Ideology and the
'End of History'
Both structuralism and the very different approach of Habermas have recently come under attack from the increasingly influential view of the world known as postmodernism. Postmodernism is almost as elusive a concept as ideology itself.1 This is because – like the terms post-Christian, post-Marxist, post-structuralism – it defines itself negatively. Critical and mockingly destructive, it rejects even very broad and tentative attempts to find some foundation for our thought. It turns all our 'isms' into 'wasms' and resolutely turns its back on efforts to give some overall account of our nature and destiny: it wishes to be post-everything, elevates incoherence to its defining feature, and sees even reason itself as the mere tool of a Nietzschean will to power. All this sounds confusingly relativist. However, no thinkers, not even postmodernists, can be consistently relativists without disappearing completely up their own backsides. So the most useful approach will be to ask whether postmodernism is not itself an ideology which will, in turn, suggest that we look at the social and historical context in which it has arisen and flourishes.
Postmodernism is a reaction to, and an extension of, modernity. It is 'in every respect parasitic on modernity: it lives and feeds on its achievements and on its dilemmas'.2 By 'modernity' here is meant the Enlightenment project of achieving increasing material and moral progress for humankind through the application of science and reason. This project, like the Christianity it was in many ways intended to supercede, involved an account of where we have come from, where we are going, how we can get there, and why we should bother to go. Building on the subversion of the whole of the