資料彙整   /  概念  /  後現代主義相關資料:Critique of Postmodernism
Critique of Postmodernism
Eagleton, Terry.  The Illusions of Postmodernism.  Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996.
His target viii 
In the process, I accuse postmodernism from time to time of 'straw-targeting' or caricaturing its opponents' positions, a charge which might well be turned back upon my own account.  But this is partly because I have in my sights precisely such 'popular' brands of postmodern thought, and partly because postmodernism is such a portmanteau phenomenon that anything you assert of one piece of it is almost bound to be untrue of another.  

Comments: Why, then, all these generalizations?  Why not discuss specific kinds of postmodernism?   

Examples of Eagleton's generalization:  
His view on postmodern politics: p. 24 
The politics of postmodernism, then, have been at once enrichment and evasion.  If they have opened up vital new political questions, it is partly because they have beat an undignified retreat from older political issues -- not because these have disappeared or been resolved, but because they are for the moment proving intractable.  In the early 1970s, cultural theorists were to be found discussing socialism, signs and sexuality, in the late 1970s and early 1980s they were arguing the toss over signs and sexuality; by the late 1980s they were talking about sexuality.  . . . Feminism and ethnicity are popular today because they are markers in the mind of some of the most vital political struggles we confront in reality.  They are also popular because they are not necessarily anti-capitalist, and so fit well enough with a post-radical age. 

His views on postmodern/consumer cultures: p. 28 
It has brought low the intimidating austerity of high modernism with its playful, parodic, populist spirit, and in thus aping the commodity form has succeeded in reinforcing the rather more crippling austerities generated by the marketplace.  It has unleashed the power of the local, of the regional and idiosyncratic, and has helped to homogenize them across the globe.  Its nervousness of such concepts as truth has alarmed the bishops and charmed the business executives, just as its compulsion to place words like 'reality' in scare quotes unsettles the pious Burger in the bosom of his family but is music to his ears in his advertising agency.  It has floated the signifier in ways which cause the autocrats to reach for their banal certitudes, and in so doing so found itself mimicking a society founded on the fiction of credit in which money spawns money as surely as signs breeds signs.   Neither financiers nor semioticians are greatly enamoured of material referents.  . . . 

His defense of Marxism's view of history (teleological or not): p. 46 
"Socialism does indeed posit a telos of a kind: the possibility of a more just, free, rational and compassionate social order.  But so of course do radical postmodernists.  Indeed some postmodernists seem to posit a teleology of a much more ambivalent kind: the idea, for example, that the Enlightenment led inevitably to the concentration camps.  But neither party believes that there is anything historically guaranteed about the goal of a more just society, or that it is somehow even now stealthily at work as the secret essence of the present. 
His critique of postmodernist view of history: p. 46-50 
One vein of postmodernism views history as a matter of constant mutability, exhilaratingly multiple and open-ended, a set of conjunctures or discontinuities which only some theoretical violence could hammer into a single narrative.   . . . The impulse to historicize capsizes into its opposite: pressed to the point where continuities simply dissolve, history becomes no more than a galaxy of current conjunctures, a cluster of eternal presents, which is to say hardly history at all.   . . . 
     (p. 49) In overhistoricizing, postmodernism also underhistoricizes, flattening out the variety and complexity of history in flagrant violation of its own pluralistic tenets.  As Francis Mulhern has written: 

    (The) tacit reduction of history to change -- a kind of hyper-history . . . is the most understandable of polemical habits, but it perpetuates a confusing half-truth.  History is also -- and decisively, for its greater part -- continuity.  The historical process is differential: it is patterned by a pluraltiy of rhythms and tempos, some highly variable, some very little so, some measured by clocks and calendars, others belonging to the practical eternity of 'deep time.'  Historical structures and events . . .are thus necessarily complex in character, never belonging to a single mode (continuity/discontinuity) or [p. 50] temporality.  Contexts are brief and narrow (a generation, a political crisis) but they are also long and wide (a language, a mode of production, sex-gender privilege), and all of these at once.
Postmodernist history, by contrast, tends to be vivid but one dimensional, squeezing out this stratified concept of time for the sake of the short run, the contemporary context, the immediate conjuncture.


Simon, Herbert W, & Michael Billig.  After Postmodernism: Reconstructing Ideology Critique.   London: Sage, 1994.  
ideology critique vs. postmodernism 
  • [optimism expressed in German Ideology in doing scientific study of ideology as ruling ideas.]
  • ideology extended from ruling ideas to that of popular culture by Gramsci
  • scientific rationality and a total crituque of contemporary mass society  put under doubt by the Frankfurt school.
  • As Lyotard argued, the postmodern age is characterized by a loss of faith in the grand meta-narratives.  Chief among these meta-narratives is Enlightenment rationality, which includes Marx and Engels's own 'science' of ideology. p. 5
  • Henri Giroux-- claims that postmodernism has 'declared war on all the categories of transcendence, certainty, and foundationalism'.  In consequence, 'all attempts at defining a notion of the truth capable of sustaining a political project that engages rather than simply dismisses history and meaning have become suspect.'  Thus, the flight from foundationalism, and the suspicion against claims of truth, is at the same time a flight from politics. 
    p. 6  The problem is not that the postmodern spirit lacks a critical impulse, but that critique is running rampant without political direction. 

Selected Essays:  
  • Richard Harvey Brown--Alongside the postmodernist's habitual 'hermeneutics of suspicion', a 'hermeneutics of affirmation' is required.  Rather than a view of 'truth' as an outmoded relic of modernism, one may develop a sense of truth in language.  The entire reconstruction, he suggests, can be intellectually playful but must be politically serious.
  • Steven Cole --turns the insights of contingency theory [e.g. Stanley Fish, Barbara Herrnstein Smith and Richard Rorty] against itself by suggesting that its claim to knowledge about the contingency of our own subjectivity 'is both logically deluded and pragmatically disastrous'.  What is required, he suggests, is a theory of  communication which can make possible the public articulation of an intersubjective world.
  • Dana Cloud --is alone among the contributors in putting forward an unequivocal case for the class-oriented tradition of Marxist ideology critique.  She does this at a time when, as she observes, many self-styled Marxists, having succumbed to postmodern scepticism, advocate a reduced, therapeutic vision of counter-hegemonic resistance.  . . . she concludes, there is a fundamental incompatibility between aspects of the democratic imaginary and radical political goals.  Capitalism is still inimical to the interests of the poor and dispossessed, and, in consequence, traditional class-oriented ideology critique needs to be preserved.

  • BACK

    Norris, Christopher.  What's Wrong with Postmodernism: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy.  NY: Harvester, 1990.  A collection of essays, not very organized.
    p. 4  . . .we have reached a point where theory has effectively turned against itself, generating a form of extreme epistemological scepticism which reduces everything - philosophy, politics, criticism and 'theory' alike - to a dead level of suasive or rhetorical effect where consensus-values are the last (indeed the only) course of appeal. 

    "Lost in the Funhouse: Baudrillard and the Politics of Postmodernism."  pp. 164-193. 
    Baudrillard's critique of Marxism 
    . . . Baudrillard's quarrel with Marxism, developed most fully in The Mirror of Production (1973) Here he sets out to deconstruct the opposition between use-value and exchange-value, the one conceived in terms of 'genuine' needs and productive resources, the other identified with a late-capitalist or consumer economy which invades and distorts every aspect of human existence.    But this is to get the matter backward, Baudrillard argues, since any definition of use-value will have to take account of the socialised desires, needs and expectations which constitute the sphere of values in general.  Thus the positive terms of Marxist theory - labour-power, production, use value, needs - are still caught up in a form of essentialist or metaphysical thinking which in effect reproduces the discourse of eighteen-century political economy. 
    . . .p. 170.  Marx  may have managed to 'transform the concepts of production and mode of production at a given moment', and thus brought about a 'break in the social mystery of exchange-value' which helps to understand the conditions prevailing at that moment.   But Marxism goes wrong when it attempts to universalise such insights, building them up into a full-scale critical theory or 'science' with claims to non-contingent truth. 

    Baudrillard's view of truth 
    . . . p. 171 [Baudrillard's] case therefore rests on the following propositions: (1) that theory is a discredited enterprise, since 'truth' has turned out to be a fictive, rhetorical or imaginary construct; (2) that this prevents (or ought to prevent) our engaging in activities of 'rational' argument or Ideologiekritik and (3) that we must henceforth drop all talk of  'the real' as opposed to its mystified, distorted or 'ideological' representation, since such talk continues to trade on old assumptions that no longer possess any force or credibility. 
    . . . p. 177  the question remains as to whether this persuasive diagnosis of postmodern politics necessarily entails a wholesale abandonment of truth-claims and the reality-principle.  That is to say: does the fact that we currently inhabit an unreal world -- a realm of mass-media distortion, nuclear deterrence, manipulative opinion polls and the rest -- justify Baudrillard in his further assumption that there is no way out, since reality just is (to the rest of our knowledge) the world which we thus inhabit? 

    His similarity to Fish and Rorty 
    There is a parallel here with neo-pragmatists like Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish, those who hold that since all theories, truth-claims, ethical principles, etc. must be construed in terms of some given consensus or 'interpretive community', then we might as well given up such abstract talk and accept that the best we can ever hope to do is argue persuasively within that existing context of belief. 

    Critique: p. 182  Baudrillard's mistake is to move straight on from a descriptive account of certain pervalent conditions in the late twentieth century lifeworld to a wholesale anti-realist stance which takes those conditions as a pretext for dismantling every last claim to validity or truth
    p. 190  [The hyperreal] is a vision which should bring great comfort to government advisers, PR experts, campaign managers, opinion-pollsters, media watch-dogs, Pentagon spokesmen and others with an interest in maintaining this state of affairs.



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