Modernity and Postmodern Culture

Modernity and Postmodern Culture

Modernity and Postmodern Culture

Modernity and Postmodern Culture

Synopsis

• What is postmodern culture?
• Do modern values still matter?
• Why is everyday life now apparently more liberated than in the past yet, at the same time, strangely disconcerting? Modernity and Postmodern Culture is a critical introduction to claims concerning the postmodernization of culture and society. Contemporary culture may be 'postmodern' in the sense of fluidity of meaning, changing power relations and commodification in art, entertainment and everyday life, but modernity persists in the dynamics of capitalist civilization, albeit in an increasingly reflexive mode that is characterized by widespread uncertainty about social existence, progress and rationality. The theories of Baudrillard, Beck, Castells, Giddens, Habermas, Haraway, Jameson, Lyotard and others on the contemporary scene are discussed and specific issues concerning architecture, theme parks, screen culture, science, technology and the environment are examined. Jim McGuigan argues that there have been tensions between instrumental and critical reason throughout the history of modernity that are still being played out. He questions the irrationalist tendencies and, also, the accommodative attitude to prevailing conditions of much postmodern thought, and insists upon the enduring relevance of the Enlightenment tradition to social and cultural analysis.

Excerpt

We live in interestingly uncertain times. Nothing seems to stay the same for very long. The unexpected constantly happens. No belief or system is unassailable, except perhaps for capitalism. The hegemony of market forces and the endless search for profit and capital accumulation rule the world, though by no means unquestioned even now. The rise of the global justice movement around the turn of the millennium produced novel critiques of capitalism (for instance, Klein 2000) and in terms of opposition politics uttered ‘one no’ and ‘many yeses’, as one commentator on the various campaigns and strategies put it memorably (Kingsnorth 2003). Not withstanding anti-capitalist protest, there appears to be virtually no actually existing alternative since the collapse of European communism. Nominally ‘communist’, China took ‘the capitalist road’ to development several years ago, but presently looks very much like a neo-feudal system, with a comparatively small and privileged elite, on the one hand, and a massive serflike labour force on the other. There, the ‘normalization’ of capitalism with its professed ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity would be progressive. Much of the time, it would seem, we are merely talking about rectifying the deformations of capitalism rather than creating something completely different. Writing in 2005, Castro’s Cuba remains a curiously beleaguered anomaly, still a mainly socialist island in a capitalist sea, albeit keen to end its exclusion by the United States from full membership of the international ‘free trade’ economy. North Korean communism is a further anomaly, a sinister and ludicrous trace of an historical delusion that is long past its sell-by date.

Some might reasonably object that this dominance of capitalism, to . . .

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