Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique

Against Postmodernism: A Marxist Critique

Alex Callinicos

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By Alex Callinicos

It has become an intellectual commonplace to claim that we have entered the era of 'postmodernity'. Three themes are embraced in this claim; the post structuralist critique by Foucault, Derrida and others of the philosophical heritage of the Enlightenment; the supposed impasse of High Modern art and its replacement by new artistic forms; and the alleged emergence of 'post-industrial' societies whose structures are beyond the ken of Marx and other theorists of industrial capitalism. Against Postmodernism takes issue with all these themes. It challenges the idealist irrationalism of post-structuralism. It questions the existence of any radical break separating allegedly Postmodern from Modern art. And it denies that recent socio-economic developments represent any fundamental shift from classical patterns of capital accumulation. Drawing on philosophy and history, Against Postmodernism takes issue also with some of the most forthright critics of postmodernism -- Jurgen Habermas and Fredric Jameson, for example. But it is most distinctive in that it offers a historical reading of the theories of such currently fashionable thinkers as Baudrillard and Lyotard. Postmodernism, Alex Callinicos argues, reflects the disappointed revolutionary generation of '68, and the incorporation of many of its members into the professional and managerial 'new middle class'. It is best read as a symptom of political frustration and social mobility rather than as a significant intellectual or cultural phenomenon in its own right.