2
A Society in Transition

My own feeling is that while postmodern social theory is articulating real problems and posing important challenges to radical social theory and politics today, it is exaggerating the break, rupture, and alleged novelty in the contemporary socio-historical epoch and is downplaying, and even occluding, the continuities. Adopting a term of Max Horkheimer, I would prefer to speak of a “society in transition” rather than a completely new postmodern social formation.

— Douglas Kellner, “Postmodernism as Social Theory: Some Challenges and Problems”


Society and Theory Today

Postmodernity and late modernity are as much social and historical categories as they are philosophical concepts. As stated from the outset, if the nature of our present is to be properly understood, it must be assessed first and foremost as a social condition. Only by identifying and explaining the social-structural and cultural developments of our time can we fully understand the concepts of postmodernity and late modernity as philosophical ideas and political projects. Therefore we begin by comparing two different sociological accounts of the current condition of affluent Western societies.

The current state of social theory can be defined in terms of the oppositional relationship between modern and postmodern models of social and cultural change. 1 Most practicing sociologists remain committed to the modern agenda. 2 They interpret our current condition as a transition

-17-

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Negotiating Postmodernism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - The Nature of Our Present xvii
  • Part I 1
  • 1 - The Modern-Postmodern Debate and Its Legacy 3
  • 2 - A Society in Transition 17
  • Part II 41
  • 3 - The Idea of Critical Postmodernism 43
  • 4 - Foucault's Presence 66
  • Part III 93
  • 5 - Complexity, Governmentality, and the Fate of Democracy 95
  • 6 - Postmodern Strategies and Democratic Politics 122
  • Conclusion - Negotiating the Late Modern/ Postmodern Transition 144
  • Notes 149
  • Index 181
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