What are the challenges posed to civilization and political relations by postmodernity?What have been the cardinal cultural surveies ‘ responses?
The impression of postmodernity can be best be understood if viewed in comparing to that which preceded it. It was the Modernist undertaking of the 18th century Enlightenment, with its all embracing religion in expansive narrations: of freedom, of nationhood, of history, of the Self that provided the foundation for its ain disintegration and the formation of the postmodern. The cultural optimism that comes from the religion in such meta-discourses, in the consoling buildings of cognition and diction, as David Harvey suggest in hisThe Condition of Postmodernity( 1989 ) was non so much disavowed by postmodernism as by Modernism’s failure to populate up to its ain promises:
“The 20th century – with its decease cantonments and decease squads, its militarism and two universe wars, its menace of atomic obliteration and its experience of Hiroshima and Negasaki – has surely shattered this ( Modernism’s ) optimism. Worse still, the intuition lurks that the Enlightenment undertaking was doomed to turn against itself and transform the quest for human emancipation into a system of cosmopolitan subjugation in the name of human liberation.” ( Harvey, 1989: 13 )
The cases of this perversion of Modernism’s purposes are, about, excessively legion to reference: the Stalinist regime’s Gulags, for case usurping Marx for its ain terminals, the Nazi party’s appropriation of scientific discourse, the freedom of the person curtailed in a panoptical society in the name of freedom itself ( from offense, from menaces, from panic etc ) and more are all manifestations of the failure of Modernity.
Since Lyotard’s seminal essay “The Postmodern Condition” ( 1997 ) postmodernity has been characterized by the acknowledgment of this failure and what Lyotard termed the “incredulity toward metanarratives” ( Lyotard, 1997: 36 ) . As I have hinted at already, if we examine the plants of minds such as Lyotard himself or, more evidently, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard or Derrida we can observe that these metanarratives non merely mention to impressions such as rational subjects, political political orientations and cultural artefacts but to their very footing: the Self. For Foucault, for case inThe Order of Thingss( 1997 ) , the Self was itself simply a creative activity of the Modernity undertaking, a creative activity that he sees as being easy eroded “like a face drawn in the sand at the border of the sea” ( Foucault, 1997: 387 ) and it is under these protections, so, that we must see the challenges postmodernity poses to civilization and political relations.
In order to look at this topic in some deepness I have chosen, in this essay, to concentrate on two countries that I think are representative of the argument that underpins postmodernism and that allows us a path into how it has effected both political relations and cultural surveies and, later how the later has responded. The two countries are Marxism and aggregate civilization – both countries that have been continuously examined by postmodernist theory.
Marxism has long been at the Centre of postmodern arguments refering political relations and civilization and some of its importance can be gauged by Frederic Jameson’s treatment in his surveyPostmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism( 1991 ) :
“…according to one position postmodernism is besides at one with the unequivocal “end of ideologies”…Ideology in this sense meant Marxism, and its terminal went manus in manus with the terminal of Utopia, already secured by the great post-war anti-Stalinist dystopias such as 1984” ( Jameson, 1991: 159 )
As Dominic Strinati ( 1995 ) suggests it was Marxism’s trust on the telling power of the materialist dialectic that provided the footing for postmodern unfavorable judgment. Marxism sought to offer both a historical and a teleological metanarrative that permeated all signifiers of cultural and socio-political discourse. In plants such as Adorno and Horkheimer’sDialectic of Enlightenment( 1979 ) for case or Baudrillard’s “The Mirror of Production” ( 1988 ) the basic renters of vulgar Marxism are shown to be naive and fractured. The absolute truth of dialectical philistinism and the battle between the labor and the middle class is seen to be, at best a simplification of the complexness of society, at worst the bewilderment and suppression of a myriad of other minor discourses such as those based on race, gender or gender.
It is clear that such a re-visioning of Marx’s doctrine has had a extremist impact on the modern political argument with the all embracing narration of dialectical philistinism being replaced, mostly, by a political system, that is seen, in the visible radiation of among others Laclau and Mouffe’sHegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politicss( 2001 ) , as being constituted by a figure of smaller unrelated voices and brushs. The postmodern political status stresses the anti-hierarchical nature of such a system that, for case, views the political demands and aspirations of the handicapped or the alienated as every bit of import as the working category.
Marx’s economic thoughts were every bit of import to Baudrillard in his survey of the postmodern nature of civilization. For Baudrillard, it was the Marxist impression of surplus or excess value that provided the foundations upon which modern civilization was formed:
“Marx set Forth and denounced the lewdness of the trade good and this lewdness was linked to its equality, to the low rule of free circulation, beyond all usage value…Hence, the trade good signifier is the first great medium of the modern world” ( Baudrillard, 1981: 131 )
Baudrillard here epitomizes two things about postmodernity, foremost, he utilizes Marx in a manner that does non trust on the Modernist metanarrative ( I shall return to this impression subsequently ) and, secondly, he uses Marx in order to look at modern civilization and values. For Baurillard it was this excess value that provided the foundation for what he termed the simulacra: the strata of capitalist consumer civilization that is invested with every bit much energy and belief as world. In his essay “The Precession of the Simulacra” for case ( 2004 ) Baudrillard cites the illustration of Disneyland:
“Disneyland is a perfect theoretical account of all the embroiled orders of simulacra. It is first of all a drama of semblances and apparitions: the Pirates, the Frontier, the Future World etc. This fanciful universe is supposed to entrap the success of the operation. But what attracts crowds the most is without a uncertainty the societal microcosm, the spiritual, miniaturized pleasance of existent America” ( Baudrillard, 2004: 12 )
It is this world beyond world that Baudrillard footings the ‘hyperreal’ and it can be seen all about and within the modern impression of civilization: from the images of world Television to the painted tins of Andy Warhol. However for Baudrillard, this impression of the hyperreal, the artefacts of postmodern civilization and society, have a really ‘real’ function to play in masking the deficiency left by the disintegration of Modernist narrations. For Baudrillard, Disneyland is the hyerreal that covers up the fact that it is America that is the ruse, devoid as it is of the metanarrative of freedom, nationhood and Utopia.
Such theory, I think, is declarative of postmodernism and particularly the response of cultural surveies to the menace posed by postmodernity and the disintegration of metanarratives. In some ways, this menace has been countered through two chief responses: foremost, as we have seen, the usage of canonical Modernist minds such as Marx ( by Althusser, Baudrillard and Zizek ) and Freud ( by Lacan and Derrida ) in such a manner as to contradict or at least avoid their larger metadiscourse. For illustration, we have seen that Baudrillard uses Marx’s impressions of excess value but does non finally associate it to hegemony, dialectical philistinism or the category battle. Second, theoreticians such as Derrida, Spivak and Norris have attempted to asseverate the primacy of deconstruction, or the scrutiny and the critiquing of the logocentricism upon which cultural surveies itself is based.
These two responses themselves, possibly, organize the modern-day dialectic that is present in non merely cultural surveies but all rational and academic subjects: the one, centripetal – trying to retain subject and cultural homogeneousness by re-interpreting Modernist renters, the other centrifugal recommending the transgressing and even remotion of cultural boundary lines by deconstructing the very footing of Modernity, impressions of truth and cognition.
Cultural surveies is ideally placed to analyze this dialectic because, in many ways it reaches into the bosom of the subject because as Douglas Kellner inside informations in his bookMedia Culture: Cultural Surveies, Identity, and Politicss between the Modern and the Postmodern( 1995 ) “Radio, telecasting, movie and other merchandises of the civilization industries provide the theoretical accounts of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless.” ( Kellner, 1995: 1 ) . In other words, cultural surveies examines the very footing of the Self that, since Modernism, has been questioned and critiqued.
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