POSTMODERNISM SUMMARY
 


IN POSTMODERNISM; A TRANSITION IN HOW WE BELIEVE. We are in the midst of a great, confusing, stressful and enormously promising historical transition, and it has to do not so much with what we believe as with how we believe. (Anderson, p. 2)

SCIENCE It's quite possible to go from seeing science as absolute and final trut to seeing it as an ever-changing body of ideas. (And., p. 2)

POSTMODERNISM AS LOOKING BACK. Postmodern is a makeshift word we use until we have decided what to name the baby. It is a word of looking back. But what is it, exactly, that we are looking back at? What is it that the world has just now ceased to be? (And, pp. 3-4)
METANARRATIVE. A metanarrative is a story of mythig proportions, a story big enough and meaningful enough to pull together philosophy and research and politics and art, relate them to one another, and--above all--give them a unifying sense of direction. (And. p. 4)

PREMODERN, MODERN, AND POSTMODERN. People in premodern, traditional societies had an experience of universality but no concept of it. could get through their days and lives without encountering other people with entirely different worldviews--and conseuently, they didn't have to worry a lot about how to deal with pluralism. People in modern civilization have had a concept of universality--based on the hope (or fear) that some genius, messiah or tyrant would figure out how to get everygody on the same page--but no experience of it. Instead, every war, eery trade mission, every migration brought more culture shocks. Now, in the postmodern era, the very concept of universality is put into question. . . . It begins to look like we're all going to have to get used to a world of multiple realities. (And. 6)

POSTMODERNITY AND POSTMODERNISM It's useful to make a distinction between postmodernity and postmodernism--the first being the time (or condition) in which we find ourselves, the second being the various schools and movements it has produced. (And. 6-7)

RADICAL RELATIVISM. Radical relativism [the idea that there is no better or worse] doesn't have to go away, because it was never really here. Nobody really believes that everything is equal, because the human mind doesn't work that way; whatever else it is doing, it is always tirelessly, relentlessly evaluating. (And.7)

WHAT IS TRUTH? [There is] the idea that, as philosopher Richard Rorty puts it, truth is made rather than found. . . . Rorty says, "We need to make a distinction between the claim that the world is out there and the claim that the truth is out there. . . . Postmodern thought is closely linked to the "linguistic turn" in philosophy--the growing consensus that ideas cannot be understood apart from the language systems that produced them.(And. 8)

POSTMODERN EXPERIENCE. Psychologists such as Kenneth Gergen focus on...how ti feels to live amid such a rich, often contradictory barrage of cultural stimuli. . . . The postmodern individual is a member of many communities andd networks, a participant in many discourses, an audience to messages from everybody and everywhere--messages that present coflicting ideals and norms and images of the world. (And. 9)

FOUR DIMENSIONS OF POSTMODERNISM
1. Self-concept Identity is constructed (and frequently reconstructed) out of many cultural sources.
2. Moral and ethical discourse. We move from the "found" morality of a single cultural and/or religious heritage to the "made" morality forged out of dialogue and choice.
3. Art and culture. No style dominates. Instead we have endless improvisations and variations on themes; parody and playfulness.
4. Globalization. For the first time in history we have atruly global civilization...of rapid information exchange and unprecedented mobility. We shouldn't be surprised that, in it, many prople begin to see their various tribal ways for what they are, and take them a bit less seriously. (And 10-11)
THE PERSPECTIVE OF ANTHROPOLOGY. The anthropologists' gift to the world is the idea that human beings create diferent kinds of cultures, which in turn create different kinds of human beings.... This is a fundamentally subversive idea, because if you absorb it and accept it at all, you are likely to begin to (a) notice that you live in a culture; (b) think of it as something that was created by human beings, (c) wonder who created it and for what purpose, (d) wonder what it does to you, and (e) think about making some choices and/or changes.... As we become aware that we live in a symbolic environment--which is what the idea of culture enables us to do--we make choices about it. (And. 16-17)

NARRATIVES
With the collapse of the universal meta-narratives, the local narratives come into prominence.... A re-narritivization of the culture takes place, emphasizing communication and the impact of a message upon the audience. There is today an interest in narratives, on the telling of stories. (Kvale, In And., 20-1)

EXPANSION OF RATIONALITY
In postmodern thought there has taken place an expansion of rationality. It is not just a "momentary lapse of reason," but a going beyond the cognitive and scientific domain to include also the ethial and esthetic domains of life in reason. "Modern times" involved a restricted concepet of rationality, with...an emphasis on plans and programmes, on calculation, prediction, and control, ...[and] the methods of science and tecnology. (Kvale, in And. 22)

POSTMODERN ART
The plurality of perspectives leads to a fragmentation of experience, the collage becoming a key artistic technique of our time. Styles from different periods and cultures are put together; in postmodern art haigh-tech may exist side aby side with antique columns and romantic ornamentation.... In contrast to modern architecture, tradition is not rejected; nor is it worshipped as in the new classicism. (Kvale, in And. 23)

THE SIGN AND THE SURFACE
Postmodern thoutght focuses on the surface.... the reference to a reality beyond the sign recedes.... The image, the appearance, is everything; the appearance has become the essence. (Kvale, 24)

EXISTENTIALISTS AND POSTMODERNISTS
To the existentialists, the discovery of a world without meaning was the point of departure; today a loss of unitary meaning is merely accepted; that is the way the world is.... The absurd is not met with despair; rather it is a living with what is, a making the best of it, a relief from the burden of finding yoiurself as the goal of life....Local and personality for actions here and now becomes crucial. (Kvale, 25)

THE FICTITIOUS NATURE OF HUMAN ASPIRATION
The world of human aspiration is largely fictitious, and if we do not understand this we understand nothing about man. It is a largely symbolic creation...that permits action in a psychological world...removed from the boundness of the present moment, from the immediate stimuli which enslave all lower organisms. Man's freedom is a fabricated freedom, and he pays a price for it. He must at all times defend the utter fragility of his delicately constituted fiction, deny its artificiality. (Ernest Becker, in And. 34)

SEEING THROUGH OUR FICTIONS
The most astonishing thing of all, about man's fictions, is not that they have from prehistoric times hung like a flimsy canopy over his social world, but that he should have come to discover them at all. It is one of the most remarkable achievements of thought, of self-scrutiny, that the most anxiety-prone animal of all could come to see through himself and discover the fictional nature of his action world. Future historians will probably record it as one of the great liberating breakthroughs of all time, and it happened in ours. (Becker 35)
REIFICATION is the apprehension of the products of human activity as if they were something else than human products--such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will. Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own autheoerships of the human world, and further that the [relationship between man] and his products is lost to consciousness. The reified world is, by definition, a dehumanized world....
Even while apprehending the world in reified terms, man continues to produce it. That is, man is capable paradoxically of producing a reality that denies him.... (Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckman, 36-7, in And.)

ROLES AND REIFICATIONS.
Roles may be reified in teh same manner as institutions.... The paradigmatic formula for this kind of reification is the statement "I have no choice in the matter, I have to act this way because of my position: --as husband, father, general, archbishop, chairman of the board, gangster, or hangman, as the case may be.... There is then a total identification of the individual with his socially assigned typifications. He is apprehended as nothing but that type. (Berger & Luckman, 38)

POWER
In my studies of madness or the prison, it seemed to me that the question at the center of everything was: what is power? And, to be more specific: how is it exercised, what exactly happens when someone exercises power over another?
.... Who makes decisions for me? Who is preventing me from doing this and telling me to do that? Who is programming my movements and activities? Who is forcing me to live in a particular place when I work in another? How are these decisions on which my life is completely articulated taken? ...And I don't believe that this question of "who exercises power?" can be resolved unless that other question "how does it happen" is resolved at the same time.... [This includes] the strategies, the networks, the mechanisms, all those techniques by which a decision is accepted and by which that decision could not but be taken in the way it was."
(Michel Foucault, in Anderson 41-2)

REGIMENTATION
It was, after all, a long elaboration of various techniques that made it possible to locate people, to fix them in precise places, to constrict them to a certain number of gestures and habits--in short, it was a form of "dressage." Thus we see...the appearance of the great boarding schools...the great workshops employing hundreds of workers. What developed then, was a whole technique of human dressage by location, confinement, surveillance, the perpetual supervision of behavior and tasks, in short, a whole technique of "management" of which the prison was merely one manifestation or its transposition into the penal domain. (Foucault, in Anderson 43)

DIFFERENT REALITIES
Giambattista Vico, writing in the early 1700s, held views that were far ahead of his time. He proposed that different peoples of diferent places and times had fundamentally different realities. (And 46)

PLURALISM
"I prefer coffee, you prefer champagne. We have different tastes. There is no more to be said." That is relativism. But Herder's view, and Vico's, is not that; it is what I should describe as pluralism--that is, the conception that there are many different ends that men may seek and still be fully rational, fully men, capable of understanding each other and sympathizing and deriving light from each other, as we derive it from reading Plato or the novels of medieval Japan--worlds, outlooks, very remote from our own. Of course, if we did not have any values incommon with these distant figures, each civilisation would be enclosed in its own impenetrable bubble, and we could not understand them at all. (Isaiah Berlin, in Anderson, p. 52)

OBJECTIVITY
The classical rationalist's premise of absolute objectivity must be given up in favor of a relative objectivity based on the characteristics of one's own culture. (Roy Wagner, And. 55)

DECONSTRUCTION
Deconstruction is not, as it is sometimes taken to be, merely an attempt to destroy or refute an argument. Nothing so straightforward. Rather, it is an attempt to show that words are ambiguous, unsteady on their feet, not to be trusted as dependable representatives of something "out there." ...Human experience is inseparably entangled with our descriptions of it. (Anderson 87)

ETHNICITY
The anthropologist Michael Fischer recently argued..."that ethnicity is something reinvented and reinterpreted in each generation by each individual and that it is often something quite puzzling to the individual." ... Poloitical scientist Benedict Anderson has...has reflected upon the conditions under which modern national and ethnic groups have been invented (or "imagined"). "Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist." ...Tough the revolutionary ideals of egalite or the Declaration of Independence provided the popular slogans for the termination of aristocratic systems, new hierarchiees immediately emerged, often in the name of ethnicity. The nation-state was viewed as an ideal, and ethnic homogeneity or racial purity was advocated by thinkers like Louis Agassiz and Arthur Gobineau....
Assimilation is the foe of ethnicity; hence theire are numerious polemics aganist the blandness of melting pot, maiinstream, and majority culture. (Werner Sollers, And. 63)
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Primary reference: Walter Truett Anderson's The Truth About the Truth: De-confusing and Re-constructing the Postmodern World. New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1995. ALSO SEE Anderson's more recent Reality Isn't What It Used to Be