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Postmodernism Defined

Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophythe artsarchitecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical era said to follow after modernity and the tendencies of this era.

Postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticismirony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism, often criticizing Enlightenment rationality and focusing on the role of ideology in maintaining political or economic power. Postmodern thinkers frequently describe knowledge claims and value systems as contingent or socially-conditioned, describing them as products of political, historical, or cultural discourses and hierarchies. Common targets of postmodern criticism include universalist ideas of objective realitymoralitytruthhuman naturereasonsciencelanguage, and social progress. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to self-consciousnessself-referentialityepistemological and moral relativismpluralism, and irreverence.

Postmodern critical approaches gained purchase in the 1980s and 1990s, and have been adopted in a variety of academic and theoretical disciplines, including cultural studiesphilosophy of scienceeconomicslinguisticsarchitecturefeminist theory, and literary criticism, as well as art movements in fields such as literaturecontemporary art, and music. Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstructionpost-structuralism, and institutional critique, as well as philosophers such as Jean-François LyotardJacques Derrida, and Fredric Jameson.

Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse and include arguments that postmodernism promotes obscurantism, is meaningless, and that it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge.



Postmodernism Defined