Re: I: what is postmodernism? (fwd)

As a concise survey of the subject, you've done a fine job. My
greatest objection, and you alone are not at fault, is with the
monolithic picture of "modernity" offered by scholars of
"postmodernism." That the originators of the term are conservatives
speaks partially to this, but the fact remains that each of the factors
on which you consider PoMo to differ from Modernism/Modernity can be
shown to have existed in some form or other at the close of the last
century. Liberalism and Marxism in their 19th-century formulations were
all but dead. (The destruction of faith in History led political
thinkers frequently to inject the human will into the process--Lenin,
Mussolini et al, anti-Positivistic but Positive, gleeful only in
visceral contradiction) The skepticism of science was perhaps more
pronounced then than now, and in broader quarters. The ends to which it
might be employed are considered in a variety of Modernist texts (one
that springs to mind instantly is Capek's RUR, wherein lies the first
use of the term 'robot'). Economically, what you have said is probably
true about the Industrialized world but neglects most of the world's
population. But you have, as I said, summarized the flawed case of
others very neatly.


>From: "John S. Ransom" <dickinson@xxxxxxxxx>
>Reply-To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>To: "foucault list" <foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>Subject: I: what is postmodernism? (fwd)
>Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 23:25:03 +0100
>Here's an attempt I made to define postmodernism once. Corrections and
>criticisms appreciated, should anyone here be so inclined.
>-- John Ransom
>-----Messaggio originale-----
>Da: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>A: dickinson <dickinson@xxxxxxxxx>
>Data: Sunday, March 21, 1999 6:23 PM
>Oggetto: what is postmodernism? (fwd)
>>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 17:44:26 -0500 (EST)
>>From: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>>To: mctighe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>Subject: what is postmodernism? (fwd)
>>Subject: what is postmodernism?
>>My colleague [so-and-so] asked me to come up with a brief description
>>postmodernism. I couldn't find anything I liked so I tried to map out
>>idea below. I do, however, draw on several articles on postmodernism.
>>References can be provided for those interested. Comments, additions,
>>criticisms are *welcome*.
>>This word is used in different though related ways in different
>>disciplines. It actually started off as a term that applied to an
>>architectural style.
>>I would describe postmodernism as follows:
>>To understand postmodernism we need some familiarity with modernism.
>>"Modernity" is closely linked to the industrial and agricultural
>>revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It follows --
>>speaking very generally and necessarily crudely -- the feudalistic
>>*Economically* modernity is characterized by the growth of massive,
>>industrially-based productive forces making possible whole new
>>dispositions of human material on the basis of the incredible wealth
>>produced by those forces.
>>*Sociologically* modernity is characterized by the division of society
>>into more or less self-conscious classes that compete and cooperate
>>one another to achieve fairly clearly identified material and ideal
>>*Culturally* modernity is dominated by a faith in the efficacy and
>>truth-producing capacities of science and the scientific method.
>>*Historically* modernity is characterized by a forward-looking belief
>>"progress." Progress occurs in terms of the accumulation of ever more
>>precise kinds of knowledge; it also refers to an infinite increase in
>>goods and labor-saving devices.
>>*Politically* modernity is dominated by nation-states. These are the
>>primary actors on the international stage; influencing and perhaps
>>controlling them is also the primary object of the classes within
>>*Ethically* modernity focuses on the sanctity and rights of the
>>person, especially as it confronts a powerful nation-state and a peer
>>pressure that promotes conformity.
>>Let's contrast postmodernism to modernity on each of these points.
>>*Economically* postmodernism (PM) is marked by the transition from an
>>industrial (factories producing commodities) to a service economy
>>(organizations providing services).
>>*Sociologically* PM is marked by the disintegration of the old class
>>structure and the dispersion of labor into various clerical and
>>occupations that militate against political action based on class
>>*Culturally* PM has a skeptical attitude toward science and the
>>method, pointing to the interests and societal imperatives that
>>unavoidably pursues. The sociological disintegration of society
>>the pressure on agents to understand their interests and ideals in
>>of broad social values. Cultural particularism holds sway, and the
more or
>>less clear battle lines characteristic of modernity are blurred.
>>*Historically* PM gives up on the idea -- whether in Marxist or
>>terms -- that history is the story of progress and the realization of
>>human freedom. The events of the twentieth century, in postmodernist
>>discourage such optimism.
>>*Politically* PM is characterized by "plurality." This plurality,
>>should not just be seen merely in terms of "interests" in the sense,
>>of Dahl's use of the term "pluralism." Instead, pluralism in the PM
>>refers to discrete ways of viewing and valuing the world that cannot
>>subsumed under some kind of progressive "united front."
>>*Ethically* (and this point is unsurprisingly related to the politics
>>point above) PM turns away from a unitary account of the individual
>>her rights as they relate to the broader social environment. (This is
>>of course, to say that PM advises us to give up rights!) It focuses
>>instead on the plurality of structures of value. The ethical question
>>PM is not: "Are the rights of the (uniformly conceived) individual
>>respected?" but rather, "What alternative ways of knowing and of being
>>being marginalized by today's dominant forms?"
>>One last point: we should not think of "postmodernism" as an exclusive
>>possession of the "left." The term (in the sense that we are
discussing it
>>here) was first introduced by historians like Toynbee and sociologists
>>Daniel Bell. They *describe* the postmodern condition, but *deplore*

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