4 Debates about postmodernism and whether it is really a useful

4 Debates about postmodernism and whether it is really a
useful theory or not.
Lyotard and Baudrillard share a belief that the idea of truth
needs to be ‘deconstructed’ so that we can challenge dominant
ideas that people claim as truth.
There are always competing versions of the truth. A
postmodernist cannot wish to remove one version of the truth
and replace it with the ‘correct’ one. All notions of truth must be
viewed with suspicion.
Postmodernism challenges the very notion of truth….and
certainly disputes the idea that we should live our lives by
adhering to widely perceived ideas of the truth (through religion
Many critics see this position as offensive. They believe that it is
a luxury of people who live in advanced, rich nations and
democratic states to take this ‘playful’ stance on matters of
truth… (JM, 138) For example, many people in sub-Saharan
have to face very fundamental truths every day…truths about
the need to eat to survive etc
The denial of ‘grand narratives’ and moral principles in
postmodernism is also objected to by people who have religious
convictions and attach importance to moral principles.
If truth is absent, many would argue that we sink into a moral
relativism where ‘anything goes’.
Even if you accept the idea that there is such a thing as
postmodernism, many would suggest that its time has now
passed. It has been argued that the events and aftermath of
9/11 have undermined postmodernism’s belief that we have
reached the end of ‘grand narratives’. Religious fundamentalism
is perhaps the ultimate grand narrative. Did postmodernism get
it wrong? Possibly, but there is an argument put forward by
some that 9/11 reminds us of why we need postmodernism to
try to challenge the authority of ‘grand narratives’.
Postmodernism has emerged from so many different disciplines
that it is notoriously difficult to define. How much value can we
ascribe to theory which remains so elusive? If it is difficult to
define what postmodernism is all about, might we conclude that
there is nothing really there: there is nothing at its heart.
Postmodern challenges the ideas of core truths/principles. By
disputing the very notion of core truths, it would be
contradictory for postmodernism to establish a coherent and
clear set of central ‘postmodern ideas’. It has therefore become
impossible for postmodernism to coalesce around a shared
ideology (it challenges the idea that you should/could have one)
and as a result has postmodernism denied the possibility that it
can make a difference.
Some would argue that postmodernism is really a descriptive
rather than prescriptive movement. It tries to describe current
phenomena but does not really move towards any idea of how
we should progress from this point. In many ways, it even
disputes the idea that we can make progress.
Can you really separate postmodernism from modernism? One
criticism of postmodernism is that it is not as new as many
would claim it to be. In particular,
intertextuality/pastiche/parody are often seen as key
characteristics of postmodernism but, it is argued, they can also
be seen as characteristics of many modernist texts: ‘Joe Dante’s
films may be marked by a plundering of all kinds of popular
cultural sources, but then so is James Joyce’s Ulysees, a high
modernist novel’.
It is important to remember that not everyone agrees with the
ideas of postmodernism….Many would dispute the ideas
commonly associated with postmodernism.
‘Although the omnipresence of the postmodern and its advocates
would seem to suggest otherwise, not everybody subscribes to the
view that language constitutes rather than represents, reality; that the
autonomous and stable subject of modernity has been replaced by a
postmodern agent whose identity is largely over-determined and
always in process; that meaning has become social and provisional; or
that knowledge only counts as such within a given discursive
formation, that is a given power structure.’ Hans Bertens (1994)