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Cultural And Political Postmodernism

The cultural formations and aesthetic movements of postmodernism are intricately bound up with both the ideas of conceptual postmodern ism and the economic, technological, and political transformations of postmodern ity. A dramatic example of this entanglement is the relationship between "the disappearance of the real," which is an epistemological conception, and media culture. Jean Baudrillard observed that by the late twentieth century, media technologies in their roles as technologies of reproduction and representation, had become so advanced that images or copies have become "simulacra," reproductions sufficiently powerful that they first obscure, then displace, and ultimately replace and function as "the real." This instability in the distinction between reality and representation is an abiding theme and hallmark of postmodern culture and art.

Postmodern technologies are also transforming other fundamental concepts and categories through which people understand the world and themselves. As postmodern bioengineering and genomic technologies erode the distinction between human and machine, humans and their conceptions of themselves are being reshaped and reimagined to an unprecedented degree. Technologies of transportation and communication are creating the "spatialization of experience" and the concomitant disappearance of the temporal, which are linked to a postmodern subjectivity that is fragmented and contingent, an intersection of fluctuating "positions." This spatialization of experience and the loss of a sense of history accompanying it, Fredric Jameson argues, impair the ability of postmodern subjects to "cognitively map" their positions in relation to the increasingly complex political and economic systems of global capitalism.

For Lyotard, postmodernity potentially offers a new and better ground for the practice of democracy and justice. He argues, against Jürgen Habermas, that de-centered postmodern heterogeneity makes obsolete the Enlightenment ideal of consensus, which all too frequently required the suppression of minority dissent. Postmodernity, with its heterogeneous interests and worldviews, allows previously oppressed or marginalized groups to make claims upon justice, and upon a position of centrality, even in the absence of majority consensus concerning such claims.

The status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age.… Postmodern knowledge … refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable.

SOURCE: Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.

By contrast, Jameson defines postmodernism as "the cultural logic of late capitalism," for him an inherently unjust formation. The material structures of postmodern technologies, local and international politics, and global capitalism, he argues, ultimately determine our experience of postmodernity and the nature of postmodernist culture and art, and thus put justice in conflict with postmodernity.

Most current views of postmodernity and postmodernism may be positioned between these two visions, between the justice of the heterogeneous and the "cultural logic" and unbridled power of global capitalism. If, however, one combines the views of Lyotard and Jameson, cultural postmodern ism embodies two competing and conflicting drives arising from capitalism and democracy defining postmodern ity. Globalization, in its positive and negative aspects, comes with postmodernity, and together they give rise to conceptual, cultural, and political postmodernism across the geopolitical landscape of both hemispheres.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Positive Number to Propaganda - World War IiPostmodernism - Conceptual Postmodernism And Postmodernist Theory, Cultural And Political Postmodernism, Postmodernism In Literature And Art, Bibliography