Postmodernism


Are indeterminancy and relativism the only possible consequences of embracing the uncertainties of the postmodern era? Are other less deconstructive options to be found emmbedded in postmodernism's many ambiguities? In arguing affirmatively to both questions, this study points--in a constructively postmodern way--toward renewal in literary and cultural theory.

Divided into two parts, this book first examines the two distinct sources--constructive and deconstructive--of the postmodern attitude. The first, exemplified in the work of Derrida, Lyotard, and Baudrillard, is presented as a reaction against the reductive excesses of 20th-century modernism and is characterized by ambivalent and indeterminate approaches to uncertainty. The second source is more subtly discerned in the rejection by Wittgenstein and Dewey, among others of the Cartesian or modern conception of rationality in favor of more situationally complex, naturalistically grounded accounts of experience. Although the two approaches overlap in their acceptance of uncertainty and complexity, constructive postmodernism is shown to offer more scope for productive and cumulative study of meaning and value.

The second part applies the principles embedded in constructive postmodern thinking to the field of literary theory and criticism. The constructively postmodern pursuit of ever more richly observed and detailed, more ordinary and transparent situations is shown to be of particular relevance to literary studies. What precisely does the achievement of a writer like Jane Austen or Henry James represent, if not pointedly detailed observations of densely complex social and interpersonal relations, mediated by a painfully acute and sophisticated sensibility, and imaginatively represented as works of fiction? The answer to this question is presented by exploring the concepts of social and emotional intelligence in the novels of Austen and James among four other novelists.

The Encyclopedia of Postmodernism provides comprehensive and authoritative coverage of academic disciplines, critical terms and central figures relating to the vast field of postmodern studies. With three cross-referenced sections, the volume is easily accessible to readers with specialized research agendas and general interests in contemporary cultural, historical, literary and philosophical issues.
Since its inception in the 1960s, postmodernism has emerged as a significant cultural, political and intellectual force that many scholars would argue defines our era. Postmodernism, in its various configurations, has consistently challenged concepts of selfhood, knowledge formation, aesthetics, ethics, history and politics. This Encyclopedia offers a wide-range of perspectives on postmodernism that illustrates the plurality of this critical concept that is so much part of our current intellectual debates. In this regard, the volume does not adhere to a single definition of postmodernism as much as it documents the use of the term across a variety of academic and cultural pursuits.
The Encyclopedia of Postmodernism, it must be noted, resists simply presenting postmodernism as a new style among many styles occuring in the post-disciplinary academy. Documenting the use of the term acknowledges that postmodernism has a much deeper and long-lasting effect on academic and cultural life. In general, the volume rests on the understanding that postmodernism is not so much a style as it is an on-going process, a process of both disintegration and reformation.
A bold new challenge to postmodern theory
The increasing irrelevance of postmodernism requires a new theory to underpin our current digital culture. Almost without anybody noticing, a new cultural paradigm has taken center stage, displacing an exhausted and increasingly marginalized postmodernism. Alan Kirby calls this cultural paradigm digimodernism, a name comprising both its central technical mode and the privileging of fingers and thumbs inherent in its use.

Beginning with the Internet (digimodernism's most important locus), then taking into account television, cinema, computer games, music, radio, etc., Kirby analyzes the emergence and implications of these diverse media, coloring our cultural landscape with new ideas on texts and how they work. This new kind of text produces distinctive forms of author and reader/viewer, which, in turn, lead to altered notions of authority, 'truth' and legitimization. With users intervening physically in the creation of texts, our electronically-dependent society is becoming more involved in the grand narrative.

To clarify these trends, Kirby compares them to the contrasting tendencies of the preceding postmodern era. In defining this new cultural age, the author avoids both facile euphoria and pessimistic fatalism, aiming instead to understand and thereby gain control of a cultural mode which seems, as though from nowhere, to have engulfed our society.

With new technologies unfolding almost daily, this work will help to categorize and explain our new digital world and our place in it, as well as equip us with a better understanding of the digital technologies that have a massive impact on our culture.
We are spurred into action by our troubles and fears; but all too often our action fails to address the true causes of our worries. When trying to make sense of our lives, we tend to blame our own failings and weaknesses for our discomforts and defeats. And in doing so, we make things worse rather than better. Reasonable beings that we are, how does this happen and why does it go on happening?


These are the questions addressed in this new book by Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original and perceptive social thinkers writing today. For Bauman, the task of sociology is not to censor or correct the stories we tell of our lives, but to show that there are more ways in which our life stories can be told. By bringing into view the many complex dependencies invisible from the vantage point of private experience, sociology can help us to link our individual decisions and actions to the deeper causes of our troubles and fears - to the ways we live, to the conditions under which we act, to the socially drawn limits of our imagination and ambition. Sociology can help us to understand the processes that have shaped the society in which we live today, a society in which individualization has become our fate. And sociology can also help us to see that if our individual but shared anxieties are to be effectively tackled, they need to be addressed collectively, true to their social, not individual, nature.


The Individualized Society will be of great interest to students of sociology, politics and the social sciences and humanities generally. It will also appeal to a broader range of readers who are interested in the changing nature of our social and political life today.

Zygmunt Bauman is one of the leading figures in contemporary social thought. His work ranges across issues of ethics, culture and politics. It never forgets that social thought ought to help men and women make sense of their lives and aspire towards something different. His books and essays always focus on the here and now: violence and moral indifference, globalization, consumerism, politics and individualization. They cast a sharp eye on the panaceas of ‘there is no alternative'; the embrace of community and the fads of the ‘counselling boom'; through which men and women are told that they can achieve biographical solutions to what are, in fact, systemic problems.

In this new book, Zygmunt Bauman and Keith Tester engage in five accessible conversations that uncover and explore the assumptions and commitments underpinning Bauman's ground-breaking social thought. The conversations show how those commitments have influenced Bauman's analyses of modernity, postmodernity and ‘liquid modernity'. The book ranges widely, from autobiographical reflection through to pointers for the understanding and future of Bauman's social thought. The conversations illustrate the moral substance of Bauman's refusal to accept that the world cannot be made different. They show why social thought is a human necessity.

Conversations with Zygmunt Bauman is a book which will offer fresh insight into Bauman's work for those who are familiar with it, and provide an engaging and helpful entry point for those who are new to it.

Few countries have been so transformed in recent decades as China. With a dynamically growing economy and a rapidly changing social structure, China challenges the West to understand the nature of its modernization. Using postmodernism as both a global frame of periodization and a way to break free from the rigid ideology of westernization as modernity, this volume’s diverse group of contributors argues that the Chinese experience is crucial for understanding postmodernism.
Collectively, these essays question the implications of specific phenomena, like literature, architecture, rock music, and film, in a postsocialist society. Some essays address China’s complicity in—as well as its resistance to—the culture of global capitalism. Others evaluate the impact of efforts to redefine national culture in terms of enhanced freedoms and expressions of the imagination in everyday life. Still others discuss the general relaxation of political society in post-Mao China, the emergence of the market and its consumer mass culture, and the fashion and discourse of nostalgia. The contributors make a clear case for both the historical uniqueness of Chinese postmodernism and the need to understand its specificity in order to fully grasp the condition of postmodernity worldwide. Although the focus is on mainland China, the volume also includes important observations on social and cultural realities in Hong Kong and Taiwan, whose postmodernity has so far been confined—in both Chinese and English-speaking worlds—to their economic and consumer activities instead of their political and cultural dynamism.
First published as a special issue of boundary 2, Postmodernism and China includes seven new essays. By juxtaposing postmodernism with postsocialism and by analyzing China as a producer and not merely a consumer of the culture of the postmodern, it will contribute to critical discourses on globalism, modernity, and political economics, as well as to cultural and Asian studies.

Contributors. Evans Chan, Arif Dirlik, Dai Jinhua, Liu Kang, Anthony D. King, Jeroen de Kloet, Abidin Kusno, Wendy Larson, Chaoyang Liao, Ping-hui Liao, Sebastian Hsien-hao Liao, Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, Wang Ning, Xiaobing Tang, Xiaoying Wang, Chen Xiaoming, Xiaobin Yang, Zhang Yiwu, Xudong Zhang


This liquid modern world of ours, like all liquids, cannot stand still and keep its shape for long. Everything keeps changing - the fashions we follow, the events that intermittently catch our attention, the things we dream of and things we fear. And we, the inhabitants of this world in flux, feel the need to adjust to its tempo by being ‘flexible' and constantly ready to change. We want to know what is going on and what is likely to happen, but what we get is an avalanche of information that threatens to overwhelm us.

How are we to sift the information that really matters from the heaps of useless and irrelevant rubbish? How are we to derive meaningful messages from senseless noise?
We face the daunting task of trying to distinguish the important from the insubstantial, distil the things that matter from false alarms and flashes in the pan.

Nothing escapes scrutiny so stubbornly as the ordinary things of everyday life, hiding in the light of deceptive and misleading familiarity. To turn them into objects of attention and scrutiny, they must first be torn out from that daily routine: the apparently familiar must be made strange. This is precisely what Zygmunt Bauman seeks to do in these 44 letters: each tells a story drawn from ordinary lives, but tells it in order to reveal an extraordinariness that we might otherwise overlook.

Arresting, revealing, disconcerting, these snapshots of life by the most brilliant analyst of our liquid modern world will appeal to a wide readership.

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