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The Origins of Postmodernity
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›