pomo polemics

Fri, 5 Nov 1993 13:15:02 CDT

Stephanie Nelson noted my comment that post-modernism is dead. I would
like to take a minute and explain what I meant by that statement. It is
not that good work is not being done using post-modern approaches (some of
it anyway, and unfortunately too much plain bad work too that is incoherent).
There is good work from a pomo perspective.

It is not that the post-modern perspective is not valid within its own
frame of reference and its own domain. It is.

And it is not even that the theoretical perspective expressed by post-
modernism is not coherent in many respects; it is. For example, one
premise of post-modernism is that it is invalid to make a social object
constancy assumption in a manner that presume that what is being
studied is in fact a `real or true' object, much as those who take a
Newtonian positivist position do.

What I mean by post-modernism being dead is simply two things. First,
the knew insights available to the social sciences about the nature of
human activities and the processes by which they are derived have reached
(in all probability) an ultimate point (or at least penultimate). There
doesn't seem to be much else to say, really - except to use pomo to do
specific analysis. Second, there is always the problem that after a
deconstruction is done, there is no reconstruction offered.

Most importantly, and third, there is also ample logical evidence to show
that the post-modern approach is itself a binary opposition to the more
traditional newtonian positivist `scientific approach.' As such, it is
a mirror image and not a true negation. As a mirror image, it can be
described as a complementation (one of those interesting seemingly
mutually exclusive manifestions of an unseen and unrecognized unifying

After all, one can deconstruct a deconstruction in the same way one
deconstructs anything else.

I simply mean to say that `dead' in this sense implies that the vitality,
excitement, illumination of new knowledge, and stimulation of the approach
is now lacking. It is nolonger new, thus it is no longer dynamic in the
sense that it was initially.

Stephanie, as I said before, there is an approach that I term Construct
Realism which theoretically integrates and theoretically synthesizes
positivism and post-modernism, by empirically exploring the common
unifying cultural mechanism that permeate both. I only find it to be
more `alive' and more illuminating of human behaviors that post-modernism.

John O'Brien
Indiana University

Sorry about the typos above . . .