Beyond Pomo

Mon, 6 Dec 1993 14:46:13 EST

Ok, let's see if I hit all the points I wanted to-
1. Yeah, I think the term "postmodern" is problematic because it seems to
return one to linear-evolutionary thinking. That was precisely what I was
questioning: do all societies necessarily pass through the states of pre,
modern, modern, and postmodern? We can't define what postmodernity is
unless we know what modernity is. "Modern" is one of those terms that can
best be understood by negating its antitheses: traditional, primitive,
savage, uncivilized, premodern, etc. As I see it, "modernization" theorists
of the 50s identified the following elements as part of modernity:
industrialization, urbanization, centralization, economic growth,
rationalization, elimination of 'supersition', and universalization. Societies
had to be undergoing all these processes to be "modernizing."
So now that the core/Western/1st world societies appear to be entering
phases of postindustrialization, suburbanization, decentralization, static
growth, relativization, the return of fundamentalism and other 'superstitions,'
and multiculturalism/particularization, I suppose we can say they are also
entering "postmodernization." Note that none of these phenomena are complete
negations and reverals of the earlier conditions - they are supercessions.
Hence the term "post" instead of "retro" or "anti" "modernism."
I am questioning whether all societies will ever enter 'modernity'
let alone 'postmodernity.' But I am also wondering as to whether the
swallowing of the world by late capitalism's tentacles will also spread the
"cultural logic" of late capital; that is, will preindustrial societies
nonetheless begin displaying the ideologies of the postindustrial ones? This
process, I think, is already underway.

2. "Androcentrism" means male-centered. A picture of a nude male being taken
as representative of the human form (which can be male or female or perhaps
androgyne) would be androcentric.

3. Subjectivity into models. I would concur that this task is impossible.
And if quantifying our own subjectivity, the one with which we are most
familiar, is difficult, then think how hard it is to quantify the
subjectivity of others from different cultural systems.
Anthropologists will need training courses in psychic powers before that
2nd goal is possible. Yet there are so many of us who seem to think that it
is. However, I was proposing a dualistic approach. Let's use "scientific"
procedures for dealing with the objective - behavior, which is observable.
However, I suspect the subjective - both our own and that of others - is
perhaps most amenable to "humanistic" or "interpretive" or "empathetic"
approaches. Using *both* techniques provides us with both aspects of the
societies with which we deal. But we cannot fold one approach into the other,
despite what dogmatists on either side might do.

4. The shadows on the cave wall are there from our VCRs. This is a point I
want to reiterate. If questions of truth and knowledge were tough for small
scale Mediterranean low-tech societies, then they must be tougher for more
complex, high-tech societies. Yet we are still using philosophies from those
earlier societies to explain the phenomena in our society.
We are living in hyperreality, a state that is "more real than real," and
technologies like virtual reality will make the problems of representation
intensify, not get easier to deal with. Some hallmarks of hyperreality:
30% of Americans believe that Peter Jennings is their personal friend, and that
he is talking to them, personally, as their friend. Most American teenagers
apparently derive a great deal of their knowledge of history from cartoon
specials. Disneyworld is visited by more people each year than most of the
cultural monuments of the world, including the Pyramids of Egypt.
We prefer our simulations of reality to the real thing. This is a
disturbing feature of human consciousness that Baudrillard confronts us
with. It is an aspect of pomo that should not be ignored. And as the
technologies of simulation grow more sophisticated, and as news continues
to become "infotainment," this problematic epistemological fact will get
worse, not better.