Postmodernism replaces the different classes and groupings which

Postmodernism as a
school of thought encompasses a variety of different manifestations which in
part comprise of diverse social paradigms which can include aesthetics,
culture/cultural identity and the five key features of postmodernism which
comprise of globalization, the media, dynamism, consumer society and cultural
diversity. Postmodernism as a school of thought can essentially be understood
through the rationale proposed by Lyotard and Jencks (Jencks, Branscome &
Szacka, 2011); although the remainder of this essay will also oversee
and underline the reasoning of thinkers including Jacques Derrida, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bruno Latour. The
following writing takes into account the working concepts of modernism,
postmodernism and deconstructivism, alongside contextual notions, to
underline whether we really do live in postmodern times.

To answer the question posed in the
title, we do by proposed definition, live in a postmodern society. Elements of
postmodern rationale also implement varying degrees of social structure;
through its influences in the sphere of higher education, politics and social
consciousness. Following the ideals proposed by Karl Marx, in that the
relationships shared between individuals within society, through the paradigms
of social, political and economic relationships; which postmodernism would
characterize through the guise of power relationships (Thompson, 2004). This follows the ideal proposed by
postmodernism, which effectively works to replace the fundamental financial
relationship shared between the proletariat and the bourgeois,
with varying degrees of power struggles; which in turn also, in the beliefs of
postmodernism; replaces the different classes and groupings which are apparent
in society with relationships based on varying accounts of power struggles
shared between power and knowledge (Currie, 2011).

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Through
the eyes of Jean – François Lyotard, he understands postmodernism to be
implicit in that it is “is not modernism at its end but in the
nascent state, and this state is constant” (Thompson, 2004). In his 1979 work ‘The Postmodern Condition: A Report on
Knowledge’,
Lyotard writes in reference to the culmination of the postmodern belief in and
that of the ‘grand narrative’, this term introduced within his piece of work,
references his version of history denoting individual, secularised
political/historical concepts and events such as; socialism, capitalism and
‘class struggle’ (Thompson,
2004). This broad
term is produced in order to offer a society legitimization through the
sponsorship of a yet to be completed master brand of awareness. This provides
an interconnection between events, which offers explanations for successive
history, following the piecemeal development of certain social conditions; this
alternative offers another way to interpret, furthermore; make sense of
history. Lyotard pinpoints the arrival of the postmodern era to the period of
time beginning with the end of Second World War (Thompson, 2004). He writes that after this time a condition where the
computerization of knowledge led to two distinct problems which were never
faced before the beginning of the period of postmodernism. These being: ‘who
decides what knowledge is?’ and ‘who knows what needs to be decided?’ (Thompson, 2004) Lyotard argues for the general
ownership of all knowledge, this would result in potentially simple access to
all required knowledge, while at the same time, also limiting the likely
transcendental threat of ‘terror’, being the result of separate bodies
delegitimizing or suppressing others voices/access to knowledge. In Lyotard’s
writing, he mentions ‘language games’, his use of the term ‘language games’ is
derived from Ludwig Wittgenstein; who writes about his rejection of language
being, to a certain degree, ‘separate and corresponding to reality’; further
arguing that ideas need not be cleared defined to serve a meaningful resolution
(Thompson, 2004).

Referring back to the
question posed in the title: ‘Do we live in ‘postmodern’ times?’, postmodernism
as a working concept definitely strives towards the replacement of objective
truths such as those found within history; and as aforementioned: ‘grand
narratives’, with subjective perspectives on pieces of knowledge which have
been both reserved and protected (Thompson, 2004). In reference to the aforementioned ‘grand narratives’, and
postmodernism’s emphasis on subjectivity rather than objective knowledge; the
same criticisms which, as aforementioned, have been applied to the objective understanding
of ‘grand narrative’ history, may also be applied to postmodernism. This is in
that by replacing the requirement for a ‘grand narrative’, by positing history
is interconnected by various, separate events; is of itself a ‘grand narrative’,
somewhat an idea which postmodernist writers have sought to reject (Thompson, 2004).

Referring
back again to the question posed in the title, ‘do we live in ‘postmodern’
times?’, in order to posit an answer, it is important to distinguish whether
‘postmodern’ as a working concept or even term, is a practical or relevant one
in and of itself. This essay poses this statement in reference to the writings
of Bruno Latour, who imposes that modernity itself ‘has never begun’, and
therefore we are not obliged to even consider the use of the term of
postmodernism to distinguish the transition between modernity and postmodernity
(Caviglia, 2017). Latour postulates the ludicrousness of
postmodern thinkers in claiming to have come into existence post a period of time
which never saw its birth; “the adjective ‘modern’ designates a new regime, an
acceleration, a rupture, a revolution in time. When the word ‘modern’,
‘modernization’, or ‘modernity appears, we are defining, by contrast, an
archaic and stable past.” Latour writes in reference to the term modern as if
it designated “a break in the regular passage of time” (Latour, 2002), Latour
picks up on the importance of using the ‘past perfect tense’ in that he argues
“we are no longer obliged to cling to the avant garde of the avant garde; we no
longer seek to be even cleverer, even more critical, even deeper into the ‘era
of suspicion’. No, instead we discover that we have never begun to enter the
modern era. Hench the hint of the ludicrous that always accompanies postmodern
thinkers; they claim to come after a time that has not even started!” (Latour, 2002).

Bruno
Latour’s writings are important in the understanding of whether we currently
live in postmodern times for the simple purpose that his writings make obsolete
the terms modern and postmodern. If we simply live in an ongoing lineage of
time, is it that thinkers/philosophers of the past have strived to subjugate,
rather break up this ongoing fairy-tale that is humanities ongoing existence? (Latour, 2002)

Referring
back to understanding the concept of postmodernism, Jencks coined the terms
‘univalent’ and ‘multivalent’ in reference to the architecture being beyond the
context of its ‘history, form and function’; for Jencks, ‘multivalent’
architecture forms a continuous
conversation with time (Jencks, 1991). ‘Multivalent’ architecture’s hybrid nature is
that of layering fragmentary historical and present day references for the
purpose of substantiating increasing numbers of avenues through which the
architecture may be deciphered through the text of signs, symbols and metaphors
(Jencks, 1991). Raising the dissection of postmodernist thinking from the previous
page, an important thinker to include within the analysis of whether we
currently live in postmodern times, is the critic of postmodern architecture;
work begun by Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. Derrida’s work has three separate
focal points which can be determined as the desire to have a central foundation
to logocentrism, reducing meaning to that of established definitions and how
the disentanglement of meaning within writing captures ‘différance’,
capturing meaning within opposition to the concept itself (Smith, 2010). Derrida’s three features embezzled within his
pretext of deconstruction should therefore serve as a foundational basis for
the wider process of questioning and deconstructing knowledge on the basis of
meaning (Smith, 2010).

Derrida
understands Western philosophy to be focused on the construction of itself
around “an inherent desire to place meaning at the centre of presence” (Turner, 2017).  Derrida
effectively posits that Western philosophy is founded upon the understanding
that philosophy and our place in the world should be founded upon the
pertinence of an existential, absolute truth which would inherently make sense
of our standing. Derrida’s term for this desire of Western philosophy is
‘logocentrism’; the effect of logocentrism being the placing of on specific
concept, such as justice, at the heart of the struggle to theorize or
interrogate meaning. The concept then becomes ‘the centre around which its
meaning is founded upon, and as a result becomes the reference point that
determines all subsequent knowledge’ (Turner, 2017). In a frank discussion this
determines that the drive behind philosophy is the aspiration to achieve a
principled foundation upon which rests the presence of an absolute truth, i.e.
‘an objective meaning which makes sense of our place in the world’ (Turner,
2017).  For the production of a
functioning basis for this term, Derrida points out how the basis of
‘logocentrism’, which assumes “the existence of set and stable meanings that
exist to be discovered” (Turner, 2017). 
An important characterization of this term involves the distinct
separation between the nature behind meaning and its institutionalization –
logos, is made known as language, the translation of an idea into words or a
way of understanding. ‘Metaphysics of presence’ follows this in that it is the
way in which ‘we make the present the objects of our thought’ (Turner, 2017). 

It is in the idea of the exteriority of meaning,
following logocentrism; which for Derrida unlocks the prospect of
deconstructivism. It is Derrida’s examination of the basis of meaning and its
implementation within language and reality, which determines that its means
cannot be so easily separated from its ends.

“By reading law
as reflecting or embodying the natural origin of justice, what is ignored or
concealed are all the other possible interpretations of justice that are not
embodied or encapsulated in the law. In this way writing defines nature, as
well as reflecting it” (Turner, 2017), it is possible to determine that the existence of
meaning, relative to the embodiments of nature and institutions; result in both
of their functioning meanings being based on the relationship shared between
the pair of working concepts, thus positing a rejection of the rigid separation
of nature and the discovery of meaning.

“Postmodernism opposed most assumptions of the
Enlightenment regarding logic. The Enlightenment age had faith in reason and
logic, and hoped that through these tools, the future world will be more
developed, human and just than the present one. They emphasized reason and
logic as tools of scientific and technological development. Postmodernists
believe that properly following the rules and principles of logic, the world
will advance scientifically and technologically. The postmodernists however,
deny this faith in reason and logic, as instruments of human progress.” (Ozumba and
Mendie, 2017)

“Another assumption of the Enlightenment is that
reason and logic are universally valid. That is, their laws and principles are
the same everywhere, and apply equally to any rational thinker. The postmodernists
in contrast, hold that reason and logic are merely conceptual construct and are
relatively valid. They are valid within the intellectual traditions that
established them.” (Ozumba and Mendie, 2017)

In conclusion, Jacques Derrida, through the
comprehension of his writing, completely dismisses the foundation of Western
civilization. He does this through rejecting the structure of Western
civilization as a whole. Derrida does this by encapsulating Western
civilization through the lens of a male patriarchy, as evidenced by both his
usage and coinage of the word ‘phallogocentric’; used in his description of the
structure of Western society. ‘Phallo’ derives from ‘phallus’, from this
understanding we can determine Derrida’s usage of the word in his description
of Western society as a ‘male-dominated, oppressive and self-serving’ society.
Dr Jordan B. Peterson points out that postmodernism ‘doesn’t have a shred of
gratitude’ (Peterson, 1999). This statement should be taken in reference to the fact that, as
aforementioned, postmodernism rejects the grand narratives upon which Western
civilization is founded on. Peterson goes onto mention that postmodernists
share no appreciation for logic, in fact, that they do not believe in it; as
evidenced by their disbelief in objective natural reality, and therefore “reason and logic are merely
conceptual constructs and are therefore valid only within
the established intellectual traditions in which they are used” (Peterson,
1999), (Eiss, 2014). Through the dissemination in the understanding
of the postmodernists lack a belief in reason, logic and dialogue; which also
has its root in the word ‘logos’, meaning logic; one may determine that he or
she does not have his or her own individual identity, rather a ‘group fostered one’
(Peterson, 1999) (YouTube, 2017). This parallels an argument put
forward by the late post-Marxists, whom rather than identify their argument
with a struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, simply redefined
their argument based on the Hobbesian principle of a struggle of power between
different identities in the form of subpopulations, effectively resulting in,
as aforementioned, a very Hobbesian struggle for power .

 

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