Doing Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity critically examines feminist thought from the late eighteenth century to the present. Organized historically and by theoretical perspectives, author Susan Archer Mann:
* Highlights theMore Doing Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity critically examines feminist thought from the late eighteenth century to the present. Organized historically and by theoretical perspectives, author Susan Archer Mann:
* Highlights the relationship between feminist theory and political practice and examines the diversity of feminist visions and voices by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and global location
* Interweaves the history of feminist thought with the history of the U.S. women's movement to ground feminist perspectives in their socio-historical contexts
* Bridges the local and global using theory application sections devoted to feminist analyses of colonialism, imperialism, and globalization
* Offers a critical and dynamic approach to theory that is interdisciplinary and inclusive of alternative forms of theory construction, such as poetry, music, and zines
* Illuminates how transformations in contemporary feminist thought reflect paradigm shifts from modernity to postmodernity
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Zach rated it really liked it
over 3 years ago
An excellent and exhaustive overview of the history of feminist thought from the 19th century to the 21st. Mann does an admirable job of mapping the complex interweavings of influence and disjuncture between each of feminism's many major "factions"; if you've ever wanted. Read full review
Vampire-lk rated it really liked it
almost 3 years ago
It's a good book overall. This was assigned for school, so in typical college fashion it was dense & in-depth with concepts. Hours upon hours to grasp meanings & critical response essays later it was an informative book through the author's point of view and his. Read full review
Alex Forni rated it it was amazing
almost 4 years ago
Tends to meander into a second wave bias occasionally but overall an excellent reference for the learning feminist scholar with plenty of info for further research
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over 1 year ago
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Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity interweaves classical and contemporary writings from the social sciences and the humanities to represent feminist thought from the late eighteenth century to the present. Editors Susan Archer Mann and Ashly Suzanne Patterson pay close attention to the multiplicity and diversity of feminist voices, visions, and vantage points by race, class, gender, sexuality, and global location. Along with more conventional forms of theorizing, this anthology points to multiple sites of theory production--both inside and outside of the academy--and includes personal narratives, poems, short stories, zines, and even music lyrics. Offering a truly global perspective, the book devotes three chapters and more than thirty readings to the topics of colonialism, imperialism and globalization. It also provides extensive coverage of third-wave feminism, poststructuralism, queer theory, postcolonial theory, and transnational feminisms.
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Susan Archer Mann is Professor of Sociology and Director of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of New Orleans. She is the author of Doing Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity (OUP, 2012). Ashly Suzanne Patterson is an instructor of Sociology and Feminist Thought at both Southeastern Louisiana University and Delgado Community College.Details eBook
This accessible guide to the maze of modern sociological theory features a collection of 39 essays written by prominent American and European theorists - representing the last fifty years of sociological work.Features
For each major perspective, includes classical statements of the approach as well as important recent work by contemporary theorists.
I. FUNCTIONALISM AND NEOFUNCTIONALISM.
1. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, On the Concept of Function in Social Science.
2. Robert K. Merton, Prevailing Postulates in Functional Analysis.
3. Charles Ackerman and Talcott Parsons, The Concept of “Social System” as a Theoretical Device.
4. Niklas Luhmann, The World Society as a Social System.
5. Paul B. Colomy, Recent Developments in the Functionalist Approach to Change.
6. Jonathan H. Turner and Alexandra R. Maryanski, Is “Neofunctionalism” Really Functional?
II. CONFLICT THEORY.
7. Anthony Giddens, Time and Space in Social Theory: Critical Remarks upon Functionalism.
8. Ralf Dahrendorf, Toward a Theory of Social Conflict.
9. Lewis A. Coser, Social Conflict and the Theory of Social Change.
10. Randall Collins, Three Faces of Cruelty: Towards a Comparative Sociology of Violence.
11. Randall Collins, Maturation of the State-Centered Theory of Revolution and Ideology.
III. MARXISM AND NEO-MARXISM.
12. Herbert Marcuse, Some Social Implications of Modern Technology.
13. Philip Kasinitz, Neo-Marxist Views of the State.
14. Jürgen Habermas, What Does a Crisis Mean Today? Legitimation Problems in Late Capitalism.
15. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Present State of the Debate on World Inequality.
16. Erik Olin Wright, What Is Analytical Marxism?
17. Lise Vogel, Marxism and Socialist-Feminist Theory: A Decade of Debate.
18. Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr. George Herbert Mead: The Legacy of Social Behaviorism.
19. Herbert Blumer, Society as Symbolic Interaction.
20. George Psathas, Ethnomethods and Phenomenology.
21. A. Lincoln Ryave and James N. Schenkein, Notes on the Art of Walking.
22. George C. Homans, Social Behavior as Exchange.
23. Elaine Hatfield, Equity Theory and Research: An Overview.
24. Nancy C. M. Hartsock, Exchange Theory: Critique from a Feminist Standpoint.
25. Erving Goffman, The Interaction Order.
V. MICRO VERSUS MACRO APPROACHES.
26. George C. Homans, The Present State of Sociological Theory.
27. Bruce H. Mayhew, Structuralism versus Individualism: Shadowboxing in the Dark.
28. Debra Friedman and Michael Hechter, The Contribution of Rational Choice Theory to Macrosociological Research.
29. Randall Collins, Micro-translation as a Theory-Building Strategy.
30. Peter M. Blau, Microprocess and Macrostructure.
31. Pierre Bourdieu, Social Space and Symbolic Power.
32. Anthony Giddens, Agency, Institution, and Time-Space Analysis.
VI. NEW PERSPECTIVES AND APPROACHES.
33. Edward O. Wilson, What Is Sociobiology?
34. William R. Catton, Jr. and Riley E. Dunlap, Environmental Sociology: A New Paradigm.
35. Judith Stacey and Barrie Thorne, The Missing Feminist Revolution in Sociology.
36. Joanne Finkelstein, Considerations for a Sociology of the Emotions.
37. Charles Tilly, Future History.
38. Norman K. Denzin, Postmodern Social Theory.
39. Steven Seidman, The End of Sociological Theory: The Postmodern Hope.
Author: Madan Sarup
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
ISBN: 0820315311 - 9780820315317
Published Date: 1993-8-1
Size: 20299 Kb
Description: Madan Sarup has now revised his accessible and popular introduction to post-structuralist and postmodern theory. A new introductory section discusses the meaning of such concepts as modernity, postmodernity, modernization, modernism, and postmodernism. A section on feminist criticism of Lacan and Foucault has been added, together with a new chapter on French feminist theory focusing on the work of Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva.The chapter on postmodernism has been significantly expanded to include a discussion of Lyotard's language games and his use of the category "sublime." This chapter ends with a discussion of the relationship between feminism and postmodernism. A further chapter has been added on the work of Jean Baudrillard, a cult figure on the current postmodernist scene, whose ideas have attained a wide currency. The chapter includes a new section on postmodern cultural practices as revealed in architecture, TV, video, and film. Suggestions for further reading are now listed at the end of each chapter and are upgraded and annotated.
In tracing the impact of post-structuralist thought not only on literary criticism but on such disciplines as philosophy, politics, psychoanalysis, the social sciences, and art, this book will be essential reading for those who want a clear and incisive introduction to the theories that continue to have widespread influence.
Label: Guide Introductory Post Postmodernism
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Postmodern feminism's major departure from other branches of feminism is perhaps the argument that sex. or at least gender is itself constructed through language. a view notably propounded in Judith Butler 's 1990 book, Gender Trouble . She draws on and critiques the work of Simone de Beauvoir. Michel Foucault. and Jacques Lacan. as well as on Luce Irigaray 's argument that what we conventionally regard as 'feminine' is only a reflection of what is constructed as masculine. [ 3 ]
Butler criticises the distinction drawn by previous feminisms between (biological) sex and (socially constructed) gender. She asks why we assume that material things (such as the body) are not subject to processes of social construction themselves. Butler argues that this does not allow for a sufficient criticism of essentialism. though recognizing that gender is a social construct, feminists assume it's always constructed in the same way. Her argument implies that women 's subordination has no single cause or single solution; postmodern feminism is thus criticized for offering no clear path to action. Butler herself rejects the term "postmodernism" as too vague to be meaningful. [ 4 ]
Arguably, Butler derives this rejection to postmodernism from misreadings of Cherríe Moraga ’s work. “She reads Moraga’s statement that ‘the danger lies in ranking the oppressions’ to mean that we have no way of adjudicating among different kinds of oppressions—that any attempt to casually relate or hierarchize the varieties of oppressions people suffer constitutes an imperializing, colonizing, or totalizing gesture that renders the effort invalid…thus, although Butler at first appears to have understood the critiques of women who have been historically precluded from occupying the position of the ‘subject’ of feminism, it becomes clear that their voices have been merely instrumental to her” (Moya, 790) Moya contends that because Butler feels that the varieties of oppressions cannot be summarily ranked, that they cannot be ranked at all; and takes a short-cut by throwing out the idea of not only postmodernism, but women in general. [ 5 ]Frug
Although postmodernism resists characterization, it is possible to identify certain themes or orientations that postmodern feminists share. Mary Joe Frug suggested that one "principle" of postmodernism is that human experience is located "inescapably within language." Power is exercised not only through direct coercion, but also through the way in which language shapes and restricts our reality. However, because language is always open to re-interpretation, it can also be used to resist this shaping and restriction, and so is a potentially fruitful site of political struggle.
Frug's second postmodern principle is that sex is not something natural, nor is it something completely determinate and definable. Rather, sex is part of a system of meaning, produced by language. Frug argues that "cultural mechanisms. encode the female body with meanings," and that these cultural mechanisms then go on explain these meanings "by an appeal to the 'natural' differences between the sexes, differences that the rules themselves help to produce." [ 6 ] Rejecting the idea of a natural basis to sexual difference allows us to see that it is always susceptible to new interpretations. Like other systems of meaning, it is less like a cage, and more like a tool: it constrains but never completely determines what one can do with it.French feminism
French feminism from the 1970s onwards has forged specific routes in postmodern feminism and in feminist psychoanalysis. through such writers as Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous .
Cixous argued for a new form of writing, writing with the body — a kind of writing rooted not in biology but in liguistic change. [ 7 ]
Irigaray considered that "man would search, with nostalgia and repulsion, in woman for his own repressed and uncultivated natural pole" — something which would "prevent woman from truly being an other for him". [ 8 ]
Kristeva argued that 'woman' does not exist, but is rather in a state of becoming. [ 9 ]
Toril Moi has stressed that issues of difference as well as of femininity are central to the concerns of all the above writers. [ 10 ]Bornstein
Kate Bornstein. transgender author and playwright, calls herself a postmodern feminist. which is not the same as a post-feminist.Critiques
Critics like Meaghan Morris have argued that postmodern feminism runs the risk of undercutting the basis of a politics of action based upon gender difference, through its very anti-essentialism. [ 11 ]
“One of the most appealing aspects of postmodernism to many feminists has been its focus on difference. The notion that women have been created and defined as ‘other’ by men has long been argued and explored by feminists, most notably Simone de Beauvoir. She challenged male definitions of woman and called on women to define themselves outside the male female dyad. Women, she urged, must be the subject rather than the object (other) of analysis.” [ 12 ]
Feminist Moya Lloyd adds that a postmodernist feminism “does not necessarily represent a post-feminism, but alternatively, can affirm feminist politics in their plural, multivocal, fluid, oft-changing hue" [ 13 ]
Post-structuralism is defined in the Penguin Reference, Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, as “. a more rigorous working out of the possibilities, implications and shortcomings of structuralism and it’s basis to Saussurean linguistics itself…. Post-structuralism doubts the adequacy of structuralism and, as far as literature is concerned, tends to reveal that the meaning of any text is, of its nature, unstable. It reveals that signification is, of its nature, unstable.” [ 14 ]
“Post-structuralism, pursues further the Saussurean perception that in language there are only differences without positive terms and shows that the signifier and signified are, as it were, not only oppositional, but plural, pulling against each other, and, by so doing, creating numerous deferments of meaning, apparently endless criss-crossing patterns in sequences of meaning. In short, what are called ‘disseminations.'" [ 15 ]See also References
Week 1: Introduction
Avant-garde / Modernism / Postmodernism
� Geoffrey Kantaris 1997
All I can try to do in less than half an hour today is to sketch in extremely rapid overview some of the theoretical positions underlying the terms avant-garde, modernism, and postmodernism, peppering them with some examples inevitably torn out of context and simplified to fit the framework of my argument. But I'll have achieved what I intended if I can encourage you to follow up through the bibliography some of these ideas.
The terms 'modernity' and 'modernism' are perplexing enough without the addition of the prefix 'post-'. Even the attempt to historicize modernity, to try and define its boundaries historically, is a paradoxical task because, in the words of Tony Pinkney (see bibliography ), modernity's awareness of itself as modern announces [Q] "merely the empty flow of time itself" [U], and its self-periodization is offered only as a break with the "mythic or circular temporality" (or non-temporality) of the organic community. This is to say that modernity can only define itself in terms of a temporal break with an organic past, but it is a break that has always already occurred no matter which moment one chooses as its starting point. Needless to say, this understanding of the infinite expandability of the modern, and the infinite regress of its origins, itself remains caught up within modernism's internal ideology.
Some commentators attempt to align modernity with the rise of the bourgeoisie during the 19 th Century, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and its embrace of rationalism and positivism. Such arguments then see modernity as the culmination of Enlightenment rationality, with its beliefs in science and progress. The argument is often loosely based on Theodor Adorno's and Max Horkheimer's foundational text, Dialectic of Enlightenment. which, written in 1944 towards the end of the Nazi terror, proclaims that [Q] "Enlightenment is totalitarian". Enlightenment rationality is seen as a mode of thought so bound up with knowledge as a form of mastery, that it is destined to reach its grizzly culmination in the rationalized and technologized slaughter of the Nazi concentration camps, as well as, with hindsight, in the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In many such accounts, the Messianic faith of modernity reaches its end in those techno-scientific slaughterhouses too, and the post-war world, dominated economically and culturally by the United States of America, emerges into its post-modern dawn.
Other, more economically grounded arguments, such as David Harvey's meticulously argued book, or Fredric Jameson's more sweeping account, lay less stress on thought or rationality, and more on ideology and the rise of industrial capitalism, with its unleashing of the mobilizing forces of "creative destruction", following Marx's view of capitalism as simultaneously a dissolving and a creative force. It is the phase of capitalist expansion during the 19 th Century, with its radical restructuring of social relations, that distinguishes the modern epoch from everything that comes before. Capitalism, in the Marxist view, is seen as "a social system internalizing rules that ensure it will remain a permanently revolutionary and disruptive force in its own world history" (Harvey, p. 107), or to quote Marx and Engels directly:
Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social relations, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier times. All fixed, fast-frozen relationships, with their train of venerable ideas and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become obsolete before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and men at last are forced to face with sober sense the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men. (The Communist Manifesto. cit. Harvey, pp. 99-100)
For Harvey, very crudely, capitalism has experienced, from the mid 19 th Century onwards, repeated crises of overaccumulation, leading to a phenomenon he terms "time-space compression", after Marx's idea that capitalism is driven through the desire for faster and faster turnover to the "annihilation of space by time". This leads to fundamentally new and disorientating experiences of space and time and in turn to crises in spatial-temporal representation, issuing in strong �sthetic responses. One such period occurs from the 1870s to the 1930s, when capitalism finds a spatial fix to the crisis of overaccumulation in rapid Imperial expansion. Under this argument, the modernist city is, of necessity, the Imperialist city. The latest bout of time-space compression, for Harvey, is the transition, starting in the late 1960s, from Industrial Fordism -- Ford's famous rationalization of capitalist production via the assembly-line -- to a new capitalist regime of "flexible accumulation". It is this shift that marks the transition from modernity to postmodernity within the terms of this argument. The wholesale capitalist takeover of the sphere of culture and representation together with the �sthetic responses generated by this, are part and parcel of this attempt to outline the historical condition of postmodernity.
We have however jumped too far ahead of ourselves, and we need to go back and ask ourselves what continuities and discontinuities there might be between the terms modernism and modernity, let alone between postmodernism and postmodernity. Modernism may of course be considered as a cultural reaction to modernity, whether to the economic, social, or technological environment of high capitalism. If we accept this notion of cultural 'reaction' to a social environment, then we should expect modernism to be sometimes engaged with, and sometimes distanced from and critical of, the experience of modernity. It might try to engage, for example, with heightened experiences of speed and turnover within the urban environment, or it might withdraw from the shocks and jolts of an alienated and alienating social environment into an �sthetic world nostalgic for the lost myths governing an ordered and organic sense of community. Or it might partake of both of these impulses at the same time, becoming internally split, or schizophrenic.
This is more or less the thesis on modernism of Peter B�rger's now classic text, Theory of the Avant-Garde. which attempts to elaborate a theory of the cultural movements extending from the turn of the century until the Second World War. B�rger distinguishes quite sharply between modernism, and what he terms the historical avant-garde or, elsewhere, the revolutionary avant-garde. Modernism, what is even termed �sthetic modernism, is understood by B�rger as a self-protective gesture. Modernist texts -- of which The Waste Land is usually taken as a paradigm -- attempt to forestall their own consumption in the undifferentiated homogenization of either bourgeois utilitarianism, or, at a later stage, of mass-industrial capitalism. The modernist text draws its discourse protectively around itself, resisting its reduction to the status of a mere commodity, in an antagonistic relationship to modernity. While on the one hand it 'thickens its textures' to forestall logical reduction, on the other it is still governed by a desire to re-organize the shattered fragments of modernity into an organic, meaningful whole. Tony Pinkney puts it succinctly in his introduction to Raymond Williams' book The Politics of Modernism. claiming that the great prototypes of twentieth century urban modernism, The Waste Land and Ulysses. are internally split -- there is a dissociation in these works [Q] "between texture and structure, between heightened or even pathological subjectivity and the static absolutist myths which govern these texts" (p. 13).
The important point for B�rger, however, is that the schizoid modernist artefact is unable to recognize its own protective gestures as ideological, nor does it call into question its own institutional status as art: indeed, it can align itself with a highly reactionary politics by highlighting and reinforcing the self-defining institutional role of autonomous art in the face of the 'masses' or 'crowd'. For, under the terms of this argument, the supposed 'autonomy' of art within bourgeois society, as a privileged realm of free play, is in fact in the service of that selfsame bourgeois, capitalist system, providing it with a safety-valve, a neutralized, institutionalized space in which it is possible to believe that one is free.
The avant-garde, on the other hand, is precisely that which recognizes the unpolitical impulses of modernism for what they are and rejects the illusion of �sthetic autonomy within a self-reinforcing 'high' culture. The avant-garde tends to a much more productive acceptance of the energies of popular culture and even mass culture, and, in opposition to high culture as such, attempts to dissolve art into social life, to make its transformatory �sthetic projects into projects for the transformation of the whole of the social sphere, and not of a privileged minority. Walter Benjamin's famous essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' (1936), with its embracing of the politically demystifying possibilities inherent in the mass reproduction of artefacts, the way mass reproduction destroys the aura of distance and autonomy surrounding the work of art, is in clear contrast both to the modernist's lament at the cheapening of art and, as we shall see later, to the postmodern embrace of the mass-reproduced artefact as an emptied-out simulacrum.
Eliot's writings on art and tradition may be taken as emblematic of modernism's problematic relationship to high-cultural tradition. Erik Svarny in a book called The Men of 1914 (pp. 172-3) points out that in 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' there is a curious semantic undecidability given to words like "conformity" and "order" in which the relationship of modern art to tradition slips insidiously between the construction of tradition as an infinitely rewritable text -- a co-hering and con-forming of past and present -- and the establishment of tradition as an authority from whose order the present gains its meaning in conformity. Eliot's poetical texts, too, hover between on the one hand a desperate heterogeneity of clashing discourses which comprise the 'unreal' City, fragmented quotations of tradition as a lost totality which can no longer give any coherent structure to the present, and on the other, the attempt to salvage some sense of 'order' by shoring up identity with these fragments of previous discourses, "these fragments I have shored against my ruins" and "shall I at least set my lands in order?" (The Waste Land. p. 79).
Eliot declared in 1923 that the "mythical method" of Joyce's Ulysses was [Q] "simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history [. ] It is, I seriously believe, a step towards making the modern world possible for art". Eliot, a paradigm of modernism within this argument, whose Waste Land gives us an apocalyptic vision of a sexually (read racially) degenerate, tinned baked-bean-eating mass bourgeoisie, proposes ultimately to bring the modern world into line with the higher aims of art, whereas, it is argued, the artists and thinkers of the revolutionary avant-garde, from the surrealists to Walter Benjamin, are looking for an art form that would turn the forms of ruling culture, �sthetic or otherwise, against themselves.
Theories of modernism, which for Schulte-Sasse include much post-structuralist textual theory from Barthes to Derrida and Kristeva, privilege those modernist authors who foreground their signifying material, seeing in the distorting and disruptive effects of textuality -- the semiotic elements of language -- an inherently revolutionary process at work, one which disturbs and finally undoes all totalizing ideologies. Thus, Rimbaud, Mallarm�, Lautr�amont, Joyce, C�line, Robbe-Grillet and Celan are held up as paradigms of an inherently disruptive 'modern' writing, sometimes even of a 'feminine' writing, which, beyond or rather despite any political 'content' which their texts might contain, just is revolutionary. Politicized theories of the avant-garde. on the other hand, such as those of Walter Benjamin and Peter B�rger, where they pay attention to �sthetic principles tend instead to stress the techniques of fragmentation and montage. Montage and collage are terms which describe a non-hierarchical way of incorporating diverse fragments within the work of art without subsuming them to any totalizing �sthetic order, indeed disrupting any such notion (e.g. Cubism). The emphasis on fragments, or heterogeneous 'chips' of unarticulated experience, is seen as setting up a tension between the annihilated vision of the present as a debased fragment of lost totality and the transformatory, liberating power of remembrance which those fragments enclose, precisely because they liberate us from totality. This radical dialectical vision is perhaps best summed up in Walter Benjamin's description of Paul Klee's 'Angelus Novus', often termed the Angel of History:
[The Angel's] eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. ('Theses on the Philosophy of History', p. 249)
For B�rger, the avant-garde's heroic attempt to sublate art into life, to destroy the autonomous category of art and turn it into praxis, failed, possibly because the bourgeois culture industry was able to incorporate and neutralize even its most radical gestures. Terry Eagleton's essay on 'Capitalism, Modernism, and Postmodernism' interprets postmodernist culture precisely in terms of an emptied-out or hollow version of the revolutionary avant-garde's desire to erase the boundaries between culture and society, claiming that postmodernism [Q] "mimes the formal resolution of art and social life attempted by the avant-garde while remorselessly emptying it of its political content; Mayakovsky's poetry readings in the factory yard become Warhol's shoes and soup-cans" [U].
Eagleton's analysis is hostile to postmodernist culture on account of its ''depthless, styleless, dehistoricized, decathected surfaces'' (p. 132), but above all because it abolishes critical distance and expels political content in its conflation of itself with the form of the stereotype. It nevertheless provides an interesting characterization of the phenomenon which shows how it has developed from a peculiar combination of, on the one hand, �stheticist modernism, from which it inherits the fragmentary or schizoid self, self-reflexivity and fetishism, and on the other, the revolutionary avant-garde, from which it inherits the breakdown of the barriers between art and social life, the rejection of tradition, and pastiche quotation of commodified social relations (p. 146f). For Eagleton, as for a number of commentators, postmodernism does not in any way transcend the politico-�sthetic debates of modernism and the avant-garde, but is seen rather as a collapse into an endless miming of the earlier debates now emptied of any political content. Postmodernism is not a new departure, but is seen as a culture still caught within the very terms of high modernity.
Fredric Jameson, in his programme piece on 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', claims that postmodernism is characterized not by parody, which has a critical ulterior motive, but by pastiche, which is a kind of neutral or ''blank parody'', the imitation of dead styles, pure 'simulacrum ' or identical copy without source (pp. 16-18). By way of response, Eagleton argues that if postmodernism parodies anything, it is parodying, in the form of a sick joke, the serious attempts by the revolutionary avant-garde of the 1930s to dismantle the frontiers between art (as institution) and life (as social praxis). This, he suggests, represents an ultimate irony in that postmodernism achieves this crossover in a way which would have horrified the early practitioners: instead of either resisting commodification in the way that modernism did by withdrawing into self-reflexive, auto-telic isolation, or else passing over into revolutionary social praxis in the ways proposed by the avant-garde, the postmodern artefact sweeps away this opposition by 'discovering' that, since the whole social sphere has already been commodified and �stheticized, turned over to ceaseless mechanical reproduction in the compulsive repetition of the market place, it might as well give up all claims to separate status and simply 'copy the copy', become one more commodity/stereotype -- a 'simulacrum ', copy of the copy for which there never was any 'original'. Whereas this miming of mime might in the 1930s have carried a revolutionary force, an explosive anti -mimetic, anti-representational power, it has now collapsed into mere tautology and compulsive repetition: [Q] "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" (Eagleton, p. 133).
The various arguments over the political 'effectiveness' or otherwise of postmodern artefacts (by which is meant the possibilities they provide for intervention and socio-political change of the commodified relations of 'late capitalism') turn on whether or not any critical stance is maintained in this conflation of artefact and commodity/stereotype, of which Andy Warhol's reproduced images of Marilyn Monroe, fetishized women's shoes or brand-name soup cans have themselves become the stereotypical example, postmodernism's 'already made'. While Eagleton and Jameson argue that postmodernism is characterized precisely by its disinterest in politics, by its blank pastiche, and ultimately by its complicity with doxa and stereotype, Linda Hutcheon in her The Politics of Postmodernism suggests that postmodernism is characterized, rather, by a double-coding, being undecidably ''both complicitous with and contesting of the cultural dominants within which it operates'' (p. 142). One of Hutcheon's main arguments is that [Q] although ''the postmodern has no effective theory of agency that enables a move into political action, it does work to turn its inevitable ideological grounding into a site of de-naturalizing critique'' (p. 3), which is to say that it carries out a work of 'de -doxification' in contrast to Eagleton's view of it as entirely complicit with the doxa or stereotype. I would like to suggest that it is not enough to look for a critical 'intention' inhering in Warhol's soup cans, indeed ultimately it is futile to try to do so -- and I would add that taking these prints as the paradigmatic example of postmodernist �sthetics is itself highly problematic and tends to lead to a flattening out of the debate which some attention to postmodernist narrative might help to resolve. Instead it would be much more fruitful to focus on reception, to look to a strategy of 'reading' the social and cultural sphere which places the onus of the construction of 'meaning' on the viewer/spectator/reader as opposed to the artist/producer/author. Postmodernism may in fact be at its most effective as a strategy for interrogating the way we read socio-cultural codes and objects which surround us.
One of the problems surrounding the debate on postmodernism turns on its lack of a theory of agency. For Jean-Fran�ois Lyotard, the postmodern condition can be defined in terms of what he calls the "death of metanarratives", of the "grands r�cits" of modernity from scientific rationalism, through psychoanalysis, to Marxism. The postmodern era no longer believes in grand narratives of human progress, or in the possibility of an all-encompassing rational standpoint from which it is possible to know the human mind, nor in any grand transformatory political project. The human subject has been colonized by a wholly libidinalized capitalist economy which keeps us in pursuit of the latest commodity. We are the sum of the stereotypes against which we measure our identity, and there is no human agent in control of his/her subjectivity.
In many ways this vision is in stark contrast to one of the most important political movements to have made a successful transition from its foundation at the heart of modernity to the postmodern era, namely feminism. Linda Hutcheon has argued that because feminism sets itself a very precise agenda for social and political change, it tends to maintain a certain critical distance from postmodernism. For example, feminism needs a theory of agency, and needs to be able to understand cultural dominants in terms of 'master' discourses, i.e. literally discourses of the 'Master' which can be contested and overturned, all of which, we are told, postmodernism no longer believes in. It is also likely that the political agendas of various feminisms [Q] ''would be endangered, or at least obscured by the double coding of postmodernism's complicitous critique'' (p. 152). Nevertheless, she argues that there has been an important interchange of techniques and purpose between feminism and postmodernism. Feminism has perhaps to some extent rewritten postmodernism's 'blank parody' (can we any longer refrain from applying a critical feminist reading to Warhol's prints of Marilyn Monroe?), and some feminist practitioners have taken on board postmodern play with stereotype, in ways that provoke a rethinking of our strategies of reading those stereotypes: [Q] ''By using postmodern parodic modes of installing and then subverting conventions, such as the maleness of the gaze, representation of woman can be 'de-doxified''' (p. 151).
Similar to the feminist critique and transformation of the political (non)content of postmodernist culture is that being undertaken by postcolonial critics. Kumkum Sangari, for example, in her essay 'The Politics of the Possible', on the epistemological framing of 'Third World' cultural products by Western postmodernism, argues that postmodern preoccupation with the crisis of meaning does not have universal validity outside of the specific historical conjuncture from which it emerges and which it is completely unable to acknowledge. The dismantling of the "unifying" intellectual traditions of the West [Q] "denies to all the truth of or the desire for totalizing narratives" (p. 243), and, what is worse, for non-Western or peripherically Western countries, postmodernism's denial of agency "preempts change by fragmenting the ground of praxis" (p. 240) at precise moments when such cultures may be engaging in an attempt to produce meaningful historical and/or national narratives (p. 242). Even radical Western theorists of postmodernity, she argues, fail to unpick this new "master narrative" which provides an unexamined frame through which all culture, Western or otherwise, is reduced to the non-dynamics of the Same. [Q] "From there it continues to nourish the self-defining critiques of the West, conducted in the interest of ongoing disruptions and reformulations of the self-ironizing bourgeois subject" (p. 243).
I want to finish this far too hasty birdseye view of the modernism/postmodernism debate with a quotation from Derek Gregory's Geographical Imaginations. itself something of a pastiche of various commentators' views, from Manuel Castells through David Harvey to Fredric Jameson, which underlines from a Marxist perspective the continuity, rather than the disjuncture, between the shrinking experience of space and speedup of time of the modern era, with its rapid global colonization, and an analagous but possibly even more intensified shrinkage of space which we are experiencing towards the end of the Second Christian Millennium:
the emergent forms of high modernity, perhaps even of postmodernity, depend upon tense and turbulent landscapes of accumulation whose dynamics are so volatile and whose space-economies are so disjointed that one can glimpse within the dazzling sequences of deterritorialization and reterritorialization a new and intensified fluidity to the politico-economic structures of capitalism; that the hyper-mobility of finance capital and information cascading through the circuits of this new world system, surging from one node to another in nanoseconds, is conjuring up unprecedented landscapes of power in which, as Castells put it, "space is dissolved into flows," "cities become shadows," and places are emptied of their local meanings; and that ever-extending areas of social life are being wired into a vast postmodern hyperspace, an electronic inscription of the cultural logic of late capitalism, whose putative abolition of distance renders us all but incapable of comprehending -- of mapping -- the decentred communication networks whose global webs enmesh our daily lives. (Gregory, pp. 97-98)
An arbitrary annotated bibliography
Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts into Air. The Experience of Modernity. London: Verso, 1982. [A classic. The title cites Karl Marx's famous description of modernity in The Communist Manifesto .]
Brooker, Peter, ed. and intr. Modernism/Postmodernism. Longman Critical Readers. Harlow: Longman, 1992. [Contains a useful collection of modernist/avant-garde documents by Adorno, Brecht, Lukacs, Benjamin, as well as some fundamental postmodernist ones by Baudrillard, Lyotard, Jameson, etc.]
B�rger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. from the German by Michael Shaw. Theory and History of Literature #4. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984 (1974). [The classic account of the avant-garde project as an attempt to transform the "bourgeois institution of art", arguing that avant-garde art is characterized by an awareness of art's complicity, in its very "autonomy", with the bourgeois social order.]
Docherty, Thomas, ed. and intr. Postmodernism: A Reader. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. [A very useful postmodernist reader with good introductions by Docherty.]
Eagleton, Terry. 'Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism'. Against the Grain: Essays 1975-1985. London: Verso, 1986. 131-47. [Polemic and lively response to Fredric Jameson's programme piece on postmodernism (below). It is highly critical of postmodernism's apolitical/complicitous impulses (as opposed to the historical avant-garde). Has a lot to say about avant-garde/modernism too.]
---. The Illusions of Postmodernism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. [A slightly belated attempt to convince us that we never really believed in the more extreme dictates of postmodern theory; useful in countering its worst excesses.]
---. Walter Benjamin, or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism. London: Verso, 1981. [A brilliant reading of Walter Benjamin's work through the lens of post-structuralist theories, with the aim of shaking up the latter and producing a genuinely political criticism.]
Gregory, Derek. Geographical Imaginations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994. [An excellent overview of trends in cultural theory from the perspective of cultural geography. Has a lot to say about modernity, postmodernity, post-colonial theory, etc. See in particular Chapter 3, 'City/commodity/culture: spatiality and the politics of representation', and Chapter 4, 'Uncovering postmodern geographies'.]
Haraway, Donna J. Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan�_Meets_OncoMouse�: Feminism and Technoscience. New York and London: Routledge, 1997. [A fascinating account of the interfaces between feminism, postmodernism, information technology, and (biomedical) technoscience, concentrating on the proliferating, haunting, hybrids (OncoMouse, FemaleMan) which are materialized from these encounters.]
Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990. [A highly influential Marxist cultural/economic account of the transition from modernity to postmodernity. Includes a reading of Blade Runner and Wings of Desire (Chapter 18).]
Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. New Accents. London: Routledge, 1989. [Good, if at times over-eclectic, introduction to the notion of postmodern narrative as "historiographic metaficiton" and to postmodernism's difficult relationship to left and feminist politics.]
Huyssen, Andreas. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1986. [A classic.]
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London and New York: Verso, 1991. [Rewritten versions of influential polemical essays that set the agenda for the political debate surrounding postmodernism, including the title piece originally published in what was a major running debate in New Left Review (1984).]
Pinkney, Tony. 'Modernism and Cultural Theory', editor's introduction to Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism (below). 1-29. [A very good, sophisticated, overview of the relationship between modernism, Williams' thought, and modern cultural theory.]
Poggioli, Renato. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Gerald Fitzgerald. Cambridge Mass. 1968. [Still cited, but surpassed by B�rger.]
Sangari, Kumkum. 'The Politics of the Possible'. In Abdul R. JanMohamed and David Lloyd (eds.), The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse. Oxford and New York, 1990. 216-45. [An account of the problems involved in the application of postmodern categories to non- or peripherically-Western societies, comparing Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez and Salman Rushdie.]
Schulte-Sasse, Jochen. 'Theory of Modernism versus Theory of the Avant-Garde'. Introduction to B�rger (above). vii-xlvii. [A very useful overview of B�rger's theory, and its limitations, in relation to modernist/post-structuralist theories.]
Williams, Raymond. The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists. Ed. and Introduced by Tony Pinkney. London: Verso, 1989. [A posthumously published collection of Williams' later writings on modernism. See also Pinkney (above).]
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