The death of postmodernism?

There’s an interesting article on the Gospel Coalition blog by Collin Hanson entitled ‘Postmodernism: Dead But Not Gone’. ‘Next month,’ he says, ‘you can attend the funeral for postmodernism at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. That’s when the art exhibit “Postmodernism—Style and Subversion 1970-1990” will open.’ The exhibit’s curators explain:

The modernists wanted to open a window onto a new world. Postmodernism, by contrast, was more like a broken mirror, a reflecting surface made of many fragments. Its key principles were complexity and contradiction. It was meant to resist authority, yet over the course of two decades, from about 1970 to 1990, it became enmeshed in the very circuits of money and influence that it had initially sought to dismantle.

Postmodernism questioned all authority. It (rightly) highlighted the common link between power and truth. But it had nothing to replace it; no criteria to determine what is right and good and beautiful. The only criteria left was what sold well, what made money. As a result postmodernism has collapsed into consumerism. Hanson cites journalist Edwards Docx:

Because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in recent years, it became ubiquitous. A lack of confidence in the tenets, skills, and aesthetics of literature permeated the culture and few felt secure or able or skilled enough or politically permitted to distinguish or recognize the schlock from the not. And so, sure enough, in the absence of any aesthetic criteria, it became more and more useful to assess the value of works according to the profits they yielded.

Hanson cites the success of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code as an example of this.

Here we see a scholar poseur enabled by allies in the academy pass off his irresponsible money grab as speaking truth to power. He begins with the largely accurate premise that winners write history, an observation enabled by postmodern currents. Ignoring the standards of credible scholarship, he proceeds to exalt strange heterodox sects as somehow more trustworthy than their orthodox opponents in the church. He takes his low-brow thriller to the popular market and capitalizes on widespread ignorance of true history to rake in millions.

This, of course, does not mean the battle is over, but simply that the frontline may be shifting.

4 thoughts on “The death of postmodernism?

  1. The inroads of the ‘New Atheism’ into our culture perhaps highlight this. Their opposition to Christianity seeks to authoritatively claim that our faith isn’t true, not that it doesn’t ‘work for us’. They propose a long narrative of cultures moving away from faith, under their expert/elite ‘scientific’ leadership. This is definingly anti post-modern stuff.

  2. Pingback: Postmodern Theology – Who’s got the power? « Earthpages.org

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