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December 23, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

More on the challenges, criticism, and failures of post-modern theory

1. Because it leaves people without the language and institutional means to achieve change it seems to be regressive and roll back the clock. It has an implicit conservatism which it may fail to fully acknowledge. It undermines change–I think theory should be emancipatory–not the opposite.
2. Trades off with writing stories. (not to mention the value could probably be achieved in 1/2 to 1/3 of the time its currently alotted in the curriculum). Or at a minimum there is a real opportunity cost in terms of the end results of the university mission to spending too much time on literary theory and not enough on
3. Doesn’t seem to play well with others–at least in its present form.
4. It seems to priviledge Dada-ism over clarity and community. This is a general orientation (or metaphor) and a bit of hyperbole on my part–I think its telling. Further, it seems to priviledge hyper-individualism over community.
5. It fetishizes identity, language, hyper-individualism, and naval gazing. Its perfect for the writer who doesn’t actually want to go to the field–but its content among the stacks. Herman Heese wrote a book about this called the Glass Bead Game.
6. It flattens reality. If democracy or empowering ideas are really dis-empowering…..its flattens the continuum of experience and meaning between totalitarianism on the one hand and democracy on the other. To do so….it uses hyperbole and may over-use metaphor.
7. Words do have meaning. Infinite play of words probably helps the spin-sters of politics…. Plus, communal means are a check on obscure or detatched individual meanings.
8. Falls pray to dogmatism & inflexibility it accuses modernity of (at least if not combined with modernity).
9. Its possible its best application may lie beyond the communication or english classrooms–or texts…..but falls short from not being connected or relevant.
10. Lets not forget the dangers of being too attatched to language as a method of or too attatched to a single-methodology.
11. Paul Mann’s Stupid Undegrounds is interesting–although its been a while since I’ve read it.
12. Richard Rorty in Achieving Our Country notes a number of other problems with post-modernism.

For it to be effective…it has to engage in the paradoxical coupling of modernity & post-modernity. Modernity has a historical role in empowering.
Moreover, communication and change is created by using a combination of the familiar and the new. Breaking too much with the old….and too much group infighting can result in paralysis.

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