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What is postmodernism?

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What is postmodernism? Modernity and postmodernism are terms used to describe different eras in the development of human societies. It is different from most sociological perspectives in that it has no over arching theory. Some think that western societies have moved from an era of modernity to post modernity, but others do not agree. The debate between modernity and postmodernism tends to be about to what extent society has changed, and so which theoretical approach is the most appropriate. Modernism began as a way of describing the ideas that emerged during the decline of medieval society. There were three main elements modernism, economic, political and cultural. Modernist thinking supports the idea that the purpose of learning is to better the human condition. Postmodernism opposes each of the assumptions of modernism. They say there is no such thing as valid or invalid knowledge, they see knowledge as a form of control rather then liberation and that grand theories are inadmissible. Postmodernism began to have a significant effect on sociology in the 1980's. Most postmodernists believe that conventional approaches are no longer relevant to sociology, and must be discarded, approaches such as Marxism, functionalism and feminism they claim, were useful in explaining how society operated in previous eras but are no longer relevant to today's society. ...read more.


Computer technology has become the principal force of production. He claims that post-modern society is founded on the production and exchange of knowledge and predicts that future wars will be about the control of knowledge as opposed to territorial disputes. It has been suggested that Lyotard's theory sounds very similar to a Marxist criticism of capitalism, but postmodernism offers the possibility of tolerance, in which humans are not all corrupted by metanarratives. However critics have pointed out that wile Lyotard repeatedly critic's metanarratives in his theory he himself has huge generalisations about the direction of human development. He also provides little evidence to support his theory. Marxist critic Terry Eagelton has pointed out that Lyotard's key concept in the development in human society is technical language, and he says this is nothing more than a justification for capitalism and the pursuit of profit regardless of human consequence. Jean Baudrillard is also regarded as a post-modern theorist. Like Lyotard he sees societies as having entered a new and distinctive phase. Unlike Lyotard, and indeed most postmodernists he is rather pessimistic about the outcome of these changes. ...read more.


He believes postmodernity may develop in the future but unlike sociologist such as David Harvey he does not accept that we have entered an era of post modernity. He does however think that significant changes have taken place within modernity and claims that we are in a period of late modernity. He says that when we move into an era of post modernity there will be four main institutional structures present in society. These are, multi-layered democratic participation, demilitarisation, and humanisation of technology, post scarcity system. He does admit that his idea of a post modern society is a rather idyllic one, as it is hard to imagine richer countries sharing their wealth with poorer countries for example, but is willing to except it may happen in the future. His theory is backed up only by occasional example rather than systematic evidence, however it remains the main opposition to post modernism theories. The main criticism of postmodernism is that it is paradoxical. How can you have a general theory that argues that general theories are no longer relevant? However many consider postmodernism to be an important area of sociology even if they do not believe society has yet reached that stage in development. Hayley Swift ...read more.

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