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BEYOND MODERNISM AND POSTMODERNISM: Essays on the Politics of Culture
As Lyotard argues, aesthetic judgment is the appropriate model forthe problem of justice in postmodern experience because we areconfronted with a plurality of games and rules without a conceptunder which to unify them. Judgment must therefore be reflectiverather than determining. Furthermore, judgment must be aestheticinsofar as it does not produce denotative knowledge about adeterminable state of affairs, but refers to the way our facultiesinteract with each other as we move from one mode of phrasing toanother, i.e. the denotative, the prescriptive, the performative, thepolitical, the cognitive, the artistic, etc. In Kantian terms, thisinteraction registers as an aesthetic feeling. Where Kant emphasizesthe feeling of the beautiful as a harmonious interaction betweenimagination and understanding, Lyotard stresses the mode in whichfaculties (imagination and reason,) are in disharmony, i.e. thefeeling of the sublime. For Kant, the sublime occurs when ourfaculties of sensible presentation are overwhelmed by impressions ofabsolute power and magnitude, and reason is thrown back upon its ownpower to conceive Ideas (such as the moral law) which surpass thesensible world. For Lyotard, however, the postmodern sublime occurswhen we are affected by a multitude of unpresentables withoutreference to reason as their unifying origin. Justice, then, wouldnot be a definable rule, but an ability to move and judge among rulesin their heterogeneity and multiplicity. In this respect, it would bemore akin to the production of art than a moral judgment in Kant'ssense.
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Finally, I have included a summary of Habermas's critique ofpostmodernism, representing the main lines of discussion on both sidesof the Atlantic. Habermas argues that postmodernism contradicts itselfthrough self-reference, and notes that postmodernists presupposeconcepts they otherwise seek to undermine, e.g., freedom,subjectivity, or creativity. He sees in this a rhetorical applicationof strategies employed by the artistic avant-garde of the nineteenthand twentieth centuries, an avant-garde that is possible only becausemodernity separates artistic values from science and politics in thefirst place. On his view, postmodernism is an illicitaestheticization of knowledge and public discourse. Against this,Habermas seeks to rehabilitate modern reason as a system of proceduralrules for achieving consensus and agreement among communicatingsubjects. Insofar as postmodernism introduces aesthetic playfulnessand subversion into science and politics, he resists it in the name ofa modernity moving toward completion rather thanself-transformation.
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Under postmodernism, Shakespeare undergoes theorizing, deconstruction, displacement or death of the author, textual criticism, and cultural and political relativism but fails to produce solid answers.
His books include Marxism and Form (1971), The Prison-House of Language (1972), The Political Consciousness (1981), Postmodernism or the Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (1992), and Brecht and Method (1998)....
Beyond culture essay modernism politics postmodernism
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