chapter  44
POSTMODERNISM
BySTEFAN HERBRECHTER
Pages 11

Like any other “ism,” postmodernism is first of all a social discourse that manifests itself in “texts,” i.e., all practices and statements that are related to the “postmodern,” the “postmodernist,” “postmodernism,” “postmodernity,” and “postmodernization.” It is therefore important to distinguish, on the one hand, between what these individual terms refer to, and, on the other, between the different pragmatic attitudes towards them, even though secondary literature may not always be consistent in keeping these apart. This is mainly because postmodernism also functions as the generic term for everything related to the postmodern. But the confusion or ambivalence that reigns within the discussion about postmodernism is also the result of the combination of the linguistic components of the term – “post” + “modernism” itself. One of the characteristics of the prefix “post” is that it renders ambiguous the normal idea of temporal succession and thus the standard notion of history. Postmeans, of course, “after” – postmodernism in this sense is the period or historically locatable style after modernism and is formally distinguishable from the latter. But post-can also be understood as a qualifier of a category, in this case: “modernism” – in this sense, postmodernism would still belong to modernism, or at least to its related terms “modern,” or “modernity.” In the end, the meaning of post-is a question of emphasis: postmodern stresses the temporal idea of something after the modern, whereas postmodern stresses the notion that something has happened to the modern so that it is no longer self-evidently “modern.” In short, it is a problematization of the modern from “within” its own definitional boundaries, or, in other words, a “deconstruction” of the naturalized meanings of modern, modernity, modernism, and modernization. This, in fact, applies to any “post-ism,” which means that every usage of post-requires clarification as to what might be the relationship between the prefix and that which is prefixed. The pragmatic value of post-might be, for example, that of a critique, a repetition, a pluralization, even an intensification of that which is “post-ed.”