Pomo: nothing new under the sun?

Sun, 5 Dec 1993 12:35:05 EST

Philosophers have debated many of the ontological, epistemological, and moral
issues within the 'postmodern' constellation for a long time. Postmodern
philosophy recapitulates many old ideas and revives many old debates. But
then that's the whole point. "Postmodern" does not mean modernity is
negated (that would be antimodernism) - it means an attempt to combine the
achievements of modernity with some of what came before; maybe these past
debates about subjectivity, truth, and logic are not quite dead.
But there's something new to pomo - something that begins with McLuhan
and takes off with Baudrillard. The pervasive feeling that all of us are
living in hyperreality as a result of the new technologies of representation;
that if it was tough before to figure out the shadows on the cave wall, it's
really tough when it's your VCR that's putting them up there... that something
has changed fundamentally in our post-industrial, information-economy,
post-ideological era - a certain condition of our existence that gives old
debates a new and heightened importance.
The big question for pomo anthropologists is that while Western
industrial societies are moving out of industrialization, other
preindustrial societies are moving in... do they have to go through
modernity first to get to the postmodern condition? Or will Western
commodities and technologies help them get their $200 without passing go
first, if you get my metaphor... is the whole world now thoroughly enmeshed
in the postmodern condition, or is it just those passing through "the
cultural logic of late capitalism?"
Is 'postmodernity' itself now superseded? I have seen academics say
with a straight face that we're now in post-post-modernity. IMHO, academia
has just jumped on a truck that was already underway and turned it into
an academic papermill. The postmodern condition *is* here, whether academics
want to acknowledge it or not, because it is firmly entrenched in just about
every form of popular and folk culture, and won't go away just because we
want to move on. It may in turn be superseded by something else, but I don't
have the faintest as to what will do the job. After all, one could argue that
modernity was only given about 70 years or so (1898-1968) before it was
chucked. So maybe pomo only gets 25. (1968-1993)