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The Post-Modern Condition - Essay Example

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The Post-Modern Condition

By definition, the "Word" cannot be a human artifice.
2. Early modern: Signs modify or screen reality, which is thereby acknowledged to be at least partially artificial or contingent. Observers concede that symbolic forms of mediation do not immediately touch or mirror reality-in-itself. Example: There is a growing recognition among intellectuals that theological disputes are an unavoidable part of deciphering the enigma that is "God."
3. Modern: Signs dissimulate -- that is, they conceal the presence of absence. Example: We begin to understand that God does not exist (absence), that he was always a figment of our too-fertile imaginations. Nevertheless, we concede that religious belief should perhaps be tolerated because it gives people hope and a reason for living.
4. Postmodern: Signs no longer claim to depict, mirror, or even disguise an objective reality. Consequently, symbolic modes of representation become pure "simulacra: copies (or copies of a copy) that have no original (Baudrillard 1983). The simulacrum embodies nothing but a knowingly manufactured and contrived reality. Hence, culture must be faked before it can be recognized. Example: A McDonald's commercial shows a little girl supposedly enjoying a hamburger with her father. Such a commercial is neither "true" nor "false." Both at the point of production and at the time of consumption, it is judged merely in terms of whether it is attention-worthy. (Gary Genosko, 1994).
In Jean Baudrillard's (1983) terms, postmodern simulation "is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal." The ad just described is not therefore compromised by viewers' awareness that what they are seeing is perfectly contrived, for postmodern subjects feel quite at home in a world where everything around them is already faked. Indeed, precisely because their lives lack stable or reliable meaning, postmodern subjects are often characterized by a desperate need to be seduced. Note, too, that a clever or successful ad will interest both the simpleton incapable of ironic detachment and the sophisticate cynically enjoying the commercial on its own terms. We must accordingly conclude that neither intelligence nor perspicacity gives us the resources to resist postmodernism. The modern intellectual believed that critical intelligence armored the individual against the seductions of eloquence. By contrast, postmodern subjects fail to achieve critical distance from what they perceive.
By successfully collapsing the distinction between what signifies and what is signified, postmodernism makes it increasingly difficult ...Show more

Summary

Both modern and postmodern cultural orders create subjects who recognize to a historically unprecedented extent that language itself does not immediately reflect or mirror the nonlinguistic. This shift in perception can be illustrated by means of the following rather general typology of forms of signification (Baudrillard 1983
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