over-the-counter, and consumer-friendly. A
guide to postmodernism for those goofs who: 1. Don't speak French <http://www.fourmilab.ch/francais/lfrench.html>, 2. Can't tell
the difference between post-structuralism and deconstructive
3. Want to re-interpret the marginalized
"other" without replacing one logocentric metanarrative
with an oppressive hyper-real simulacrum
Confused? You should be. Willfully admitting your inability to
understand is half the battle to impressing your intellectual buds
while sipping on a latte at some hip coffee bar.
Step 1: You've got to define "postmodern."
Ha! Yeah right. You actually believe I'd take such a MODERN
approach. Tough luck. No easy definitions here. I may have read a
lot on postmodernism, but when even the leading postmodern theorists
fail to define their terms-- don't expect me to come to their aid.
Now to something I can help you with...
Step 2: You’ve got
to have the right books.
Option A: If you want a good book covering the general ideas of
postmodernism, I'd highly suggest-- The Truth About the Truth:
De-confusing and Re-constructing the Postmodern World, edited by Walter Truett Anderson, published by Tarcher/Putnam
Option B: If you consider yourself to be a very intelligent
person, this book would be most helpful-- From Modernism to
Postmodernism: An Anthology,
edited by Lawrence Cahoone, published by Blackwell in 1996
Option C: If you prefer the
approach to all things complex---Teach Yourself Postmodernism,
by Glenn Ward, published by NTC in 1997
Step 3: You've got to know the people.
There are lots of names out there. I'll give you the big hitters
and then just throw the rest out for fun.
1.) Jacques Derrida --- a French guy,
he's the person most closely associated with
postmodernism. Derrida is primarily concerned with language. Think
deconstructionism. He is really hung up on the idea that Western
society's obsession with reason caused us a great deal of harm. He
calls it "logocentricism." He (more or less) blames
logocentrism for the Holocaust <http://www.holocaust-history.org/>
and the Atomic Bomb <http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/nukepop/109.gif>.
2.) Michel Foucault
---another French guy, he's #2 on our list of big names in
postmodernism. Foucault is big in the area of social science. He
believes Truth is hopelessly caught within systems of power. These
systems seek to define and determine "normalcy," thus
oppressing and marginalizing the "other." Foucault wrote a
lot about sex, mental hospitals, and the prison system.
3.) Jean-Francois Lyotard
--- yeah, another French guy, he's #3. Although his essay "The
Postmodern Condition," ranks #1 for hip discussion material,
which he wrote for the scientific community. Lyotard wrote about
metanarratives. Meta-what? Don't worry. According to Lyotard, we
don't have these anymore. Moving on...
4.) Jean Baudrillard---yet another French guy, I like this guy! He said the Gulf War never
happened. Baudrillard is really concerned about images in society.
He believes because these images dominate everything, we have lost
touch with reality. And hyperreality: a futile attempt to validate
our existence with "larger than life" experiences.
5. Richard Rorty,
not French, moving on...
Here's a list of everyone else who had something worthwhile to
James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Daniel Bell, Charles
Baudelaire, Zygmunt Bauman, Iain Chambers, Guy Debord, Gilles
Deleuze, Umberto Eco,
Lesslie Fiedler, Felix Guattari, Jurgen Habermas,
Ihab Hassan, Donna Haraway, Sandra Harding, bell hooks, Fredic
Jameson, Charles Jencks, Thomas Kuhn, Marshall McLuhan,
my mother, Ferdinande de Saussure, Claude Levi Strauss, Mark C.
Taylor, Robert Venturi, Andy Warhol.
Step 4: You've got to know the terms
De---The prefix which sponsors postmodernism. It means
"to take apart" or "undo," and this is what
postmodernism does best! Words you may see are
"deconstruct," "delegitimize," and
No one really knows what Derrida means by
this. But we think when you deconstruct something, you are looking
at the hidden meanings and messages found within the language
Differancé---Once again, we can only guess at what Derrida
means. The word is pronounced the same as "difference" and
it means almost the same thing. It gives me a headache, moving on…
Hypermodern---Gasp! Even worse than being modern is trying
to fake postmodernism while maintaining the modern goals of progress
and cold rationalism. Habermas
is an easy target. (He actually believes we shouldn't reject the
goals of the Enlightenment... wimp.)
Hyperreality---Our vain attempt to validate our existence
through larger-than-life activities,
just a clever escape plan from the "real
Metanarrative---an overarching story which validates all other
stories in a society. Science is considered the modern metanarrative,
while religion is seen as the pre-modern metanarrative. This word is
commonly over used to describe anything-- so have fun.
Modern---I don't know. If it looks dull and
mechanical, call it modern. If it looks like a
suit and tie, call it modern. If you don't like it, just call it
Whenever a pastor/theologian fears postmodernism, but doesn't
know what else to say, he will opt for this word. Without purpose,
without meaning, or direction. It sounds fancy, but it's just not
The study of signs and symbols in society.
Postmodern theorists might say signs are everywhere and everything.
Pretty neat, huh?
All the images that proliferate in society, yet
another reason why we've lost touch with reality.
Considered a bad word in postmodern circles. It is an
oppressive piece of the language game which de-legitimizes the other
and promotes the metanarrative.
truth (with a lower case "t")-
Not as bad as big
Finally, you've got to look the part
The goal is to look as cultured and laid back as possible in a
calculated authentic way. (Ha!) Open toe sandals
are a good start.
| Keep your
||by your side and a spiral journal tucked underneath your arm
at all times.
nice knit sweater is good to reveal your sensitive
GROW YOUR GOATEE. I cannot stress this enough. No
self-respecting pretentious postmodern thinker walks the street
without the hip fuzz patch upon their chin.
Or just don't shave for week intervals.
To reveal your hip mystical spiritual side, make sure to own lots
of candles. Byzantine icons of unknown saints
also make for good decoration. It tells your guest you are concerned
with ancient tradition practices of the faith, even though you
probably have no clue about the saint. Light incense. Make sure to
play ambient techno music
your dwelling place. Own a Volkswagen.
Okay, you now have everything you need to be a post-hip. Find a
nice coffee bar to invite your pseudo-friends to and begin
impressing them with your deep insights into the changing world we
is a contributing editor for Next-Wave. He recently graduated
from Texas A&M University at Commerce with a degree in
English and Philosophy. David has enrolled to Fuller
Theological Seminary's distance learning program. David was
raised in the Methodist tradition. Although currently, he is a
community pastor at Axxess, an
emerging congregation within Pantego Bible Church. In his
"spare time," David is a high school English
teacher. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.