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Features of Postmodernism - Essay Example

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Postmodernism can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyper reality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning…
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Features of Postmodernism
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Download file to see previous pages The modernist believed that science had shaken the foundations of traditional authorities and truths. Modern man could find a new, rational foundation for universal truth; science, particularly, would reveal new truth, which, when applied to modern society and institutions, would literally remake the world. Modernism "... held the extravagant expectation that the arts and sciences would further not only the control of the forces of nature but also the understanding of self and world, moral progress, justice in social institutions, and even human happiness." [2]. Looking to man and not God, the optimism of modernism has proven itself ill-founded. The response has been postmodernism. Postmodernism can be illustrated as a worldview by looking at five presuppositions inherent in the postmodern worldview: (1) The quest for truth is a lost cause. It is a search for a "holy grail" that doesn't exist and never did. Postmodernists argue that objective, universal, knowable truth is mythical; all we have ever found in our agonized search for Truth are "truths" that were compelling only in their own time and culture, but true Truth has never been ours. Furthermore, if we make the mistake of claiming to know the Truth, we are deluded at best and dangerous at worst. (2) A person's sense of identity is a composite constructed by the forces of the surrounding culture. Individual consciousness--a vague, "decentered" collection of unconscious and conscious beliefs, knowledge, and intuitions about oneself and the world--is malleable and arrived at through interaction with the surrounding culture. ...

consciousness--a vague, "decentered" collection of unconscious and conscious beliefs, knowledge, and intuitions about

oneself and the world--is malleable and arrived at through interaction with the surrounding culture. Postmodernism

then, in stark contrast to modernism, is about the dissolving of the self. From the postmodernist perspective, we should

not think of ourselves as unique, unified, self-conscious, autonomous persons.

(3) The languages of our culture (the verbal and visual signs we use to represent the world to ourselves) literally

"construct" what we think of as "real" in our everyday existence. In this sense, reality is a "text" or "composite" of

texts, and these texts (rather than the God-created reality) are the only reality we can know. Our sense of self--who we

are, how we think of ourselves, as well as how we see and interpret the world and give ourselves meaning in it--is

subjectively constructed through language.

(4) "Reality" is created by those who have power. One of postmodernism's preeminent theorists, Michel Foucault,

combines the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's ideas about how those in power shape the world with a theory of how

language is the primary tool for making culture. Foucault argues that whoever dominates or controls the "official" use

of language in a society holds the key to social and political power. (Think, for example, of how official political "spin"

control of specific words and phrases can alter the public perception of political decisions, policies, and events.) Put

simply, Nietzsche said all reality is someone's willful, powerful construction; Foucault says language is the primary

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