Term Paper: Post Modernism What Is Post-Modernism?

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Post Modernism

What is post-modernism? What is its relevance to the contemporary world we live in? Is it excessively pessimistic or realistic about political change and popular culture?

There have been numerous attempts to try to identify and better define the world we live in, especially given the ever-changing conditions in our society. Nowadays, the term of globalization has come to impact not only the economic structures of global trade or interconnections at the level of hemispheres, but also it defines social interactions, political attitudes and in essence all elements that make up the global society. From this point-of-view, the debates on actually defining the realities of our time have been significant and without a unanimous consensus over the definition of our current day-to-day reality or our long-term development trends. Post modernism represents yet another perspective from which social, economic, political, and cultural components of the society can be interpreted, defined, and mixed together to provide a better and more coherent account of our reality.

The present research focuses on the role post modernist perception and theory has on the interpretation of current reality, with focus on the political component of social thought. Better said, post modernism provides a different perspective from its modernist or realist predecessors in the sense that post modernism offers a more human oriented approach in defining and explaining current events and trends in the political world. Post modernism as applied to politics considers that the human individual is more influenced to justify the events taking place according to its own perceptions of reality and not according to outside-imposed considerations. As a general trend of post modernism, the personal perception of reality plays a more significant role in defining global reality than in previous approaches.

The focus of the research takes into account the definition of the term post modernism. There is no clear consensus on the definition; yet there are certain principles that are generally visible in the post modernist approach of all aspects of life, from politics to social science, to economics and culture.

The second part of the research takes into account the added value of the post modernist approach. There have been numerous theories that try to explain the changes in society and each of them have considered different aspects of it. Post modernism in this case focuses on the human individual and how it perceives reality, which is an important aspect to be taken into account especially given the general trend of loss of individual identity and globalization of the self.

The third part of the research follows an overall view on the approach promoted by post modernism in the sense that it discusses whether this approach follows a positive or pessimistic trend for the future.

Part one: Definition of term

There is no generally acclaimed definition of the term "post- modernism" largely because the notion is based on a very volatile element: the human individual. Therefore, it is rather hard to determine a clear list of defining elements that define the term. However, there have been numerous attempts to identify the guiding principles of the notion and put together a definition that could embody the complex meaning of this trend.

According to the Oxford Online Dictionaries post modernism represents "a late 20th-century style and concept in the arts, architecture, and criticism, which represents a departure from modernism and is characterized by the self-conscious use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories"

. One of the first elements to be taken into account in this definition is provided by the later part of the text, which underlines the lack of trust in theories. This can be explained by the fact that theories in general have been elaborated to provide a framework for analysis of different aspects of life that needed a more linear explanation or determination. The standard approach that is usually attained by developing a theory, with causes and effects, is often limiting the amount of information that can be interpreted and at the same time it tends to leave out elements that are not in accordance with an already established theory. Theories are effective for providing a general principle for analysis and guidance for further review. However, when there are elements that are independent from any form of standardization, theories in general tend to not take them into account. In the case of post modernism, given that the notion has an important human factor involved, it is very difficult to consider the individual perspective of all human beings, reason for which post modernism can be seen as a theory only in extremis.

According to Kevin O'Donnell, "post modernism is a name given to a range of philosophical positions and aesthetics styles that have developed since the 1950s. It is a diverse movement with some conflicting opinions but the term coheres as it describes several dominant features. (…) the term post modernism was first used by artists in the late 19th century and early 20th century to denote new movements that were breaking free of the old order."

. The definition provided by O'Donnell has another important aspect to be taken into consideration, the idea that post modernism aims to break away from previous theories or approaches. Indeed, as the name states, this approach follows the modernistic approach and can be considered as s revolutionary break away from earlier interpretations.

Another definition of post modernism points out that "in general terms it takes the form of self-conscious, self contradictory, self undermining statement. It is rather like saying something whilst at the same time putting inverted commas around what is being said. The effect is to highlight, or 'highlight' and to subvert, or 'subvert' and the mode is therefore a 'knowing' and an ironic one. Postmodernism's distinctive character lies in this kind of wholesale 'nudging' commitment to doubleness or duplicity. In many ways it is an even-handed process because post modernism ultimately manages to install and reinforce as much as undermine and subvert the conventions and presuppositions it appears to challenge. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to say that post modernism's initial concern is to de-naturalize some of the dominant features of our way of life: to point out that those entities that we unthinkingly experience as 'natural' (they might even include capitalism, patriarchy, liberal humanism) are in fact 'cultural' made by us, not given to us. Even nature, postmodernism might point out, does not grow on trees"

The definition provided by Hutcheon is very significant because the author does not only provide a definition but also sketches a perspective of the postmodernist thought. More precisely, post modernism aims to on the one hand dismantle certain barriers that have been created by previous theories and on the other hand give new meaning to interpretation. Previous theories concerning the analysis of reality have proven to be ineffective particularly because they failed to take into account the volatile nature of interpretation. At the same time though post modernism provides the necessary mechanisms to allow interpretation to take place. In the postmodernist approach reality is created through interpretation and is not a given fact. The major difference between post modernism and other theories lies in the precise role given to interpretation. This interpretation however is only possible at the level of the human mind and through the lens of the human individual with its background, knowledge, and personal experience. From this point-of-view, post modernism provides an increased role to the human being, which is, in the end, the smallest yet the most significant element of the society.

Given all the above, it can be said that post modernism is clearly defined by several factors. Firstly it represents a reaction to the notion of theory. This is due to the belief that theories usually constrain individuals to certain limits. Secondly, post modernism is a reactionary movement, as it breaks free from previous orders created by theories and trends alike. Thirdly, post modernism can achieve this break precisely because it takes into account the contribution of the individual to determining a post modernist approach. Unlike other theories that tend to observe the social behavior and then theorize it, post modernism concluded that this current trend, which bases itself on an ever-changing environment led by human interpretation, represents a post modernist thought. Finally, humans with different backgrounds and perceptions create the interpretation and the trends. When doing so, these backgrounds and perceptions become "public" goods and enter a continuous cycle that defines development

Part two: Post modernism and its relevance for the world

Post modernism as a general trend and through its approaches has appealed to several aspects of human development, starting from architecture, to culture, economics, and politics

. As mentioned by Jameson, post modernism has influenced the way in which even history is perceived at the level of human understanding. More precisely, "as for 'real history' itself -- the traditional object, however it may be defined of what used to be the historical novel… [END OF PREVIEW]

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