Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview

6
Structuralism, Deconstruction, and Post-Modernism

The Coming of a New Age

In the 1970's a new age emerged without fanfare and almost imperceptibly. By the beginning of the eighties, the manifestations of a new era were in place. The coming of a new age was not announced by dramatic events like a war or depression, although the ending of the Vietnam War was a salutary and necessary preparation. After the dramatic events of the sixties, a new era whose characteristics were soft rather than hard news was bound not to be much celebrated by the media. But by the mid-eighties it was obvious to more intelligent journalistic commentators and to cultural critics that a new time was rapidly developing.

Three technological innovations comprised a material and scientific infrastructure for the new era: biotechnology, computer applications, and instantaneous world information distribution through communication satellites.

Biotechnology was the outgrowth of the discovery of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule in 1953 at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England (which Rutherford had once directed), by the joint efforts of the English biophysicist Francis Crick and the young American molecular biologist James Watson. For more than a decade DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) had already been identified as the template of animate life. The issue was to identify its structure so that it could be controlled and manipulated by laboratory science. It was this possibility that Crick and Watson's discovery made possible, and for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize (although two other teams of scientists, one in London and one at CalTech, were on the verge of the same discovery.)

This was a scientific breakthrough in biology comparable to the work of Darwin and Mendel in the nineteenth century. It meant that the New Physics of Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, and Heisenberg would now be applied in molecular biology and be committed to the analysis and shaping of life forms. By the mid-seventies advanced work in molecular biology had spawned vast new areas of biological engineering. A technology devoted to the artificial, lab-centered creation of life constituents emerged. By 1986 vaccines made of genetic mutants were introduced.

Biotechnology opened up unlimited horizons of accomplishment in science and engineering. It meant that mankind was beginning to control not just his

-337-

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Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • 1 - The Nineteenth-Century Foundations of Twentieth-Century Culture 1
  • 2 - Modernism 35
  • 3 - Psychoanalysis 135
  • 4 - Marxism and the Left 183
  • 5 - Traditions on the Right 261
  • 6 - Structuralism, Deconstruction, and Post-Modernism 337
  • Conclusion 391
  • Cultural Analysis through Film 405
  • Select Bibliography 419
  • Index 429
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