Chris referred in his post on po/mo and history to right postmodernists such as Kojeve and Fukuyama. These figures – both enormously influential – and both central to my PhD thesis, would be worth a post in their own right. But I want to pick up on something said in comments by Chris – an analogy he made between Hayek’s work and postmodernism. While this insight is original, the general analogy between postmodernism and late capitalism is not. Fredric Jameson refers to postmodernism as the “cultural logic of late capitalism”, key po/mo theorists such as Jean Baudrillard and Jean-Francois Lyotard (pictured above) moved from Western Marxism and autonomist Marxism towards a celebration of the particular, the image, and the spectacle as postmodern thought developed, and one of the most cited po/mo texts in architecture, Learning from Las Vegas, lauded the ephemerality and irony of the built environment constantly being deconstructed and reconstructed by commerce. There’s also a very serious and related political argument, about which I hope to write more here at some point, that postmodernism is an enormous diversion and a waste of energy for the Left. Unlike, I would argue, post-structuralists such as Derrida and Foucault. But at the moment, this theme, and the very close parallel between contemporary late capitalism and postmodernism, is very well summed up in the words of veteran American political theorist Sheldon S. Wolin in Politics and Vision:
Curiously, the ideology of the market, with its idealised picture of an intricate dispersed system in which countless independent actors respond to “laws” of supply and demand that no external authority decrees, complements postmodern antipathies to “centred discourse” and centred power.
ELSEWHERE: Thanks to Chris for drawing my attention to this article on economics and po/mo on the Evatt Foundation website.
In its ideological version the perfectly free market is represented as a decentred society, coercionless, spontaneous, free of domination, only individuals making decisions. That most postmodern theorists display little interest in contemporary capitalist power-formations, except in the context of critiques of neo-colonialism, is of less significance than the congruence of uncollapsed capitalism and postmodernism…
The vocabulary of postmodernism, and its antipathies towards essentialism, centred discourse, foundationalism, and historical narrative, has served to disable its theorists from confronting the basic characteristics of contemporary power-formations whose precise characteristics are to be: centralised yet quick to react, essentially economic, founded on corporate capital, global, and best understood in terms of developments over time. The cascades of “critical theory” and their postures of revolt, and the appetite for theoretical novelty, function as support rather than opposition. Hailed as expressions of originality and intellectual freedom, they work to legitimate forms of power that thrive/depend on producing accelerated rates of change that leave opposition outdated before its case is mustered. A system that cannot conceive stopping and dreads a slowdown has developed its cultural complement in a postmodern sensibility that adores novelty, dreads boredom, and far from operating as a “fetter” on capitalism, encourages its rhythms.