Checklists of Postmodernism


Modernism was:

  • Differentiated
  • Coherent
  • Pluralist

Postmodernism leads to the hypers!

  • hyperdifferentiation
  • hyperrationalisation
  • hypercommodification

These hypers are so pluralistic they involve a breakdown of anchor points of stability. They indeed lead to the dees!

  • dedifferentiation
  • derationalisation
  • dehypercommodification

In other words the intensity of these changes creates a blur beyond these changes. Pluralism is hyperpluralism and depluralism. Oppositions break down into a thousand entities

It is a state of disorganisation, not knowing, and the illusion of knowing having gone.

Thus there is:

  • postliberalism (different meanings)
  • postindustrial
  • poststructural
  • posttheological
  • postmodern!
  • postman (joke)

Modernism was clear with stable boundaries regarding:

  • Centralisation
  • State
  • Planning and bureaucracy
  • Individualism
  • Liberty
  • Rationality
  • Ideology
  • Mass consumerism
  • Technological progress
  • Mass Production ("Fordism")
  • Mass organised and minimalist architecture
  • Class

Postmodernism is in culture and thought

  • The decline of recognised culture
  • Relativism
  • Eclecticism
  • Instability
  • Irony
  • Parody
  • Pastiche
  • Packaged styles
  • Diverse architectural inheritances
  • Conversation
  • Media based
  • Internet gives popular publishing
  • Reinvented histories

Postmodernism is in politics

  • Small groups
  • Rise of the region
  • Rise of the transnational body
  • Decline of the state
  • Decline of class
  • Ideology-free
  • Style over content
  • Media manipulation (spin doctoring)

Postmodern politics is both conservative and radical...

Conservative because:

  • Capitalist
  • No mass social and ideological challenge
  • Consumerist
  • Style suggests false consciousness, false happiness
  • Media manipulation
  • Corporations gain anti-democratic power

Radical because:

  • It is anti-bureacracy of all forms
  • Small groups have sudden big impact via the media
  • Issue based politics (environmental, feminist, civil rights challenges)
  • Difficult to control
  • State loses power
  • Power becomes fluid (micropolitics)
  • Public opinion can undermine corporations

Science and technology

Meanwhile science is challenged. Science was once the lynchpin of progress, put into effect by technological improvement. But now science is seen as problemmatic.

Ideologically science is now see not as "Truth" but working knowledge until the next shifts in understanding (of which there may be many).

Secondly science and use in technology cause as many problems as they solve - pollution, military use, waste of resources.


Christianity (and indeed any religion of history) was best based as traditionalism hand in glove with the culture. Then modernism created a gap between tradition and culture. That gap was closed in part by theology becoming "liberal". Liberal theology, and liberal religious movements, were reductionist. Reductionism was a kind of buying time stripping out incredible beliefs and finding new bases for beliefs - but led to forms of, in effect, religious humanism - stripped down Christianity, whilst the symbols lived on in increasingly smaller groups.

Groups which retained objectivity became sectarian (at a greater socal distance from society at large) when they held on to beliefs, and liberal where they adapted to retain their connection with social and cultural norms. However, eventually with no "God of the gaps" any belief was going to be a mark of distinctiveness. Plus the ability for any group to retain objective reference points with a general cultural position has been vanishing.

Postmodernism is more a building up of myth and symbol, or its retention, but knowing it is myth and symbol and has no objective reference. So where does religion go when there are no objective reference points?

Two possibilities: the conservative stance and the liberal.


  • Bible as a drama of faith (Hans Frei, after Barth)
  • Communities a focus of co-ordination by having a rules of belief
  • Yale postliberalism means a "grammar" to follow by members.
  • Everyone follows rules
  • Faith maintained
  • Groups retain the sectarianism of their place within modernity.


  • Identify with the radical pluralism
  • Identify with philosophical underminings
  • Reach out
  • Belief accepted as transcient
  • Build community through dialogue of difference.
  • Light and fluid communities
  • Meditation, debate, education, gender based
  • Suck it and see rituals
  • Tends to be Religious Humanist, liberal Christian, Western Buddhist, neo-Pagan
  • Maintenance of connection with wider society

For liberal groups the 1960's were the high and end point of humanism in religion - from then on postmodernism has allowed in more "spiritual" and symbolic practices and a greater emphasis on the mixing and validity of faiths, especially eastern and recovered paganism.

Sociology and Society

Modernity stated that:

  • Society exists
  • Society is uniform and coherent
  • Society is holistic yet made up of real entitities
  • Society has a dynamic that can be studied
  • Society shapes the individual
  • Society produces outcomes
  • Society is about relationship to rationality
  • There are universal truths
  • Sociological thinking rises above false consciousness
  • False consciousness can be rated against truth
  • Beyond false consciousness is truth and liberation

But now with postmodernism:

  • The foundation of sociology is a dogmatism and illusion itself
  • Different perspectives are relative to one another
  • Different theories and perspectives change the outcomes
  • Sociology itself is questioned
  • Sociological constituents (class, interactionism) are themselves constructions
  • There is no possible objective condition of something called society
  • There are questions of the basis of making concepts (epistemology)
  • Sociology becomes like doing philosophy
  • Life becomes a novel, a story, like an art, not sociological science


In modernity, using Fordism of production and Taylorism of management:

  • Large scale production
  • Assembly lines
  • Hierarchical management
  • Specialisation
  • Differentiation to the point of simplicity
  • Repetition
  • Continuity
  • Saturation of markets
  • Unions and conflict

In postmodernity with postfordism and revised management:

  • Small scale production
  • Just in time
  • Responsive to market changes
  • Cottage technological industries
  • E-commerce
  • Dedifferentiation to the point of multitasking
  • Devolved responsibility
  • Group working patterns
  • Sense of ownership
  • Continuous education and training
  • Flexible labour markets
  • Knowledge industries
  • Professional decision making
  • Systemic management - devolved in bureaucracy
  • Human relations management - democratic and equalitarian
  • Staff relations and discussion

Philosophy and postmodernism - much comes down to language

Everything is subjected to deconstruction. Look at this sentence from a politician.

"I pledge to serve you and I will be truthful in all I shall do"

Deconstruction? Try...

"This politician is full of his own ego and he has been dishonest."

The sentence looked at in the opposite displays, even reveals, his dishonesty. However, this text reading is up to the reader. Once a text has left its author, the reader is sovereign in how it is understood. However, in poststructuralism, nothing ever reads like it once did. Meanings flow in subversive and unexpected ways from texts in ways never as intended but perhaps always to be part of their range of possibilities. But that range is unknown too.

In modernity language had distinct fields

  • Science was one language
  • It competed with religion and arts
  • Or they were declared different language areas

In postmodernity, science and arts and religion dedifferentiate, so:

  • Science and religion and art overlaps
  • They are forms of talking and conversation
  • Radical uncertainty brings about an equality of debate

Basic Argument


  • Postmodernity is High Modernity
  • Continuous with modernity
  • More intense complex version of modernity (e.g. the intensity of pluralism)

Counter point:

  • Postmodernism involves a qualitative shift in perspective
  • Economics, politics, culture, religion and sociology are hugely changed
  • Discontinuous with modernity.