Start your review of The Illusions of Postmodernism Write a review Jan 02, Yonina Hoffman rated it really liked it I love Eagleton, though at times here he is somewhat less than careful. He straw-mans the versions of postmodernism he attacks, and requires an unfair consistency among the multiplicity of texts that collectively represent postmodern theory. Still, on the whole he is right about postmodern theory and its problems, and I was especially influenced by his discussion of political ideology as connected to pomotheory. Spot on. His key idea seems to revolve around a belief that postmodernism is overly nihilistic and its adherents are pessimists who overlook the obvious. In attempting to pull off his argument Eagleton often reduces arguments to an oversimplification, rarely citing Eagleton is normally an interesting scholar but in this case, he ultimately fails.
|Published (Last):||24 June 2018|
|PDF File Size:||20.82 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||3.4 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
What is parodied by postmodernist culture, with its dissolution of art into the prevailing forms of commodity production, is nothing less than the revolutionary art of the twentieth-century avant garde. It is as though postmodernism represents the cynical belated revenge wreaked by bourgeois culture upon its revolutionary antagonists, whose utopian desire for a fusion of art and social praxis is seized, distorted and jeeringly turned back upon them as dystopian reality.
I say it is as though postmodernism effects such a parody, because Jameson is surely right to claim that in reality it is blankly innocent of any such devious satirical impulse, and is entirely devoid of the kind of historical memory which might make such a disfiguring self-conscious.
To place a pile of bricks in the Tate Gallery once might be considered ironic; to repeat the gesture endlessly is sheer carelessness of any such ironic intention, as its shock value is inexorably drained away to leave nothing beyond brute fact. The depthless, styleless, dehistoricized, decathected surfaces of postmodernist culture are not meant to signify an alienation, for the very concept of alienation must secretly posit a dream of authenticity which postmodernism finds quite unintelligible.
It is impossible to discern in such forms, as it is in the artefacts of modernism proper, a wry, anguished or derisive awareness of the normative traditional humanism they deface. Postmodernism is thus a grisly parody of socialist utopia, having abolished all alienation at a stroke. By raising alienation to the second power, alienating us even from our own alienation, it persuades us to recognize that utopia not as some remote telos but, amazingly, as nothing less than the present itself, replete as it is in its own brute positivity and scarred through with not the slightest trace of lack.
Reification, once it has extended its empire across the whole of social reality, effaces the very criteria by which it can be recognized for what it is and so triumphantly abolishes itself, returning everything to normality. The traditional metaphysical mystery was a question of depths, absences, foundations, abysmal explorations; the mystery of some modernist art is just the mind-bending truth that things are what they are, intriguingly self-identical, utterly shorn of cause, motive or ratification; postmodernism preserves this self-identity, but erases its modernist scandalousness.
The dilemma of David Hume is surpassed by a simple conflation: fact is value. Utopia cannot belong to the future because the future, in the shape of technology, is already here, exactly synchronous with the present. William Morris, in dreaming that art might dissolve into social life, turns out, it would seem, to have been a true prophet of late capitalism: by anticipating such a desire, bringing it about with premature haste, late capitalism deftly inverts its own logic and proclaims that if the artefact is a commodity, the commodity can always be an artefact.
The eschaton, it would appear, is already here under our very noses, but so pervasive and immediate as to be invisible to those whose eyes are still turned stubbornly away to the past or the future. The aesthetics of postmodernism is a dark parody of such anti-representationalism: if art no longer reflects it is not because it seeks to change the world rather than mimic it, but because there is in truth nothing there to be reflected, no reality which is not itself already image, spectacle, simulacrum, gratuitous fiction.
If the unreality of the artistic image mirrors the unreality of its society as a whole, then this is to say that it mirrors nothing real and so does not really mirror at all. Beneath this paradox lies the historical truth that the very autonomy and brute self-identity of the postmodernist artefact is the effect of its thorough integration into an economic system where such autonomy, in the form of the commodity fetish, is the order of the day.
Austin and ibm, or between the various neo-Nietzscheanisms of a post-structuralist epoch and Standard Oil. It is not surprising that classical models of truth and cognition are increasingly out of favour in a society where what matters is whether you deliver the commercial or rhetorical goods. Whether among discourse theorists or the Institute of Directors, the goal is no longer truth but performativity, not reason but power. The cbi are in this sense spontaneous post-structuralists to a man, utterly disenchanted did they but know it with epistemological realism and the correspondence theory of truth.
Lyotard is wisely silent on the class-struggle outside the advanced capitalist nations. It is not easy to see how, if the capitalist system has been effective enough to negate all class-struggle entirely, the odd unorthodox scientific experiment is going to give it much trouble.
Paralogism, like the poor, is always with us, but just because the system is always with us too. Email required.
Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism
The Illusions of Postmodernism