Is Postmodernity a Useful Concept? By Course Institution Date Is Postmodernity a Useful Concept? Introduction The terms postmodernism and postmodernity are increasingly appearing in all different fields of study and are used in a virtually any context (Smart, 1990)…
Sociological theories of postmodernity explain and rationalize the realities of current “social conditions” (Cockerham, 2007, p. 286). Thus from a sociological perspective, the term postmodernity is a useful concept. This paper demonstrates how and why postmodernity is a useful concept by first identifying the common themes attributable to definitions of postmodernity and by analyzing sociological theories of postmodernity. Common Themes in Definitions of Postmodernity Drolet (2004) informs that postmodernity and postmodernism do not have concise definitions because the terms are used to convey various concepts depending on the field of discipline using the terms. For instance, in 1926, theologian Bernard Iddinggs Bell published a series of essays on postmodernism in which he expressed ideas that he thought were more sophisticated than modern ear ideas of faith. During the 1950s, the term postmodernity was used to explain works submitted by artists and poets who were challenging conventional thought and created new genres in their fields (Drolet, 2004). Thus a common theme in the various uses of the term postmodernity can help to narrow down its definition. ...
Lawson (2003) however, gives the common themes in postmodern definitions greater utility. According to Lawson (2003), although many postmodern supporters do not generally agree on its definition, these differences are quite inconsequential, although theoretical perspectives “may be very far apart” ( p. 12). According to Lawson, postmodernism is typically attributed to the thinking of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault and as such is associated with the link between power and knowledge. Thus the common theme that runs throughout is: The rejection of objective truth and, as a corollary, or firm foundations for knowledge, including moral knowledge (Lawson, 2003, p. 12). In this regard, postmodernism is associated with radicalism in terms of “ethical relativism” or at a minimal “offering only negative critiques of other foundational theories” (Lawson, 2003, p. 12). It therefore follows that common themes binding various definitions of postmodernism point toward movements or shifts away from convention and established norms. Ryan’s (1988) compartmentalization of the term postmodernity reflects its usefulness as a concept or rather as a conceptualization of a movement. For Ryan (1988) postmodernity in all its various definitions can be narrowed down to a “movement in advanced capitalist culture” (p. 559). The common characteristics of postmodernity are best expressed in the arts and literature as “reflexivity, irony, artifice, randomness, anarchy, fragmentation, pastiche and allegory” (Ryan, 1988, p. 559). Postmodernity emerges as a pessimistic in connection with the progress of ...
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