I find this piece on the "death" of Postmodernism written by Edward Docx, which speaks of a style of analysis now fashionable in some circles, i.e, that of killing the dead all over again. The writer generalizes certain events as unique of a period (postmodernism), which can easily be found in the preceded period (Modernity). If so, Docx is simply ruling as different what is in fact the same. Predictably, if something comes after something else, it has to be different.
Well, the best way to begin to understand postmodernism is with reference to what went before: modernism. Unlike, say, the Enlightenment or Romanticism, postmodernism (even as a word) summons up the movement it intends to overturn.Not so fast. How do you know the dead are "really" dead? Postmodernism is necessarily postmortem just because it has a retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Next, we should be happy to accept that to generalize is to characterize, i.e., to generalize.
Over time, though, a new difficulty was created: because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in recent years, it became ubiquitous.Let's leave aside the hyperbole. It's not clear what the writer means by "attack," or whether he is correct in assuming that postmodernism "attacks everything" (which wouldn't save postmodernism itself from the attack, thus rendering it dead on arrival). Docx is either ignorant or he's talking about a different world. When it comes down to "attacks," Modernity makes postmodernism looks like a peacenik.1 Its history that of constant ideological revolutions: Kepler vs. Ptolemy, Kant vs. metaphysics, Darwin vs. religion, Marx vs. capitalism, Freud vs. Victorian morals, Heidegger vs. the modern Cartesian subject, Wittgenstein vs. logical analycity, Frankfurt School vs. traditional aesthetics and enlightenment, etc, etc.
Either you account for these events as "internal" to Modernity, or they become "external." But if Modernity has "external" events, how do you explain it? Is Modernity a "physical" global epoch engulfing everything, or is it just an epochal discourse prevalent in the West? 2 Is one postmodern by being inside the 1970's-1990's or by defending a particular worldview? Docx seems oblivious to these mounting problems, yet he manages to plow ahead:
Unlike, say, the Enlightenment or Romanticism, postmodernism (even as a word) summons up the movement it intends to overturn. In this way, postmodernism might be seen as the delayed germination of an older seed, planted by artists like Marcel Duchamp, during modernism’s high noon of the 1920s and 1930s.The underlined metaphor above, taken from the natural sciences, gives this idea of process. If postmodernism is a "delayed germination", then processes can slow down or speed up. But there is an elephant in the room: Process is how we talk about time. That is to say, natural change requires, or perhaps is time. Docx handles time like a ruler:
In the beginning, postmodernism was not merely ironical, merely gesture, some kind of clever sham, a hotchpotch for the sake of it.What beginning? How do you cut process? Do you simply say: "I know when I see it"? What if what appears as different is just another "delayed germination"? Don't forget you're always in the present, which makes your observation either relative to the past or predictably paradoxical. Why? Because of becoming.
Hegel, a modern and a romantic, analyzed time in terms of becoming. But surprise! As that constant exchange of coming-to-being and passing-away, becoming slips through your fingers. That is to say, when you see it, you don't.3 Docx doesn't seem aware of this paradox. He identifies "what is" from "what is-not" -as if he was "outside" the process. Sure, he can always retort: "Oh, but I'm talking about history." I find the whole business predictably circular: The author is in the weird predicament of attending postmodernism's vigil while having no f**** idea of who is the surviving next-of-kin sitting besides him at the funeral.
1 My talking of Modernity instead of Modernism doesn't change a thing. What I'm getting at is this: Is Modernity everything there is? Can there be an "other" of Modernity? 2 Isn't it obvious that both the discourse and counter-discourse on Modernity are West-centered? 3 "The being which, in being, is not and in not-being, is." (Philosophy of Nature, §258; Suhrkamp 9).