Postmodernism & Liberalism

Below is an article that appeared in a student newspaper. I think it raises
a number of pertinent issues.

Postmodernism: Liberalism's Partner in Crime

On the rising tide of trendiness, postmodernism is enjoying a good surf. It
is the latest trend of thought which attempts to offer points from which to
critique social and cultural institutions. However, Like the sea-foam upon
which it rides, it is all froth and bubble only this froth and bubble is
floating on the salty tang of liberalism.

I do not wish to define postmodernism since, as postmodernists will cry
out, it appears to be a 'violence' against the little middle-class butts to
do so. I object to this plea of violence and would add that this
non-definitive nature of postmodernism is central to its complicity with
liberalism. Further, our postmodernists should admit that their
'postmodernisms' do yield to certain common characteristics which enable
one to critique it.
Postmodernism is a passive site of resistance. What do I mean by this?
Well, let's compare it with Marxism and socialism (not from any ideological
bias I may have). Let's face it, Marxism and socialism, from the moment of
its inception, posed a major threat to existing (liberal) institutions and
this threat breached the closed world of university education and similar
institutions. It put liberal institutions and ideologies in the West on
guard and this threat should cannot be overstated enough. To be true,
socialist regimes themselves tended towards oppression however, as an
ideological movement and a site of resistance to the established order, it
proved an effective bulwark. Postmodernism however has yet to demonstrate
that it is anything more than a passive resistance and, further, resistance
often encouraged by liberal institutions. There are a number of reasons why
I say that it is a passive site of resistance, here are a few.
Firstly, Postmodernism is a highly individualistic ideology. In theory, it
constitutes an affront to individualism of any kind, providing many methods
through which the 'self' can be deconstructed and shown to be a myth. In
practice, however, it is highly individualistic. When asked to define
postmodernism, its groupies recoil in horror at the violence of such a
question. Postmodernism, they argue, cannot be defined. (Remember, I am not
concerned so much with theory so much as how those who constitute
themselves as postmodernists practice their trade.) Given that
postmodernism cannot be defined, postmodernists are a diverse, fragmented
and 'messy' group of people who refuse to be categorised (yet they are
happy to go about classifying everybody else). They refuse a shared belief
system, refuse community and group identity, and refute the idea of having
a unifying principle having the capacity to bring people together. On the
contrary, it is about deconstructing any unity and preventing themselves
from ever mobilising resistance. In the case of postmodernism, resistance
can only take place within the individual's head. Resistance can only mean
thinking, talking, or writing and nothing else. Postmodernists think,
therefore they are and they do little more than that. At the same time,
postmodernism disarms the potential other ideologies have for active group
resistance because they are brought into the realm of postmodern critique
and pulled apart - just like a spoilt brat pulls a stuffed toy apart
because he didn't get his IBM.
Liberalism engages in an intense reationalisation of human behaviour.
Everything has to be understood through reason and the intellect. In
liberal theory, faith, desire and the unconscious could be examples of the
irrational. Like its partner in crime, postmodernism is also an attempt to
rationalise, to know and to comprehend every aspect of human behaviour.
Actually, in the grand history of rationalism, postmodernism has reached
the most anally retentive position. It is not enough for it to rationalise
human actions, but it has to rationalise those things which it admits to be
irrational (contradiction possibly?) Postmodernism offers nothing new and,
in fact, every aspect of our lives are rationalised to the point where we
cannot say something without footnoting it. There is no passion just reason.
Lastly, the site of resistance offered by postmodernism is imbued with
class. Certainly, Marx was a bourgeois protesting against the bourgeois but
the ideology he helped develop did breach class boundaries. The Russian
Revolution was not simply a revolution of middle-class intellectuals (this
would be a middle-class reading of that event), it did evoke the support of
the working classes. Why? As an ideology, socialism has the potential to be
understood by most in terms of its core principles and criticisms.
Postmodernism however is a intellectual game. The works of Derrida,
Foucault and Lacan will never breach class and be understood by those who
are not doing a philosophy or cultural studies major at university. It is
not because the rest are stupid but because it offers little to them and
constitutes intellectual drivel. They will never have the capacity to arose
emotion because as deconstructing and excessively middle-class texts they
offer frustration, a sense of nihilism and poverty of life. As texts, they
are likable to the witty and high-ground conversations Voltaire would have
had with his fellow 'philosophes'.

Postmodernism is a farce. It is contemptible and self-indulgent. If it is
sea-foam then it is the stuff that comes out of factory pipes that is the
colour dirt and waste. It floats above a vastness of water of liberalism.
And if you are not to scared to get wet or drown then take a dive. There
you'll find an old Spanish Galleon decaying. To our postmodernists, they
will never never know because they will never never go.

Finally, to those of you to whom allege I am doing a violence to your
intellect I say this: do not forget the violence you do by ignoring the
hard and gritty reality of those whom you will never ever meet in your
insipid little self-absorbed and petty lives. To rephrase a line by a L.
C.: go take the last tree that stands and stick it in the vacuum that is
your mouth.

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