Friday, November 14, 2008


Do you know this term? No doubt some of you do, but do you really understand the meaning of it?

The term postmodernism was coined by a Frenchman Jean Francois Lyotard (1924 - 98). It is a new approach to thinking about the world. Some call it an ideology. Postmodernism is not primarily political. Although postmodernism is not generally thought of as an ideology, let alone a political ideology, it can lead to a position that asserts with absolute certainty that there is no truth. This crude form of postmodernism can sometimes look a lot like an ideology, but most postmodernist take a different position, arguing that truth depends on where you stand.

In this form, postmodernism has potential for undermining belief in any ideology because ideologies have traditionally claimed to have the singular truth, to be universal. Today, influenced by postmodernism, we in the 21st-century are much more aware of the local and contingent, and if the standpoint is ideological, postmodernism can be seen as actually reinforcing ideologies rather than undermine them. Each ideology is now probably best thought of as composed of subsets of closely related ways of viewing the world.

A complication for most of us is that we stand in more than once place. We view the world through lenses provided by ideology, gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and so forth. For many people, one of these will dominate, but others look through different glasses at different times regarding different issues. Most of us manage this shifts in perspective without conflict, often without even realising that we are doing so. We see ourselves as a whole rather than as multiple selves.

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