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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10) [Paperback]

Jean-Francois Lyotard , Geoff Bennington , Brian Massumi , Fredric Jameson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 21, 1984 0816611734 978-0816611737 1st
Many definitions of postmodernism focus on its nature as the aftermath of the modern industrial age when technology developed. This book extends that analysis to postmodernism by looking at the status of science, technology, and the arts, the significance of technocracy, and the way the flow of information is controlled in the Western world.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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: 9.1 x 6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,524 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
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the must read works on postmodernism January 1, 2007
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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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provacative and significant work October 17, 2005
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Towards a postmodern sociology of knowledge December 6, 1998
By A Customer
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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post-Nuclear Philosophical Fallout May 7, 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The philosopher Lyotard is masterful at explaining his views of ...
The philosopher Lyotard is masterful at explaining his views of postmodernism. Although there are others who see today's world differently Lyotard's rendition helps bring cohesion... Read more
Published 1 day ago by akingskid
5.0 out of 5 stars Very important book
I can't count the number of times I have gone to this to express my favorite interpretation of the Postmodern - though mostly to use Jameson's introduction. Read more
Published 2 months ago by W. Jamison
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragmentation is Here to Stay
When Jean-Francois Lyotard published The Postmodern Condition in 1979, the world had long since accepted the unsettling notion that seeming eternally standing universalist concepts... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Martin Asiner
5.0 out of 5 stars a very fine book
a very fine book, creative, nuclear, interesting and very singular in the most fundational line of la France philosophique. Cute. Important.
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Postmodernism Resource
In the Postmodern Condition, Lyotard rejects Metanarratives, like Marxism, Science, Nationalism and Religion for being too exclusive and oppressive to all the counter veiwpoints... Read more
Published on July 5, 2012 by K Souban
5.0 out of 5 stars pleased
Everything showed up on time and in great condition. I have no compliants and will likely buy from this vendor again.
Published on September 20, 2011 by Chris Mcginnis
5.0 out of 5 stars As depicted
The item arrived well before the expected delivery date and was in the condition promised.
Published on July 3, 2010 by Doctor Lo
1.0 out of 5 stars Naive academic Marxist positivism
The "Post-modern condition" is "incredulity toward meta-narratives" that arises from everyone's supposed disappointment that Marxism or even Democracy will produce a better... Read more
Published on April 21, 2010 by Peter S. Oliphant, Ph.D.
4.0 out of 5 stars The introduction of Postmodernism in Philosophy
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10) With this essay Lyotard introduced the notion of 'postmodern'in philosophy. Read more
Published on December 24, 2007 by Hhm Tromp
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzlingly Prescient
Lyotard begins what has come to be regarded as the signal epistemic statement of Post-Modernity (post 8/6/45) with these words: "Our working hypothesis is that the status of... Read more
Published on December 21, 2007 by cvairag
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