Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies

By Jere Paul Surber | Go to book overview

some attempt to reestablish a "true" or "point by point" representation of some externally existing reality--no map ever is, and the postmodern global situation is unrepresentable in such form in any event--but rather, an aesthetic as well as theoretical attempt "to grasp our positioning as individual and collective subjects and regain a capacity to act and struggle which is at present neutralized by our spatial as well as our social confusion. Jameson, of course, believes that seeing postmodernism as "the cultural logic of late capitalism" clears the way for an "as yet unimaginable new mode of representing" this global postmodern condition.


Conclusion

While poststructuralist and postmodernist approaches tended to dominate debates about cultural criticism through the 1970s and most of the 1980s and are still influential in certain circles, there were signs, beginning in the mid-1980s, that their heyday had begun to wane. In the case of each of the "metaphysical unities" that poststructuralism had attempted to decenter--subject, text, and history--efforts have appeared to reconstruct them in ways that, while remaining sensitive to poststructuralist critiques, permit new ways of theorizing contemporary culture and actively intervening in it. Such figures as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari perhaps paved the way already in the 1970s in France by decisively rejecting the pantextualism characteristic of structuralism and poststructuralism. In such works as Anti-Oedipus ( 1972), they insisted on the interplay of Freudian desire and Marxian production, neither representable in purely textual terms, as the ultimate basis for any critique of contemporary society. By the mid-1980s, a younger and decidedly more liberal and humanistic generation, sometimes called the "New Philosophers," had arisen in France and had begun to attack the radical posturings of both the poststructuralists and the Marxist tradition stemming from Althusser.

Typical of these new attitudes was French Philosophy of the Sixties. An Essay on Antihumanism ( 1985), by Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut. Relating the "radical French philosophy of the '60s" to the emergence and subsequent failure of the student uprisings of 1968, the work was a scathing critique of the poststructuralists' fascination bordering on obsession with Nietzschean irrationalism and (especially) its extreme mystification in Heidegger, and of certain neo-Marxists with a deterministic and essentially Leninist version of Marx. Pointing to the explicit embrace of an antihumanist stance in both cases, Ferry and Renaut sought a critically chastened return to the subject, one at least adequate to preserving and justifying the democratic and humanistic ideals of the original modern project of the Enlightenment.

Likewise, the radically decentered text of poststructuralism has come under fire from a number of different directions. While few have attempted to reinstate the text as some "transcendent metaphysical unity of meaning," a number of critics have called attention to certain determinate ways in which texts achieve partial

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