Re: Foucault a postmodernist?

Vikash Yadav has asked three questions in conversation with myself which
others on the list may have missed, so I bring them to the top of this
message. I do not know if there is any more agreement over what "modernity"
is than postmodernism. I would ask others to comment on these also.

>1. Who were the "modernist" thinkers?
> (I would say Hegel, Marx, Weber, Sombart, Von Ranke)
>2. What is the time frame we are talking about for modernity?
> (I would say somewhere around 1800 to 1970)
>3. Is modern thought and enlightenment thought synonymous?
> (I don't think they are, but I am open to discussion.)

Rightly or wrongly, I have tended to think of modernity beginning with the
"Enlightenment" philosophers, which gained institutional expression in
constitutional democracies. So your date of 1800 or so would not be far off
for the institutional expressions. My own historical association with the
beginning of the ending of modernity is when Newtonian mechanistic world
views were questioned by theories of relativity, etc. Somehow we have moved
from a primary image of the world as a clock to the explosive image of the
big bang, quite a startling change in the metaphorical expression of the
culture. Modernism is to me also associated with the industrial economy, the
concern of both Marx and Weber, postmodernism with an information economy.
Certainly both of them were critics of modernism as well. Hegel's
institution of choice was rational bureaucracy, what Weber called an "iron
cage." Modern professional disciplines are grounded in modernist confidence
in the application of knowledge to practical concerns, implemented through
rational organization. The emergence of these disciplines are thoroughly
examined by Foucault in his books. In fact, one of the reasons I was
attracted to him was that he wrote histories of specific
disciplines/insitutions: clinic, prison, etc. Postmodernists in general have
much less confidence in the efficacy of reason. At least Foucault made the
disciplines more honest by linking knowledge and power.

These are some of my quick responses to Vikash's questions. Others may have
entirely different orientations. I do think it important for scholars to
realize that postmodernism is a word that has been let loose from the
academy. It is now a kind of cultural phenomena which scholars inside the
academy may helpfully observe but can not control. Ed K.
Ed Knudson Portland, Oregon
Voice/Fax: (503)282-8303
Modem: (503)282-3477


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