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19 Characteristics of Postmodernism

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Postmodernism is a rejection of the very idea of objectivity and universal truisms in favor of subjective experience and flexible realities. This is a broad movement in social sciences, art and architecture that is still emerging such that it is notoriously difficult to define. Practically any venturesome liberal idea that has emerged since 1970 has been labeled as postmodern such that it lacks consistency and cohesion as a school of thought. The following are broad characteristics that can be ascribed to postmodernism.

Relativism

Rejection of the very idea that universal truths exist.

Rejection of Objectivity

A rejection of the existence of objectivity and sense that historical and current truisms are simply imposed by oppressive power structures. Facts may be viewed as tools of oppression invented by the system or simply as meaningless and flexible trivia.

Complexity

A rejection of the minimalism that characterized modern art and architecture.

Abstraction

Embrace of jargon and complex theories that are heavily abstracted with many conceptual layers such that they are almost impossible to communicate in plain language.

Power Structures

Postmodern theory tends to view history, society, culture and language as imposed by oppressive power structures.

Social Constructs

A willingness to dismiss things that are widely viewed as objective reality as mere social or cultural constructs.

Language Engineering

A tendency towards claiming historical words are invalid and inventing new words that signal inclusion in postmodern tribes. Popular and historical language may be viewed as a tool of oppression layered with concepts that reinforce power structures.

Absurdism

The idea that it is impossible to define any inherent meanings about anything. A type of extreme skepticism.

Embrace of Subjective Experience

The embrace of subjective experience such as an emotion. For example, the argument that no one can tell you that your emotions aren't important or relevant with an objective argument.

Idealism

The idea that reality is defined by fiction and not the other way around.

Nihilism

Postmodernism suggests that life has no objective meaning but perhaps leaves the door open to subjective meaning set by each individual.

Materialism

Generally speaking, postmodernism embraces materialism and consumerism and the general view that economic competition and material success is the goal of life.

Individualism

Extreme individualism to the point that reality itself is subjective.

Culture

Postmodernists view culture as a flexible thing that can be defined by two or more people. Western postmodernists have a tendency to view large Western cultures such as American culture as oppressive or otherwise deeply flawed. However, they have an aversion to criticizing cultures outside their own due to their relativist approach that views reality as a subjective experience that can only be understood from the inside.

Rejection of Agency

A depreciation of individual agency in favor of the idea that we are victims of society, systems, history, tradition and norms. Power structures are viewed as deep conspiracies that are all powerful and individuals are viewed as blameless and helpless unless they are identified as part of the power structure.

Medicalization

The view that a wide range of common human behaviors are a medical problem and a tendency to explain a great number of things with concepts from popular psychology.

Critical Device

Postmodernism is ideally designed to knock down other theories and win arguments. For example, rejection of objective truth with the view that your subjective truth and self-invented concepts are reality is a pretty good way to feel that you win every argument.

Ideology

The relativist idea that each individual has the right to create their own ideology and enforce it in their dealings with society.
If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and those who claim to be the bearers of objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, we Fascists conclude that we have the right to create our own ideology and to enforce it with all the energy of which we are capable.
― Benito Mussolini, "The Lasting" (1921) as quoted in Rational Man : A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics (1962) by H. B. Veatch

Summary

Postmodernism is a broad academic trend based primarily on relativism and social constructionism. The following are basic characteristics of postmodernism.
Overview: Postmodernism
Type
Definition
A rejection of the very idea of objectivity and universal truisms in favor of subjective experience and flexible realities.
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Next: Relativism

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References

Featherstone, Mike. Consumer culture and postmodernism. Sage, 2007.
Hutcheon, Linda. The politics of postmodernism. Routledge, 2003.
Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Duke University Press, 1991.
Eagleton, Terry. The illusions of postmodernism. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Lash, Scott. Sociology of postmodernism. Routledge, 2014.
Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems. routledge, 2002.
McRobbie, Angela, and Angela Mcrobbie. Postmodernism and popular culture. Routledge, 2003.
Conrad, Peter. The medicalization of society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Grant, Iain H. "Postmodernism and science and technology." The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism, London (2001): 65-77.
O'neill, John. The poverty of postmodernism. Routledge, 2002.
McHale, Brian. Constructing postmodernism. Routledge, 2012.
Featherstone, Mike. Undoing culture: Globalization, postmodernism and identity. Vol. 39. Sage, 1995.

Social Constructs

The definition of social construct with examples.

Philosophy

An overview of philosophy with examples.

Materialism

The definition of materialism with examples.

Individualism

The definition of individualism with examples.

Holism

The definition of holism with examples.

Reality

The definition of reality with examples.

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Mediocrity

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Randomness

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Determinism

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