What is "Postmodernism"?

Paul V. Hartman

     "Modernity" is that period - nearly a century - beginning well before WW2 and ending well after it, in which science established facts, political theory established the social state, secularism overcame religious opinion, and the notion of shame was denied or explained away with various social conventions. It was an era dominated by the thought of Freud and Marx. Its tendency was toward the legitimacy of the social welfare state. Sweden represents its culmination.

     "Post Modern" embraces a period from about 1980 to the present, characterized by the emergence of the postindustrial information economy, replacing the previous classes of aristocracy, middle class, and working class with the new paradigm: information elite, middle class, and underclass. The phrase also implies a nation-state challenged by new world views: feminism, multiculturalism, environmentalism, etc; old scientific certainties called into question; the replacement of mechanical metaphors with cybernetic ones.

     Postmodernism rejects the modernist ideals of rationality, virility, artistic genius, and individualism, in favor of being anti-capitalist, contemptuous of traditional morality, and committed to radical egalitarianism. The most recent feature of PostModernism is the rise of Political Correctness and the attempt to purge dissenting opinion from the ranks of the academic/artistic/professional brahmin caste, together with a systematic attack on excellence in all fields. Post Modernism is an anti-Enlightenment position wherein adherents believe that what has gone before, as "Modernism", is inappropriately dependent on Reason, Rationalism, and Wisdom, and is, furthermore, inherently elitist, non-multicultural and therefore oppressive.

      Finding fertile ground in academic departments of literature (particularly literary criticism), art history, and sociology - and more recently in history and political "science", its origin can be traced to the French academy of the 1970's whose proponents are now called "deconstructionists", the essence of which is that in any literary creation (any "text"), the actual meaning of the screed is to be found in the reader, not in the author. That is to say, it is futile to try and know what an author meant by what is written, but what you Can know is what you interpret from what you have read and That becomes the true meaning. A Text, the postmodernist insists, is "ultimately self-contradictory". (Except, of course, the texts written By postmodernists!)

     In the sense that the Enlightenment encapsulated an acquired series of rational observations into Truths, and then wove those Truths into a coherent philosophy of the world, general laws which apply to it, and the consequences of such laws to its inhabitants, the postmodernists reject the notion that anything can be resolved to be True. Everything is in the mind of the beholder: relative, forever shifting; and anything perceived to be a "fact" is the mere disillusionment of a cultural bias. With such a philosophy, adherents can move beyond the critique of books to the critique of anything, even science, about which they tend to be supremely ignorant. But in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King, and in postmodernism, the man in best possession of obscurantist jargonism is Professor and Chairman of the Department.

     Postmodernism is the unifying philosophy of the academic left which has replaced discredited Marxism. It might also be claimed that Marxism has morphed into postmodernism. Like all academic foolishness, it has an argot of jargon, tropes and incoherent phraseology recapitulated continuously by the cognoscenti. It distills, ultimately, to mere posturing as a substitute for intellectual fervor. Although nothing, according to the postmodernist, can be determined to be "true", postmodernism itself is, of course, True.

      Paying homage at the postmodernist altar are all sorts of new academic disciplines, chief of which are "women's studies", "black studies", and "interdisciplinary studies", and an assortment of nutty crusades such as campus Political Correctness and even environmental wackiness: look at "global warming" for example - the greatest Hoax in human history.

     Nothing is True, and the Believer worships at that altar. These are the truly disenchanted: coagulated in the academy after having been rejected in the real world, they continue their search for a nihilistic nirvana.

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