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Postmodernism - Conceptual Postmodernism And Postmodernist Theory, Cultural And Political Postmodernism, Postmodernism In Literature And Art, Bibliography

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Few terms in the contemporary critical lexicon have been as vociferously debated and as persistently unstable in meaning and use as postmodernism and its various avatars, such as postmodernity. In spite of this instability, postmodernity may be defined as a broad category designating the culture that historically extends from the late 1960s to the early twenty-first century, and that is economically determined by postindustrial capitalism. Postmodernism would refer, more narrowly, to the characteristic intellectual and aesthetic currents and practices of that era, reflected, for example, in certain philosophical ideas or works of literature and art.

The terms postmodernity and postmodernism also suggest a break, respectively, with modernity, determined economically by capitalism and culturally by humanism and the Enlightenment, and with Modernism, the literary and aesthetic movements of modernity in the late nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. While the distinction between modernity and postmodernity can be made without much difficulty, the distinction between modernism and postmodernism is more complicated. Some early critics argued that postmodernism was not really "post" at all, but simply "late" modernism. It quickly became apparent, however, that, despite its continuities with modernism, postmodernism does represent a definitive break from its predecessor, as well as a broader overall phenomenon, which includes in particular postmodernist theory.

Arguably the single most crucial conceptual determinate of the postmodern era and of postmodernism, defining this break, is an uncontainable and irreducibly de-centered multiplicity of coexisting cognitive and cultural paradigms, without any one of them being uniquely dominant or central. This postmodern de-centering, however, is defined not by the absence of all centrality, but by multicentering as the emergence of many centers and claims upon one or another centrality, including by previously marginalized fields and groups. Multiculturalism and related trends may be best seen as reflections of this situation, whose cultural and political implications, however, have a much greater scope.

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