September 21, 2019

Postmodernism: A Postmodern Approach

“What was Postmodernism? In the 35 years since Fredric Jameson’s New Left Review essay “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” — and the 40 years since the publication of Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition — it’s fair to say that no other idea from the academic humanities has had so vast, if murky, an influence on the broader culture. (Often assumed to be a proponent of postmodernism, Jameson is rather its diagnostician.) Seinfeld was said to be “postmodern,” and so was the architecture of Frank Gehry. So, too, was the “fashionable nonsense” targeted by Alan Sokal in his infamous 1996 Social Text hoax. As the recent “Sokal Squared” hoaxes showed, the specter of postmodernism continues to be a useful cudgel wielded against the university.

Debates about postmodernism have returned, in both vulgar and sophisticated forms — from Jordan Peterson’s crusade against “postmodern neo-Marxism” to Bruno Latour’s defense of climate science to Rita Felski’s probing of “the limits of critique.” And the accelerating media bombardment enabled by our proliferating devices has only intensified what Jameson, all those years ago, called the “transformation of the ‘real’ into so many pseudo-events.”

In that spirit, we asked 10 contributors to reflect on the continuing relevance — or irrelevance — of postmodernism to the academy and the larger culture.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Blackface. I’ve been writing about, and researching – and opposing – racism for more than thirty years. And make no mistake: blackface isn’t funny. It’s racist. Ask Megyn Kelly. A year ago, the former Fox News star was filming a segment about..."

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “selfie line” may be a “political phenomenon,” according to CNN, but it’s also a misnomer, twice over: The photos that supporters end up with aren’t technically selfies—campaign aides snap them—and no one waits in a line..."

"In the archives of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, there is an old postcard from the city aquarium of a large sea turtle with four boys straddling its back. The turtle lies flattened upon a pathway in front of a fence. At the feet..."

"As we celebrated my granddaughter’s third birthday this summer, I made the following rough calculation: I’d trekked from my home in New Jersey to her Brooklyn apartment roughly 150 times to provide once-a-week day care, plus other times as needed."

"That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our..."

"It was the 2019 Pet Sematary that finally broke me. Was this really necessary? I seethed in a theater earlier this year, at a loss for why anyone would green light a self-serious update to a 30-year-old so-bad-it's-good movie. "Update," even, was.."

"Tuesday was election day in Israel. But no winner has yet been declared. As of this writing, it appears that the parties committed to supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister will not win a majority in Knesset. At the same time, the..."

"The last time Netflix asked me “Are you still watching?” I had to think really hard about it. Was I still watching? Or at least enough to make my $16-a-month payment worth it? The subscription economy can be a wonderful thing. We don’t have to..."