Postmodernism is a word that often gets thrown around in our culture, but what does it mean and is it even relevant anymore? In this video, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Jamie Dew, gives a crash course on postmodernism and how it’s being adopted in our world today.
The entire video is above, and the complete transcript is below.
So what exactly is postmodernism and should we even care about it anymore?
Indeed in the previous decades before us, postmodernism was in vogue in the academic settings of our country and in the Western world. It’s not necessarily that way today. You still find it in literary departments. You still find it, unfortunately, sometimes in theology departments. But in the natural sciences and philosophy departments and in other departments, such as history departments, you really don’t have an obsession with this thing called postmodernism anymore.
It is however still very much alive in our culture. For example, the TV shows that you’re watching probably right now, the movies that you’re watching probably right now, the things that we’re watching play out in our courts right now all have been deeply affected by this thing called postmodernism. So, while it may be waning in the academy it is still very much got its grip on us in our culture. We do need to understand what it is and what it’s about.
Now, it’s complex. And nailing down exactly what postmodernism is, people have said it’s like trying to nail down Jell-O. And so that’s true in many ways.
Part of the difficulty is we have difficult time saying exactly when postmodernism starts. So for example, on questions about epistemology, that is the philosophical questions about our knowledge, well you can trace it all the way back to people like Immanuel Kant. But if you’re looking for our views about what human beings are, our anthropology, man, you’d have to come all the way up past Freud. And so depending on the topic in question, postmodernism seems to have these different starting points. And so it’s very, very difficult for a lot of reasons.
I think the best way to understand postmodernism is to say something about modernism just very quickly. Modernism starts in the 17th century with people like RenéDescartes and Francis Bacon.
This is the move away from religious perspectives that sort of ground our knowledge. In the past, in the pre-modern world if you wanted to know something you looked to the Church. You wanted to explain something you explained it with God. This was the Judeo-Christian worldview prior to the 17th century.
Well, Descartes was a good catholic and Bacon was a good protestant, but what they felt was wrong with the Western world was that ultimately we had some assumptions in the going about of our knowledge that were ineffective. So they wanted to start clean. They wanted to set for themselves sure and certain foundations that they could build our knowledge upon. And so they cast aside religious perspectives as many of these modern thinkers did.
There’s several themes that come up in the modern period. So for example, the idea that we can be completely objective in our perspectives. We can sort of strip away our biases, our dispositions, our backgrounds, our educations and we can see it from “a God’s-eye perspective”. That means a view from nowhere. We won’t be filtered by our perspectives or our assumptions or any of those things. We’ll just see things as it really is. Just the facts.And in many ways you see that in the modern sciences. And so this idea of objectivity, universal objectivity was an assumption of modernity.
They also had this idea of universal rationality. They thought that there was one right way to think and everybody if we would just educate them the right way would think that way everywhere in the world. And we would find as we’d go around from society to society, culture to culture, we would find them using the same rationality.
Well, as modern anthropology and modern sociology emerged in the Western world, actually what we found was just the opposite. There isn’t a universal rationality shared by all people everywhere. And so that modern assumption gets blown up.
There’s also the idea in modernity, the idea that comes about called inevitable progress. The idea that we were going to get better and better and better and better. Sure, our knowledge was getting better. This is the age of modern science where our scientific discoveries and knowledge just explodes. This is the age where we set aside the feudal system, politically speaking, and we move into democracies and things like that. And so you can understand why people think that we’re just getting better and better and better.
In theological circles we begin to think things like postmillennialism where we think we’re gonna usher in the kingdom of God. And so those types of things are what you see there.
Well all of that stuff may sound benign, but understand this: the moderns were explicitly rejecting these religious ideas as the bedrock of our knowledge. That’s what modernity is doing.
Postmodernism and Truth
Postmodernity is now going to reject all of those modern assumptions and ideals. And to us that might sound like it’s not that big a deal, but here’s the catch: The way they rejected it was by getting rid of concepts of truth. Now postmoderns certainly have ideas of truth, but they don’t believe about truth the same thing you and I believe.
So for example, here’s a statement we all think to be true: I’m wearing a gray suit. You think that’s true because the statement itself corresponds to the way things really are. That’s called acorrespondencetheory of truth. That had been the premodern and the modern assumption. Postmoderns reject that. Truth now is simply what works for us. Or truth is simply which is consistent with other things.
And so they have ways of defining truth, but there is no longer anything like Truth with a big T. No what we’d call metanarrative, that is meta meaning overarching, narrative meaning story. There are no overarching explanations of reality. There’s no truths. So you shouldn’t pretend to have one. I shouldn’t pretend to have one. That’s at least what they say, but notice in our culture these people that dub themselves as postmodern. What they’re really after and what they’re really against is our truth. They want to substitute it with a different truth, with their own morality, and things like that.
So one example of where you’re gonna see postmodern ideals flesh out in our culture is really what you’re seeing happening in this sort of culmination of the sexual revolution and the movement into transgenderism and other things like that. We’re now in a place where people will say things like, “I know I’m in a boy’s body, but I’m not a boy. I’m something else underneath that.” And we’re left to define, not just truth out there anyway we want to, we’re now able to define ourselves in any particular way we want to.
And there’s this getting rid of these classical, traditional ideas that go well back before Christianity. They would go back to the classical period of the philosophers. This would be Plato and Aristotle. It would come up through the Christian tradition. It would come up through the medieval traditions. It would come up all the way through modernity. It would even come up pretty far into the 20 and 21st century, but now you’re seeing it come to full fruition where we’re gonna redefine or get rid of definitions of what it means to be a human, what it means to be a male, what it means to be a female, and we’re free now to just define that any way we want to.
This is very much a good example of the way postmodern thought has infected our culture and shaped the way we think about very, very important things.
So in short, that’s a crash course on postmodernism. It is still very much alive in our culture and we do need to know what it is.
How does postmodernism affect culture? ›
Postmodern culture is characterized by the valuing of activities, events, and perspectives that emphasize the particular over the global or the fragment over the whole. This reversal of a modernist ideology necessitates a valuation of variation and flexibility in the cultural sphere.How does postmodernism affect society today? ›
Postmodernism affects views and lifestyles, which in turn affects the young adult's performance of roles and his interactions within all his different social systems. A strong attachment to family and home, as well as the importance of roles as sons/daughters were found.What does postmodernism say about culture? ›
Postmodernism is best understood as a questioning of the ideas and values associated with a form of modernism that believes in progress and innovation. Modernism insists on a clear divide between art and popular culture. But like modernism, postmodernism does not designate any one style of art or culture.What is postmodernism with example? ›
Postmodern movies aim to subvert highly-regarded expectations, which can be in the form of blending genres or messing with the narrative nature of a film. For example, Pulp Fiction is a Postmodern film for the way it tells the story out of the ordinary, upending our expectations of film structure.What is an example of postmodern culture? ›
TWO EXAMPLES OF POSTMODERN POPULAR CULTURE
I will consider here two prime examples: pop music and television.
Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or mode of discourse which challenges worldviews associated with Enlightenment rationality dating back to the 17th century. Postmodernism is associated with relativism and a focus on ideology in the maintenance of economic and political power.Is postmodernism still relevant today? ›
Indeed in the previous decades before us, postmodernism was in vogue in the academic settings of our country and in the Western world. It's not necessarily that way today. You still find it in literary departments. You still find it, unfortunately, sometimes in theology departments.What is the main idea of postmodernism? ›
Many postmodernists hold one or more of the following views: (1) there is no objective reality; (2) there is no scientific or historical truth (objective truth); (3) science and technology (and even reason and logic) are not vehicles of human progress but suspect instruments of established power; (4) reason and logic ...Does postmodernism still exist today? ›
Since the late 1990s there has been a small but growing feeling both in popular culture and in academia that postmodernism "has gone out of fashion." However, there have been few formal attempts to define and name the era succeeding postmodernism, and none of the proposed designations has yet become part of mainstream ...What influenced postmodernism? ›
Radical movements and trends regarded as influential and potentially as precursors to postmodernism emerged around World War I and particularly in its aftermath.
What is the importance of postmodernism in education? ›
Regarding postmodernist, the aims of education are teaching critical thinking, production of knowledge, development of individual and social identity, self creation. In postmodern education teachers just lead students to discover new things.What does postmodernism say about humanity? ›
Postmodern anthropology is based on the idea that humans are "social constructs," or socially determined beings. We cannot have objective access to reality, because there is no neutral context from which to think. We have no individual personhood, because we are the product of culture.What is the effect of postmodernism in literature? ›
Postmodernist literature took modernism's fragmentation and expanded on it, moving literary works more toward collage-style forms, temporal distortion, and significant jumps in character and place. 4. Metafiction. Postmodern literature emphasized meaninglessness and play.How does postmodernism affect health and social care? ›
Results: Responses suggesting postmodern attitudes to health were prevalent: the majority of respondents appear to hold a holistic view of health, believe in individual responsibility for achieving health, reject medical authority, hold consumerist values, prefer natural products over chemical drugs, think most ...What is the difference between modern society and postmodern society? ›
“Modern” and “post-modern” were terms that were developed in the 20th century. “Modern” is the term that describes the period from the 1890s to 1945, and “post-modern” refers to the period after the Second World War, mainly after 1968.How do you differentiate modern from postmodern culture? ›
While modernism was based on idealism and reason, postmodernism was born of scepticism and a suspicion of reason. It challenged the notion that there are universal certainties or truths.What is postmodernism a response to? ›
Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality.Are we in the modern or postmodern era? ›
While the modern movement lasted 50 years, we have been in Postmodernism for at least 46 years. Most of the postmodern thinkers have passed away, and the "star system" architects are at retirement age. So far, we have not seen thoughts or ideas that announce a change, neither in architecture nor in culture.Why is postmodernism hard to define? ›
Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology.How did postmodernism come about? ›
Post-modernism, as it appeared in the 1970s, is often linked with the philosophical movement Poststructuralism, in which philosophers such as Jacques Derrida proposed that structures within a culture were artificial and could be deconstructed in order to be analyzed.
What is postmodernism in literature simple? ›
Postmodern literature is a form of literature that is characterized by the use of metafiction, unreliable narration, self-reflexivity, intertextuality, and which often thematizes both historical and political issues.What is postmodern identity? ›
A postmodern society is one in which the identities of the social actors are undergoing constant transformation. Identity then becomes open to contestation as there is no longer any ultimate referent (truth, science, God etc.) to provide universal legitimation.Is the 21st century postmodern? ›
In contrast, the '21st century' is a postmodern period – the 'post', in this sense, means 'after' modernity.When did postmodernism start and end? ›
Postmodernism is one of the most controversial movements in art and design history. Over two decades, from about 1970 to 1990, Postmodernism shattered established ideas about art and design, bringing a new self-awareness about style itself.Which phrase best describes a quality of postmodernism? ›
Which phrase best describes a quality of Postmodernism? Blurring fact and fiction to find an underlying truth.What are the pros of postmodernism? ›
What are some strengths of postmodernism? Postmodernism recognises the fluidity of current society and the changing relevance of the media, power structures, globalisation, and other social changes. It challenges some assumptions we make as a society.Does postmodernism believe in God? ›
In a postmodern world there are no universal religious or ethical laws, everything is shaped by the cultural context of a particular time and place and community.What is a postmodern society? ›
In philosophy and critical theory postmodernity refers to the state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity, a historical condition that marks the reasons for the end of modernity.Is postmodernism a philosophy? ›
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement that began in the late 1970s. The postmodernist philosophy rejects traditional concepts of logic, objective truth, and human nature. Postmodernists believe that there are no universal truths or objective realities and all meaning is constructed by each individual.What are characteristics associated with postmodernism? ›
Its main characteristics include anti-authoritarianism, or refusal to recognize the authority of any single style or definition of what art should be; and the collapsing of the distinction between high culture and mass or popular culture, and between art and everyday life.
Who coined the term postmodernism? ›
The very term "postmodern" was, in fact, coined in the forties by the historian, Arnold Toynbee. Some of the things that distinguish postmodern aesthetic work from modernist work are as follows: 1) extreme self-reflexivity.What defines postmodernism art? ›
What Is Postmodern Art? Postmodern art rejected the traditional values of modernism, and instead embraced experimentation with new media and art forms including intermedia, installation art, conceptual art, multimedia, performance art, and identity politics.What are the challenges of postmodernism? ›
Displaying incredulity toward grand narratives, postmodernism not only questions but also challenges modernism's claims to universal reason, objectivity, neutrality, superiority of science, and the belief in progressive emancipation or human betterment through its anti-essentialist and anti-foundationalist character.Is postmodernism a school of thought? ›
Postmodernism describes the school of thought arising mainly from oppositional and radical movements in contemporary society. The advent of the Industrial Revolution brought about major societal changes, as well as several social inequalities that were previously unheard of.What is the criticism of postmodernism? ›
Criticism of more artistic post-modern movement such as post-modern art or literature may include objections to a departure from beauty, lack of coherence or comprehensibility, deviating from clear structure and the consistent use of dark and negative themes.How does postmodernism view the world? ›
Postmodernism, born under western secular conditions, has the following characteristics: it emphasizes pluralism and relativism and rejects any certain belief and absolute value; it conflicts with essentialism, and considers human identity to be a social construct; it rejects the idea that values are based on ...What is a disadvantage of postmodernism? ›
Postmodernists contradict themselves. Exaggerate the amount of social change that has happened (Giddens - late modernity) MARXISM-Harvey, Marxism has already explained changes in society and postmodern ideas are not new.What is the relevance of postmodernism? ›
It collapsed the distinction between high culture and mass or popular culture, between art and everyday life. Because postmodernism broke the established rules about style, it introduced a new era of freedom and a sense that 'anything goes'.How do you differentiate modern culture from postmodern culture? ›
- “Modern” is the term that describes the period from the 1890s to 1945, and “post-modern” refers to the period after the Second World War, mainly after 1968.
- While the modern approach was theoretical, objective and analytical, the post-modern approach was subjective.
Indeed in the previous decades before us, postmodernism was in vogue in the academic settings of our country and in the Western world. It's not necessarily that way today. You still find it in literary departments. You still find it, unfortunately, sometimes in theology departments.
What does postmodernism say is wrong with us? ›
What Postmodernists believe is wrong with us is adherence to metanarratives such as Christianity. There believe that there is "no room for an obedience to a nonhuman authority". Thus in turn created a new definition of what it meant to be human - "a matter of forgetting about eternity".What are the challenges of postmodernism? ›
Displaying incredulity toward grand narratives, postmodernism not only questions but also challenges modernism's claims to universal reason, objectivity, neutrality, superiority of science, and the belief in progressive emancipation or human betterment through its anti-essentialist and anti-foundationalist character.What is a postmodern society? ›
In philosophy and critical theory postmodernity refers to the state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity, a historical condition that marks the reasons for the end of modernity.Which phrase best describes a quality of postmodernism? ›
Which phrase best describes a quality of Postmodernism? Blurring fact and fiction to find an underlying truth.Where did postmodernism come from? ›
Post-modernism, as it appeared in the 1970s, is often linked with the philosophical movement Poststructuralism, in which philosophers such as Jacques Derrida proposed that structures within a culture were artificial and could be deconstructed in order to be analyzed.When did postmodernism begin and end? ›
Postmodernism is one of the most controversial movements in art and design history. Over two decades, from about 1970 to 1990, Postmodernism shattered established ideas about art and design, bringing a new self-awareness about style itself.What influenced postmodernism? ›
Radical movements and trends regarded as influential and potentially as precursors to postmodernism emerged around World War I and particularly in its aftermath.What cultural or artistic ideas changed between the modern and postmodern periods? ›
Rather, the two eras are famous for having produced different styles and ideas about art. Typical artforms of modernism are impressionism, expressionism, cubism but also fauvism. In the postmodern era, newer forms of art have emerged, such as Land Art, Body Art, Conceptual Art, Pop Art and many more.Are we in the modern or postmodern era? ›
While the modern movement lasted 50 years, we have been in Postmodernism for at least 46 years. Most of the postmodern thinkers have passed away, and the "star system" architects are at retirement age. So far, we have not seen thoughts or ideas that announce a change, neither in architecture nor in culture.What is postmodern identity? ›
A postmodern society is one in which the identities of the social actors are undergoing constant transformation. Identity then becomes open to contestation as there is no longer any ultimate referent (truth, science, God etc.) to provide universal legitimation.
Is the 21st century postmodern? ›
In contrast, the '21st century' is a postmodern period – the 'post', in this sense, means 'after' modernity.What will replace postmodernism? ›
Metamodernism is the cultural code that comes after postmodernism.