Drake 258

Modernism vs. Postmodernism

The term "Postmodern" begins to make sense if you understand what "Modernism" refers to. In this case, "Modernism" usually refers to Neo-Classical, Enlightenment assumptions concerning the role reason, or rationality, or scientific reasoning, play in guiding our understanding of the human condition and, in extreme cases of Postmodern theory, nature itself.  Postmodernism basically challenges those basic assumptions.

Modernism (or Enlightenment Empiricism and Humanism)

Postmodernism (or The Post Truth Era?)

Reason and science provide accurate, objective, reliable foundation of “knowledge”

Reason and science are Ideologies in the Nietzschean or Marxist sense: simply myths created by man.

Reason transcends and exists independently of our existential, historical, cultural contexts; it is universal and “true”.

Cultural Relativism: Reason itself is a specific Western tradition (ideology) competing with other traditions, like faith and other cultural means of knowing.

Freedom in the form of democracy and free markets are the natural extension of universally true, reasonable beliefs. "We hold these truths to be self evident...."

Cultural Relativism: Democracy and capitalism are specific Western traditions (ideology) competing with other traditions (China and Russia especially challenge this assumption.

Also, democracy and capitalism, like all ideologies, are often used to colonize foreign cultures (ie Belgian Congo, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan) or subjugate women etc.

Science is an objective means of understanding the natural world and its application can improve our lives.

Nope. Science is ideology. "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." -- Donald Trump

"A majority of people have been paid to say that man is causing the climate to warm up [...] they only get the money if they come up with the right result." Rush Limbaugh

(Note: of course this attacks reaches back to Rousseau and Romanticism.)

Reason will lead to universal truths all cultures will embrace.

“…no eternal truths, no universal human experience, no universal human rights, overriding narrative of human progress” (Faigley, 8).

Language is transparent; a one to one relationship between signifier (word) and signified (thing or concept).

Language is fluid and arbitrary and/or rooted in Power/Knowledge relations. Meaning is fluid and arbitrary. Meaning is “messy”.

In sum: Truth exists independent of human consciousness and can be known thru the application of Reason.

All Enlightenment conclusions lead from this assumption.


In sum: Truth may exist independent of human consciousness but there is no objective means of nailing it down. 

All Postmodern conclusions lead from this assumption.

Existence of stable, coherent “self”, independent of culture and society.

Identity is static: one either is one's racial, ethnic, national or gender identity (the traditional view) or one has an innate identity which should be separated from social influences (Rousseau's romantic view).
The “self” is a myth and largely a composite of one’s social experiences and cultural contexts.

Identity is fluid and performative. There is no true definition of self or even gender; we put on identities as masks or perform our "selves" exactly as do actors on a stage.
Modernist Feminism:  Women are oppressed by patriarchy and can use Reason to achieve both independence and regain their “authentic selves”. Postmodern Feminism: The categories male/female, masculine/feminine are themselves culturally constructed and/or Ideology. Gender roles are culturally relative in all cultures and contexts.

Modern literature and film: Realism. 


Storytelling should mimic a Lockean ideal of how we experience the natural world.

Post Modern literature and film: realism is no more "real" than fantasy. Game of Thrones or the Xmen is no more fantastic or fictional than The Office Breaking Bad.

We are free to tell stories any damn way we want to.

See: PoMo Literature , Drama and Film




 Source: Borrowed heavily from Jane Flax, via Lester Faigley's Fragments Of Rationality