Use and Abuse of Postmodernism (the Undeclared War; Postmodern Management)

By Keating, Craig | Labour/Le Travail, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

Use and Abuse of Postmodernism (the Undeclared War; Postmodern Management)


Keating, Craig, Labour/Le Travail


James Laxer, The Undeclared War: Class Conflict in the Age of Cyber Capitalism (Toronto: Viking 1998).

William McDonald Wallace, Postmodern Management: The Emerging Partnership Between Employees and Stockholders (Westport: Quorum Books 1998).

THE NOTORIETY that postmodernism has achieved in recent times derives from two things. On the one hand, its arrival as a mode of analysis, undermining the established certainties and analytical frameworks of many disciplines, has earned it the enmity of scholars occupying positions across the political spectrum. On the other hand, it has now become something of a commonplace, both popularly and within the academy, that we stand at the dawn of a new postmodern era, one in which the social, economic, political, and cultural arrangements of the modern era begun in the Enlightenment and the revolutions of the 18th century are being fundamentally transformed. As with the arrival of postmodernist analysis, the passage to a condition of postmodernity is deplored by many. Indeed, it is a hallmark of the political left today to stand in opposition to both postmodernism and postmodernity.

Indicative of the left's repudiation of postmodernism is James Laxer's The Undeclared War: Class conflict in the Age of Cyber Capitalism. The central aim of this work is the analysis of what Laxer takes to be a new, postmodern "cyber capitalism," where the triumph of the market and market ideology over social democracy is nearly complete and where class conflict has re-emerged as a major fact of contemporary social existence. While this aim dominates, of clearly equal concern to Laxer is the revindication, through its practical application, of an essentially Marxist social theory (which is to say one which takes the analysis of global capitalism and class relations as essential) against a faddish postmodernism whose effect, he argues, is to reinforce the social arrangements of the new capitalism. So while it is the analysis of postmodernity (which is to say contemporary capitalism) that is front and centre here, Laxer is adamant that this can only be achieved by steering clear of postmodernism, a theoretical framework whose advent is coincident with the rise of postmodernity and with which it is, supposedly, inextricably linked.

It is ironic, however, that Laxer should make theory such an important issue here. For it is the absence of firm theoretical foundations that ultimately undermine his social analysis. As we will see, Laxer wants us to believe that capitalism today is different in its essentials from that capitalism which prevailed from 1945 to 1975 or thereabouts and different yet again from that capitalism which prevailed before 1945. Moreover, he wants to have it that class conflict today pits a capitalist class dominated by a group of the fabulously wealthy "super rich" against a new "working class/middle class," which includes everyone from spotty-faced burger-flippers at McDonald's to tenured academics like himself. What is shockingly absent, however, is a defence of the grounds for speaking of a new capitalism and new social classes. While a fairly traditional Marxism informs some early parts of the book, at the end of the day the mere words "class" and "capitalism" are the pitiful remnants of that theory. In its stead, rhetoric and some very un-Marxist and un-theoretical romanticism, nationalism, and xenophobia become the driving forces of Laxer's analysis. As I will show, a more convincing analysis could be had by simply sticking to Marxism, plain and simple. But sticking to Marxism does not mean turning one's back on postmodernism. For I want to suggest that both Marxism and postmodernism can play an effective role in debunking the impoverished central motivating concept of this book, postmodernity, a concept equally central to a contemporary political discourse so disadvantageous to the left.

Laxer's argument is fairly straightforward. It begins with a reassertion of the existence of social class, a proposition which in and of itself, he argues, transgresses against a "formidable taboo" (32) of an American culture which now has influence throughout the West. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Use and Abuse of Postmodernism (the Undeclared War; Postmodern Management)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.