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The Origins of Postmodernity

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ISBN-13: 978-1859842225
ISBN-10: 1859842224
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Perry Anderson is the author of, among other books, Spectrum, Lineages of the Absolutist State, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism, Considerations on Western Marxism, English Questions, The Origins of Postmodernity, and The New Old World. He teaches history at UCLA and is on the editorial board of New Left Review.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (September 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842224
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842225
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderfully concise and illuminative examination of the genesis and development of the contemporary debate concerning the postmodern, beginning with its earliest precursors, through its first contemporary uses in the seventies, through the major figures debating its meaning and significance, including Lyotard and Habermas, but especially Fredric Jameson. I have not read much in quite a while about the debates over the postmodern since reading some fifteen or so years ago works of Jencks, Habermas, Lyotard, and others on the concept. I did not read Jameson at that. Anderson has convinced me that I left out the crucial thinker on the topic.

One thing that is infuriating if you read the major figures in the eighties debates over the postmodern (excluding Jameson) is that there is not quite agreement over what is being debated, what caused its development, and what its significance is. Both the force and sharp limitations of both Lyotard and Habermas's works are readily apparent. Jameson's work, on the contrary, is of a whole different magnitude. While Lyotard's book focuses primarily on the philosophy of science and Habermas's on trends in modern thought, Jameson uses the concept of the postmodern to illumine virtually every aspect of the contemporary world. Whereas for other thinkers the postmodern has been a movement within art or thought, for Jameson it is simply the stage the world has reached as conditioned by late capitalism. As Anderson writes near the end of the book: "Jameson construes the postmodern as that stage in capitalist development when culture becomes in effect coextensive with the economy" (p. 131). It is this economic dimension and the way it ties into globalism that is lacking in the accounts of the postmodern by the other theorists.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nathan D. Backlund on September 28, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"New Left Review" editor Perry Anderson is as erudite and engaging as ever in this short review of the varied conceptualizations of the postmodern. His chapter on the work of Fredric Jameson is bursting with intellectual energy. Anderson displays an almost boyish enthusiasm for Jameson's intellectual achievements that is quite infectious. If you have any interest in Jameson, Postmodernism, or the state of contemporary marxism, this book cannot possibly disappoint. Like the late Edward Said, Anderson possesses great literary gifts that make reading his books and articles a genuine pleasure.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Niklas Anderberg on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading The Origins of Postmodernity some thirty years after the beating of the waves is a delight. Perry Anderson has rapidly become one of my favourite writers. A former editor of The New Left Review, he wears his political heart on his sleeve. But being one of those rare intellectuals who do not view the world with their blinkers on, he readily admits his admiration for the fertile dynamics of Oakshott and Hayek as opposed to the dour prose of Habermas and Rawls. In his collection of essays entitled "Spectrum", he states without hesitation that in reality Hayek has been far more influential than Rawls, despite the vast amount of writings on the latter.
With sentences like: "The postmodernism of 'neoconservatives' welcomed the reification of separate value-spheres into closed domains of expertise armoured against any demands of the life-world, with conceptions of science close to those of early Wittgenstein, of politics borrowed from Carl Schmitt, of art akin to those of Gottfried Benn" (p.39), Anderson occasionally crams a bit too much information into one sentence. Granted, this is taken out of context and of course ¬"reification" is a standard notion in Marxist theory. One could at least have hoped he'd leave out that unbeautiful expression "the life-world" (from the German "Lebenswelt"). But for the most part his arguments are brought forward with imposing force and learning.
I remember, when studying at the Art Academy in Copenhagen, how Postmodernism yes, with a capital P, as befits a grand narrative) swept the art-scene like a veritable tsunami. Anything goes, as the war cry went. And so the circus started, leaving the poor modernists fending with their "unfinished" squares and circles. At the time all the buzz was Lyotard, Bataille, Kristeva, Feyerabend, you name them.
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