Postmodernism has been around since the eighties, but not only as artistic criticism. It was an emerging field of thought that rose from European post-structuralism (often conflated with Derrida’s attempts to deconstruct the language that defined thought), Wittgenstein and Gödel’s challenges to logical positivism, and the very American work of Thomas Kuhn to understand the role of paradigm shift in scientific thought.

1. This lead to the awareness of inherent uncertainty (not falsehood or unreliability) in philosophical and scientific thought. Nor was this frivolous or subversive but reflected a philosophical technique using skepticism as the point of departure for establishing those observations we could embrace as the most reliable.

2. Postmodernism uniquely examined the influence of commerce on thought and artistic expression.

3. Postmodernism also uniquely explored the role of position and privilege in shaping philosophy, science and art. This created the largest reaction and resistance to postmodernism because it suggested that those who benefit from their positions in culture and society operate with a different set of ideological and perceptual filters than thinkers and artists from marginalized cultures. Thus their philosophy and expressions of value more easily influence cultural perceptions of truth while blinding them to a counter factual depiction of the world offered by others.

To put it more simply (and therefore less accurately)* history documents major shifts in the cultural perception of truth, and those shifts are affected less by objective accounts of facts than by who has the ability to influence the narrative.

It may sound high brow but it’s no different than the employee who recognizes that management procedures create waste and inefficiency in production, but fails to recognize that management operates from a different sphere of awareness in which the efficiency of the line competes with other concerns. Both exist within bubbles of expertise and ignorance that rarely intersect making both at the same time more knowledgeable and more ignorant than their counterpart.

It is not irrelevant since most of social and political dialogue can be mapped to the dynamics recognized by postmodernism.

Because we so easily label and dismiss the rigorous work of others we are too easily ensnared by fraudulent and spurious claims, and not only do we too often miss the point, but we are, in the words of David Byrne, talking a lot but we’re not saying anything.

Written by

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store