "Postmodernism, the school of 'thought' that proclaimed 'There are no truths, only interpretations' has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for 'conversations' in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster."
- Ruth Reichl, Cook's November 1989; American Heritage Dictionary's definition of "postmodern"
- Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 2004
- The Postmodern Turn, Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture, Ohio University Press, 1987. p12ff
- Thompson, J. M. "Post-Modernism," The Hibbert Journal. Vol XII No. 4, July 1914. p. 733
- Arnold J. Toynbee, A study of History, Volume 5, Oxford University Press, 1961 , p. 43.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2004
- Bochner, Mel. Solar system & rest rooms: writings and interviews, 1965-2007, MIT Press, 2008, p. 91.
- Walter Truett Anderson (1996). The Fontana Postmodernism Reader.
- Yilmaz, K 2010, 'Postmodernism and its Challenge to the Discipline of History: Implications for History Education', Educational Philosophy & Theory, 42, 7, pp. 779-795, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 April 2012.
- Sullivan, Louis. "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” published Lippincott's Magazine (March 1896).
- Loos, Adolf. "Ornament and Crime,” published 1908.
- Manfredo Tafuri, 'Architecture and utopia: design and capitalist development', Cambridge: MIT Press, 1976.
- Venturi, et al.
- "Radical Post-Modernism: Architectural Design". Retrieved 12 February 2012.
- Goodchild, B 1990, 'Planning and the Modern'Postmodern Debate', in The Town Planning Review, vol. 61, no. 2, pp. 119–137.
- Hatuka, T & D'Hooghe, A 2007, 'After Postmodernism: readdressing the Role of Utopia in Urban Design and Planning', in Places: Forum of Design for the Public Realm, vol. 19, Issue 2, pp. 20–27/
- Irving, A 1993, 'The Modern/Postmodern Divide and Urban Planning', in The University of Toronto Quareterly, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 474–487.
- Simonsen, K 1990, 'Planning on 'Postmodern' Conditions', in Acta Sociologica, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 51–62.
- Anderson, The origins of postmodernity, London: Verso, 1998, Ch.2: "Crystallization".
- boundary 2, Duke University Press, Boundary2.dukejournals.org
- Elizabeth Bellalouna, Michael L. LaBlanc, Ira Mark Milne (2000) Literature of Developing Nations for Students: L-Z p.50
- Stavans (1997) p.31
- "7 - Pynchon’s postmodernism Cambridge Companions Online - Cambridge University Press". Universitypublishingonline.org. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- "Mail, Events, Screenings, News: 32". People.bu.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- "What Was Postmodernism?". Electronic Book Review. 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
- Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979. English Translation by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massumi. Manchester University Press, 1984. See Chapter 1, The Field: Knowledge in Computerised Societies.//
- Lule, Jack. "The Postmodern Adventure (Book)." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.4 (2001): 865–866. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Apr 2012.
- Danto, AC 1990, "The Hyper-Intellectual", New Republic, 203, 11/12, pp. 44-48, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 2 April 2012. .
- Derrida (1967), Of Grammatology, Part II, Introduction to the "Age of Rousseau," section 2 "...That Dangerous Supplement...", title, The Exorbitant Question of Method, pp. 158–59, 163.
- Benoît Peeters, Derrida: A Biography, pp. 377–8, translated by Andrew Brown, Polity Press, 2013, ISBN 9780745656151
- Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (First published New York: Basic Books, 1963; New York: Anchor Books Ed., 1967), 324.
Lévi-Strauss, quoting D'Arcy Westworth Thompson states: "To those who question the possibility of defining the interrelations between entities whose nature is not completely understood, I shall reply with the following comment by a great naturalist:
In a very large part of morphology, our essential task lies in the comparison of related forms rather than in the precise definition of each; and the deformation of a complicated figure may be a phenomenon easy of comprehension, though the figure itself has to be left unanalyzed and undefined."
- Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Anthropologie Structurale. Paris: Éditions Plon, 1958.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. Trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 228.
- See the following web reference for a common critique of from an "Anti-positivist" perspective.
- Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. II: A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 101. Orig. published as Mille Plateaux, in 1980 by Les Editions de Minuit, Paris.
Deleuze, here echoing the sentiments of Derrida's reflection on Foucault's "The History of Madness" (1961) in his essay "Cogito and the History of Madness" (1963), makes a very thinly veiled reference to semiological certainty of both Saussure and Lacan (who speaks of "The Unity of the Father" in his theory of semantic coherence), critiquing the premise of objectivity in their methodology:
"The scientific model taking language as an object of study is one with the political model by which language is homogenized, centralized, and standardized, becoming a language of power, a major or dominant language. Linguistics can claim all it wants to be science, nothing but pure science—it wouldn't be the first time that the order of pure science was used to secure the requirements of another order. ...The unity of language is fundamentally political. There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language that at times advances along a broad front, and at times swoops down on diverse centers simultaneously. ...The scientific enterprise of extracting constants and constant relations is always coupled with the political enterprise of imposing them on speakers and transmitting order-worlds."
- Noam Chomsky on Post-Modernism
- Craig, William Lane (July 3, 2008). "God is Not Dead Yet". Christianity Today. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
- 'Italian Theory', Uninomade, 3rd March 2013
- The Three Ecologies, p. 134
- DENNETT ON WIESELTIER V. PINKER IN THE NEW REPUBLIC http://edge.org/conversation/dennett-on-wieseltier-v-pinker-in-the-new-republic
- Alexie, Sherman (2000). "The Toughest Indian in the World" (ISBN 0-8021-3800-4)
- Anderson, Walter Truett. The Truth about the Truth (New Consciousness Reader). New York: Tarcher. (1995) (ISBN 0-87477-801-8)
- Anderson, Perry. The origins of postmodernity. London: Verso, 1998.
- Ashley, Richard and Walker, R. B. J. (1990) “Speaking the Language of Exile.” International Studies Quarterly v 34, no 3 259-68.
- Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Beck, Ulrich (1986) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity.
- Benhabib, Seyla (1995) 'Feminism and Postmodernism' in (ed. Nicholson) Feminism Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange. New York: Routledge.
- Berman, Marshall (1982) All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (ISBN 0-14-010962-5).
- Bertens, Hans (1995) The Idea of the Postmodern: A History. London: Routledge. (ISBN 0-145-06012-5).
- Best, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. Postmodern Theory (1991) excerpt and text search
- Best, Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Turn (1997) excerpt and text search
- Bielskis, Andrius (2005) Towards a Postmodern Understanding of the Political: From Genealogy to Hermeneutics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
- Braschi, Giannina (1994), Empire of Dreams, introduction by Alicia Ostriker, Yale University Press, New Haven, London.
- Brass, Tom, Peasants, Populism and Postmodernism (London: Cass, 2000).
- Butler, Judith (1995) 'Contingent Foundations' in (ed. Nicholson) Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange. New Yotk: Routledge.
- Callinicos, Alex, Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique (Cambridge: Polity, 1999).
- Drabble, M. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6 ed., article "Postmodernism".
- Farrell, John. "Paranoia and Postmodernism," the epilogue to Paranoia and Modernity: Cervantes to Rousseau (Cornell UP, 2006), 309-327.
- Featherstone, M. (1991) Consumer culture and postmodernism, London; Newbury Park, Calif., Sage Publications.
- Giddens, Anthony (1991) Modernity and Self Identity, Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Gosselin, Paul (2012) Flight From the Absolute: Cynical Observations on the Postmodern West. volume I. Samizdat  (ISBN 978-2-9807774-3-1)
- Goulimari, Pelagia (ed.) (2007) Postmodernism. What Moment? Manchester: Manchester University Press (ISBN 978-0-7190-7308-3)
- Grebowicz, Margaret (ed.), Gender After Lyotard. NY: Suny Press, 2007. (ISBN 978-0-7914-6956-9)
- Greer, Robert C. Mapping Postmodernism. IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003. (ISBN 0-8308-2733-1)
- Groothuis, Douglas. Truth Decay. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
- Harvey, David (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (ISBN 0-631-16294-1)
- Hicks, Stephen R. C. (2004) Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (ISBN 1-59247-646-5)
- Honderich, T., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, article "Postmodernism".
- Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. (2002) online edition]
- Jameson, Fredric (1991) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (ISBN 0-8223-1090-2)
- Kimball, Roger (2000). Experiments against Reality: the Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age. Chicago: I.R. Dee. viii, 359 p. (ISBN 1-56663-335-4)
- Kirby, Alan (2009) Digimodernism. New York: Continuum.
- Lash, S. (1990) The sociology of postmodernism London, Routledge.
- Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (ISBN 0-8166-1173-4)
- --- (1988). The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence 1982–1985. Ed. Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas. (ISBN 0-8166-2211-6)
- --- (1993), "Scriptures: Diffracted Traces." In: Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21(1), 2004.
- --- (1995), "Anamnesis: Of the Visible." In: Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21(1), 2004.
- McHale,Brian, (1987) 'Postmodernist Fiction. London: Routledge.
- --- (1992), 'Constructing Postmodernism. NY & London: Routledge.
- --- (2008), "1966 Nervous Breakdown, or, When Did Postmodernism Begin?" Modern Language Quarterly 69, 3:391-413.
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- MacIntyre, Alasdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (University of Notre Dame Press, 1984, 2nd edn.).
- Magliola, Robert, Derrida on the Mend (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1984; 1986; pbk. 2000, ISBN I-55753-205-2).
- ---, On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture (Atlanta: Scholars Press of American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; ISBN 0-7885-0295-6, cloth, ISBN 0-7885-0296-4, pbk).
- Manuel, Peter. "Music as Symbol, Music as Simulacrum: Pre-Modern, Modern, and Postmodern Aesthetics in Subcultural Musics," Popular Music 1/2, 1995, pp. 227–239.
- Mura, Andrea (2012). "The Symbolic Function of Transmodernity". Language and Psychoanalysis 1 (Autumn/Winter): 68–87.
- Murphy, Nancey, Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics (Westview Press, 1997).
- Natoli, Joseph (1997) A Primer to Postmodernity (ISBN 1-57718-061-5)
- Norris, Christopher (1990) What's Wrong with Postmodernism: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy (ISBN 0-8018-4137-2)
- Pangle, Thomas L., The Ennobling of Democracy: The Challenge of the Postmodern Age, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-8018-4635-8
- Park, Jin Y., ed., Buddhisms and Deconstructions (Lanham: Rowland & Littlefield, 2006, ISBN 978-0-7425-3418-6; ISBN 0-7425-3418-9.
- Powell, Jim (1998). "Postmodernism For Beginners" (ISBN 978-1-934389-09-6)
- Sim, Stuart. (1999). "The Routledge critical dictionary of postmodern thought" (ISBN 0415923530)
- Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont (1998) Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (ISBN 0-312-20407-8)
- Vattimo, Gianni (1989). The Transparent Society (ISBN 0-8018-4528-9)
- Veith Jr., Gene Edward (1994) Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (ISBN 0-89107-768-5)
- Windshuttle, Keith (1996) The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering our Past. New York: The Free Press.
- Woods, Tim, Beginning Postmodernism, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999,(Reprinted 2002)(ISBN 0-7190-5210-6 Hardback,ISBN 0-7190-5211-4 Paperback) .
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- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on postmodernism
- Discourses of Postmodernism. Multilingual Bibliography by Janusz Przychodzen (PDF file)
- Modernity, postmodernism and the tradition of dissent, by Lloyd Spencer (1998)
- Dueling Paradigms: Modernist v. Postmodernist Thought * Characterizing a Fogbank: What Is Postmodernism, and Why Do I Take Such a Dim View of it?
- Postmodernism and truth by philosopher Daniel Dennett
- Postmodernism is the new black: How the shape of modern retailing was both predicted and influenced by some unlikely seers (The Economist 19 December 2006)
- Gaining clarity: after postmodernism, Eretz Acheret Magazine