Re: Postmodernism & Liberalism

On Tue, 2 Mar 1999, TOM DILLINGHAM wrote:

> I see no issues, merely a tired and cliched repetition....

The paper's hardly brilliant but it is interesting to note that when
devotees of the postmodern cult are confronted with its obvious complicity
with oppression (and in particular with what Anthony Richmond calls
'Global Apartheid') they usually reply in terms suited to a contemptuous
dismissing of yesterday's fashion. The implication of this type of
response is clear: Postmodernism is more about being hip, aesthetically
sophisticated etc than about being right or, for that matter, just.

It's no coincidence that postmodernism really took off when the USA was
defeated in Vietnam and Britian, France etc hounded out of Africa and
Asia. It's also no coincidence that in South Africa former supporters of
apartheid tend to love postmodernism while its former opponents tend to
see it as nothing by a self serving and very convenient way of giving a
progressive gloss to what are in practice very conservative ideas and
agendas. Postmodernism is the prefect prozac for people living through
what Fanon called the crises of European man. But it doesn't do much for
the Palistinian who's just been evicted from his home, the Indian or
Kenyan farmer whose just discovered that a multinational owns the
'intellectual property rights' to her seed, the African state paying 40%
of its revenue to Western banks, the Indonesian student stuggling against
a barbaric regime that's been nurtured and propped by by the West for
years, the 20% of South African children who don't have access to
sufficient protein for healthy development etc, etc,

Postmodern thinkers have made many valuable contributions to theory and
the movement as a whole has been a neccessary corrective to all sorts of
metaphysical delusions and totalising tendencies. But the world is still a
fundamentally unjust place and those who believe that the days of
marcropolitics are over should remember how stupid Daniel Bell's 50's
comment about the "end of the ideological age" looked when the 60's rolled

I wouldn't be at all surprised if new stuggles quote (in the style of the
Zapitsitas) poststructuralists like Foucualt and maybe even postmodernists
like Laclau. But those thinkers who are happy for the western elite to
hold the world to economic ransome, bomb whomever they feel like etc, etc
but argue that truth can only be a function of particular language game
are pretty much saying "we'll exploit you and bomb you but, sorry, its
just not hip to talk to you." And that makes them part of the problem.

Said, Chomsky, Pilger etc expose some of the real nature of the world
beyond the seminar room and some of the problems that a decent (morally
and professionally) theorist would take seriously. But if you're looking
for serious academic challenges to postmodenism check out Christopher
Norris, Terry Eagleton and Postmodernism and the Other by Ziardar Sardin.
(The real terrorists are *not* metararratives).

Richard Pithouse

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