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ZERZAN, John. "The Catastrophe of Postmodernism"

"Consumer narcissism and a cosmic "what’s the difference?" mark the end of philosophy as such and the etching of a landscape"

Article published on 19 July 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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Madonna, "Are We Having Fun Yet?", supermarket tabloids, Milli Vanilli, virtual reality, "shop ’till you drop," PeeWee’s Big Adventure, New Age/computer `empowerment’, mega-malls, Talking Heads, comic-strip movies, `green’ consumption. A build-up of the resolutely superficial and cynical. Toyota commercial: "New values: saving, caring — all that stuff;" Details magazine: "Style Matters;" "Why Ask Why? Try Bud Dry;" watching television endlessly while mocking it. Incoherence, fragmentation, relativism — up to and including the dismantling of the very notion of meaning (because the record of rationality has been so poor?); embrace of the marginal, while ignoring how easily margins are made fashionable. "The death of the subject" and "the crisis of representation."

Postmodernism. Originally a theme within aesthetics, it has colonized "ever wider areas," according to Ernesto Laclau, "until it has become the new horizon of our cultural, philosophical, and political experience." "The growing conviction," as Richard Kearney has it, "that human culture as we have known it...is now reaching its end." It is, especially in the U.S., the intersection of poststructuralist philosophy and a vastly wider condition of society: both specialized ethos and, far more importantly, the arrival of what modern industrial society has portended. Postmodernism is contemporaneity, a morass of deferred solutions on every level, featuring ambiguity, the refusal to ponder either origins or ends, as well as the denial of oppositional approaches, "the new realism." Signifying nothing and going nowhere, pm [postmodernism] is an inverted millenarianism, a gathering fruition of the technological `life’-system of universal capital. It is not accidental that Carnegie-Mellon University, which in the ’80s was the first to require that all students be equipped with computers, is establishing "the nation’s first poststructuralist undergraduate curriculum."


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