notes: on Postmodernism and its detractors who unwittingly characterize it

The word “postmodern” doesn’t pop up in casual conversation very often and the topic isn’t often the subject of news or poetry. It isn’t the concern of medicine or business. The only times I can recall having heard or read the word “postmodern”, in fact, have been when someone was hunting for a word while running out of vocabulary, roughly synonymous with “liberal” or “elitist”.

Invariably, talk about postmodernism isn’t in praise of doubt or variations of moral perspective, but is predicated instead on derisive critique of the worst caricature of “difference politics” or “relational value”. The words takes on a meaning like

Frederick Schmidt makes reference to “postmodernism” with no irony in evidence:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whatgodwantsforyourlife/2014/11/its-not-all-about-you/

[one inevitable reply worth noting doesn’t meanwhile have much to say about postmodernism per se: originally posted here:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/marginoferr/2014/11/22/then-who-is-it-about-exactly/ ] .

various cult/political apologists

…attempt to leverage [a contempt for postmodernism] [popular knee-jerk reaction against the very word postmodern — meaning “postmodern philosophy”, of course, not Post Modern art or architecture (necessarily)] all the while using the very relativizing and contextual ideas of postmodernism! Just for the record, postmodernism is a great philosophical and artistic movement having many more strengths than weaknesses.

It seems to me that it is the ideologues who suffer the most from its critiques tend to be the ones who seem to expend the most effort lampooning and mischaracterizing it. But then, that is giving too much credit. Most people I’ve taken the time to ask turn out to have precisely no idea what postmodern thought consists of!

Schmidt:

The fact that this kind of argument gets any traction at all can be traced to simple self-absorption…[and] to the frustrated outlook of post-modernists who, fed up with the effort to make sense of the world around them, are now content with smaller worlds of meaning: work… relationships… gods… who [sic] is meaningful to me

  • The flippant critique of postmodern thought does typically center around themes of narcissism, frustration, wishful thinking and an inability (or unwillingness) to making sense of the world.

  • religious adherent seems self-absorbedly engaged in elevation of self-described spiritual significance in his own work, his own relationships, and his own conceptualization of gods!

  • narcissism is appealed to vividly by manufactured and personalized cult dogma in which a “god said” and established for its self-absorbed followers a special “world of meaning” in which he is the center of attention!
  • “revelation” is, conveniently, always on the word and authority of a person who has something to gain from being taken seriously.
  • I wonder how frustrating it must be to force a relativized “world of meaning” to fit with the world of experience and world of interpersonal relation. This mimics the absurdist’s characterization of postmodernism: a special and exclusive context in relation to all known and communicated facts and investigations of facts.
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