Before defining Postmodernism, one must first define Modernism. Modernism is the rejection of tradition and realism. This occured with the onset of the Industrial Revolution at the end of the nineteenth and begining of the twenieth centuries. Modernity was very duelistic in nature. For example the formation of Unions in response to the power of the ruling elite. Modernism was an age of idealism and science. Postmodernism has a main premise that it contradicts Modernism and seeks to blur the lines that the dichotomy of modernism has drawn.Postmodernism has a main premise that it contradicts Modernism and seeks to blur the lines that the dichotomy of modernism has drawn.
Postmodernism is a questioning of the polarity and dichotomy of modernism. Its claim to fame is that there are not just two sides to anything from feminism, to sexuality to the economy and politics. The postmodernists seek to illustrate the grey area of every subject. They take the index of the interesting to a level where one says “you thought sexuality was being gay or straight, but really there are multiple levels and dimensions and nothing is one hundred percent in any one category.” (for example)
According to the postmodernist there are not just two sides to a story, but instead everyone has a version and everyone's version has legitimacy.
Other subjects that can be broken down into classical, modern, and postmodern:
In the art world there exists paintings and sculpture that resembles real life almost to perfection like Michelangelo's David. This artform is classical, if it was not the perfect carving of a perfect man it would be sinful. Modern art takes apart the traditional concepts of beauty and perfection in art and we see the emergence of Salvadore Dali and Pablo Picasso where the images real objects and people are distorted. In this way traditional ideals of beauty and the standard of art are rejected. In Postmodern art, however, even the existence of an image found in the real world is, for the most part, absent. Postmodern artists, such as Jackson Pollock, further remove the constraints on what art "should" be, blurring lines and breaking down subject matter even further until there is simply the movement of paint on canvass.
In music you had classical music, then you had jazz take apart the classical and put it back together…modern…after which you have post modern music like hip-hop that deconstructs the very concept of what defines music.
A similar trend is seen in dance; you had ballet, then you had modern dance that pulled apart ballet and reconstructed it into an equally rigid form of movement, now you have post modern dance forms that reject the concept that rules should even apply and take moves from the streets, from martial arts, from everywhere so much so that the rigidity and definition that “this is dance” and “this is not” becomes completely blurred
Examples of Postmodern Theorists
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) Rejects philosophical basis of concepts of “subjectivity” and “objectivity” and other opposites in logic are actually interconnected and refer to one another. In stead if arguing the existence of such seeming incongruities he sought to embrace. Refutes the idea that facts exist outside of discussion of them and that concepts have polar opposition. Also that lived experiences influence everything…
Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996)
Questioned the presumed objectivity of the scientific method. Thought that science was not as objective as some supposed. Thought that people placed as much of their subjectivity on scientific research as anything else.
Jacques Derrida (1930-1984) Discussed cyclic nature between premise and result, action and consequence. Jacques Derrida founder of Deconstruction; the idea that we think of our condition as natural when the system that we live in is not, in fact natural, but a construction within itself. We are continuing to deconstruct from within systems. “There is no outside text.” Structure is a person’s point of view and what he is taught to understand. Deconstruction is the breaking down of what we understand.
Giles Deleuze Rereading and reinterpretation of classic philosophers such as Socrates and Plato.
Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1998) Discussed access to information and the “Information Revolution”. The commodification of knowledge. He discussed the idea that because of the increase in knowledge as a commodity instead of knowledge for knowledge sake or a vehicle for social change the University becomes a commercialized institution.
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) The idea that because reality and access to information is becoming digitalized and people are not connected to the entirety of any process, be it art, literature, or politics due to flow of information in electronic media etc. causes the detachment of human beings from outcomes. This will eventually lead to a virtual reality where humanity is removed from people.
People will become disassociated from themselves, their very humanity deconstructed.
Examples of Interpreted Postmodern Writings
Zygmunt Bauman (2001)
That which is liquid is able to constantly change and has more mobility than that which is solid. When facing a sold, a liquid is unaffected because it is forever transform shape and can move around under or through a solid. A liquid, however, affects a solid. It can be melted, saturated, or worn down by a liquid.
The author equates modernity with the liquidation of old ideas and building of new ones. He also equates time as becoming more and more fluid and space in which humans exist as static where in a battle between time and space, space is being worn away by time.
The changes from pre-modern to modern times can be compared to the liquefaction of ideas. Those ideals of the past that were established in society such as the intertwining of work and daily life in pre-industrial times became, in essence, melted to liquid in order to create a new set of ideals. These ideals sought to separate production and economics with people’s daily lives. This gave rise to an industrial, modern world in which money became a separate entity from human lives and socialization.
In this new modern world even those ideas are becoming liquefied. With the advances in technology those that are elite become even more separated from those that are underclass because those that are elite become liquefied themselves and able to move with speed in an almost nomadic way. The underclass becomes what is solid and immobile thereby becoming further alienated from the elite. Another form of liquefaction is in commodities. In earlier times railroads and other modern industrial technologies were solid and meant to transcend time whereas now commodities are disposable and are meant to move with time as quickly as time itself. Thus everything becomes replaceable and fluid.
Jean-Francois Lyotard on Postmodernism
Lyotard rejects the ideas of grand theory and the metanarrative in favor of micronarratives. Metanarratives are, according to Lyotard, an aspect of modernity in which grand generalizations are applied to a subject with the expectation that most pieces of that subject falls under such generalizations. An example would be that everything, in time, can be explained by science using the scientific method. Lyotard argues that because even the scientists performing the scientific method come with their own micro-narratives or perspectives and perceptions on their findings.
Postmodernism is the response to the "incredulity" of the metanarrative.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (536-540)
Bauman, Zygmunt. 2001. "Liquid Modernity" (593-597)
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. 1980-2001. "The Rhizome/ A Thousand Plateaus" (671-673)
Baudrillard, Jean. 1983. "Simulacra and Simulations: Disneyland, Reactions and Alternatives" (470-484)
Lyotard, Jean-François. 1979. "The Postmodern Condition" (465-468)
Rorty, Richard. 1989. "Private Irony and Liberal Hope" (469-472)
Derrida, Jacques. 1966. "The Decentering Event in Social Thought" (413-417)
Lacan, Jacques. 1949. "The Mirror Stage" (343-344)
See interview with Z. Bauman in Gane, Nicholas. 2004. Future of Social Theory. Continuum International Publishing (Ebrary HM585 — .G35 2004eb)