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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Easthope on Postmodernism  

2009-02-27 17:51:25|  分类: 后结构理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Easthope, Antony. “Postmodernism and Critical and Cultural Theory.” Ed. Stuart Sim. The Routledge

     Companion to Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 2001. 15-27.

18

 Jean-François Lyotard

        “Published in France in 1979, The Postmodern Condition enters from a somewhat unexpected direction: the status of science in the modern world. In the course of this discussion, however, Lyotard produces a radical and unsettling review of how knowledge has operated in the West since the Renaissance, starting from the viewpoint that for us today science has come to be deeply involved with language.”

       ….

       “With industrialization, iron and steel were commodities; today in a post-industrial world, knowledge itself has become a commodity, so that Lyotard refers to ‘the mercantilisation of knowledge’. Not knowledge in the singular, however, but knowledges, since there is no a pluralist competition between knowledges. From this follows a problem of legitimation, for as Lyotard asks, ‘Who decides what knowledge is?’”

19

       “Traditionally, scientific knowledge has been defined in opposition to ideology or doxa. However, as Lyotard points out, this poses two problems, so putting into question the validity of science. First, if ideology is a kind of discourse, so also ‘scientific knowledge is a kind of discourse’, and this would entail the question ‘How do we tell them apart?’ Second, there is the problem of infinite regress: if scientific truth is obtained by evidence and proof, well, asks Lyotard, ‘What proof is there that my proof is true?’”

       “Lyotard argues that scientific knowledge never legitimated itself because it always relied on what he terms ‘narrative knowledge’ to support it. Narrative knowledge is customary, embedded in culture, enacted in forms of social competence as ‘lived experience’ which typically is represented as narration. Unlike scientific knowledge, narrative knowledge goes ‘beyond the criterion of truth’, and requires no further legitimation because it legitimates itself.”

       “If this were all Lyotard had to say he would not have become a leading explicator of postmodernism. It is the next move and its consequence that give bite to his account, for Lyotard claims that the narrative knowledge called on by science has taken the form of one or other of two presiding, or grand, narratives. These have consisted of: (1) The narrative of emancipation, a story of ‘freeing the people’ for which science is believed to be a necessary means (Lyotard is thinking specifically of eighteenth-century rationalism in the service of the great revolutions, American and French, a rationalism which construes superstition as a bondage from which knowledge can release us), and (2) the narrative of the triumph of science as speculation or pure and authentic knowledge. (Arising with Renaissance culture, this narrative is continued by the Enlightenment and on into the work of Hegel and nineteenth-century positivism.) Noting the predominance of these two grand narratives, Lyotard adds dryly that Marxism ‘wavered between the two models of narrative legitimation’”.

       “All that has now gone. In the postmodern condition ‘the grand narrative has lost its credibility…regardless of whether it is a speculative narrative or a narrative of emancipation’. Instead of totalizing and unifying narratives at the centre of culture – making a centre for culture – any former ‘hierarchy of learning’ has now given way ‘to an immanent and, as it were, “flat” network of areas of inquiry…’”.

19-20

       At this point Lyotard slips over from description into advocacy. Knowledge now consists of a heterogeneity of competing local knowledges in which there are simply ‘islands of determinism’. Knowledges have become performative, arbitrated no longer by the question ‘Is it [20] true? but ‘What use is it?’, each discourse judged in terms of what Lyotard calls ‘paralogy’, the ability of parallel rather than hierarchically arranged knowledges to come up with a new move, an innovation. Lyotard welcomes what he envisages as the political outcome of this new condition, an end to the authoritarianism implicit in any claim to a totalizing understanding of the real – ‘Let us,’ he urges, ‘wage a war on totality.’”

20

       “In this account postmodernism is quite clearly defined: it characterizes a contemporary situation in which, as Lyotard phrases it, turning the knife, ‘most people have lost the nostalgia for the lost narrative’… At stake is not just an awareness but the active trust and belief supposed by the concept of narrative knowledge. More damaging would be a query as to whether narrative and scientific knowledge ever could be cut off from each other in the way Lyotard assumes. And some writers have simply disagreed with him, among them Jacques Derrida who, in an interview in Radical Philosophy (1994), says flatly: ‘I have never gone along with these proclamations about the end of the great emancipatory and revolutionary discourses.’”

 

Jean Baudrillard

        “If Lyotard stresses that in the postmodern condition you cannot found science in truth and so distinguish it from ideology (science itself being a discourse whose attempt to prove its own truth results in continual regress), Baudrillard conceives postmodernism as an endless circulation of signs from which any sense of reality has fallen away, a world in which there are simulations and only simulations.”

20-1

       “Once upon a time (so Baudrillard might explain it), signs could be exchanged for reality in the sense that they were representations of it; in a second historical order, signs were related to other signs which referred to reality; now, in a ‘third order’, a postmodern order, signs have no connection to the real, signs indeed are more real than reality in what Baudrillard christens the ‘hyperreal’. Delighting in paradox, Baudrillard argues, for example, that Disneyland in the United States exists as it does to give the effect that the rest of America is real. Again, notoriously, he wrote two articles at the time of the Gulf War in 1990 proposing, first, that it couldn’t happen, and then afterwards, that it hadn’t. But there is a force in Baudrillard’s exaggerations, for he makes [21] us ask whether a war in which one side loses 200,000 combatants and the other about 70, almost all these killed by their own side in so-called ‘friendly fire’ incidents, is in any traditional respect a real war.”

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