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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10) 1st Edition

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0816611737
ISBN-10: 0816611734
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Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Minnesota Press; 1st edition (June 21, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816611734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816611737
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998) was the author of many books, including The Differend, The Postmodern Condition, The Postmodern Explained, and Postmodern Fables.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
This work, by Jean Francois Lyotard, is one of the signature works of postmodern theory. Say what you will of this perspective, this book is necessary reading in understanding the subject. This is not an easy work; however, those who persevere will be rewarded with interesting insights, whether or not one agree with postmodern thinking.

Lyotard defines Postmodern thought in contrast to modernism. Modernism, he claims, is ". . .any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind [i.e., philosophy] making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth." Postmodernism, in turn, is ". . .incredulity toward metanarratives."

Science and technology, especially information sciences based on computers, are increasingly an important commodity and the focus of worldwide competition. Knowledge and political power have become linked. Thus: ". . .[W]ho decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided? In the computer age, the question of knowledge is now more than ever a question of government."

A central issue then becomes who has access to the information, since access will produce power. Lyotard sees it as inevitable that bureaucrats and technocrats will be the ones to master this basic resource of power, information. This will strengthen their hand in political circles. Research is expensive, and the pursuer of truth must purchase equipment to make the scientific process work. Thus, wealth begins to set the agenda for the scientist; scientists will go where the bucks are!
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By C. D. Shirley on October 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm mostly taking it upon myself to write this review in response to much of the negative criticism it's been getting here. First, Lyotard's claim that metanarratives have been dismantled is an observation of the world he sees around him, NOT a political tactic that he's endorsing. The elements of specialization and performativity that function as tiny legitmating narratives are what have done this, and Lyotard feels that something should be done IN RESPONSE to it. In fact, what he says we should use as the major political touchstone in the somewhat fractured environment is in some sense a metanarrative: justice.

Second, it's simply disingenuos to say that the actions of science don't derive their legitimacy from the government or big business. Lyotard doesn't mean that empiricism as an epistemological framework comes from governmental authority, but scientists' opportunities to use it come from such authority. Evidence for this? The National Science Foundation, governmental grants to research universities--the evidence is all around us.

Finally, Lytoard doesn't exactly say all this is bad. There are negative consequences to it--dislocation due to specialization is one of the major ones--but he's not an ignorant man and isn't saying that we should destroy the methods of science or try to go back to the way things were in the sixteenth century.

And though there is some element of practical advice in this essay, it's not wise to come to it as if it were a manual for how to lead the revolution. That's not what it's intended to be; it was, after all, funded by the university system.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
Lyotard's "The PostModern Condition", is an exciting atttempt at a postmodern Sociology of Knowledge. Using Weberian and Habermasian concepts of legitimation, Lyotard gices a critique of critique, showing how all forms of knowledge are, in the end, dependent on the Narrative, the story which humansociety tells of itself. From this Levi-Straussian concept, Lyotard builds an interesting framework for Modern, PostModern and Futuristic definitions of knowledge. So why did I give the book only 4 stars? Because Lyotard fails inhis attempts at encorparating Anglo-American philosophy into the book. His total misconception of Wittgenstein can be flabbergasting to anyone who's studied this tradition of philosophy. Still, the book is probably the easiest of its type to understand and it is quite enjoyable to read. But it's a good idea to supplement it with some Foucault and some Habermas.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By benjamin on May 7, 2007
Format: Paperback
If, as William Barrett once remarked, existentialism is "philosophy for the atomic age," then the atomic age's look into the future - by way of Jean-Francois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition - is nothing short of a nightmarish vision of what post-nuclear philosophy would be like. If the Cold War was ultimately the product of two totalizing visions - the two remaining totalizing visions of the modern age, namely liberal democracy and socialism - locked into prolonged, agonizing conflict behind facades such as international diplomacy, then the postmodern condition is the worldview of a world brought back from the brink of total annihilation. Postmodernism, claims Lyotard at the beginning of his book, is "incredulity towards metanarratives" (xxiv). Rather than seeking a new way of understanding the world en toto - a new totalizing vision/metanarrative - the postmodern condition backs away from the philosophical One and seeks what it seeks - itself or, rather, the disparate fragments that indicate the existence of itself - among the philosophical Many. As Lyotard also writes, postmodernism "refines our sensitivity to differences" - the exact opposite of the totalitarian visions that caused so much death in the 20th century.

The Postmodern Condition is a work that is as fascinating as it is complicated. Lyotard is heavily interested in the question of legitimation - specifically, how knowledge is made and validated. What defines knowledge? One could, in many ways, see this work as fundamentally epistemological, for he spends a considerable amount of time in this work focusing on how it is that the university system, in particular, can survive if knowledge is both under the sway of the forces of capital and no longer considered emancipatory.
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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10)
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