From Wikipedia, here’s a good starting definition.
Postmodernism describes both an era and a broad movement that developed in the late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism which marked a departure from modernism. While encompassing a broad range of ideas and projects, postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies, and various tenets of Enlightenment rationality, including the existence of objective reality and absolute truth, as well as notions of rationality, human nature, and progress. Instead, it asserts that knowledge and truth are the product of unique systems of social, historical, and political discourse and interpretation, and are therefore contextual and constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, self-referentiality, and irony.
I also came across this discussion, on the University of Virginia site known as the “Electronic Labyrinth”.
In sum, we could simplistically outline this movement in historical terms:
1. premodernism: Original meaning is possessed by authority (for example, the Catholic Church). The individual is dominated by tradition.
2. modernism: The enlightenment-humanist rejection of tradition and authority in favour of reason and natural science. This is founded upon the assumption of the autonomous individual as the sole source of meaning and truth–the Cartesian cogito. Progress and novelty are valorized within a linear conception of history–a history of a “real” world that becomes increasingly real or objectified. One could view this as a Protestant mode of consciousness.
3. postmodernism: A rejection of the sovereign autonomous individual with an emphasis upon anarchic collective, anonymous experience. Collage, diversity, the mystically unrepresentable, Dionysian passion are the foci of attention. Most importantly we see the dissolution of distinctions, the merging of subject and object, self and other. This is a sarcastic playful parody of western modernity and the “John Wayne” individual and a radical, anarchist rejection of all attempts to define, reify or re-present the human subject.
What I am aiming to show here is that the entire notion of “Postmodernism”, i.e., a system of thought that cuts loose from all known fixed points of rationality, ceases to be a set of concrete ideas, and instead focuses on the notion that ideas evolve and change over time, as, presumably, man evolves and his thinking, creativity and reason evolve.
What is not so obvious here is exactly how this casting off of restraint impacts the bounds of society, morality and justice in particular. I would argue, that experiments in so-called “Social Justice” are derived from postmodern arguments and that their reasoning can be attributed to man’s ideas on what “Should be”, and not what is. Those ideas fly in direct opposition to what is presented in absolute terms in the Bible, i.e., since what is contained in the Bible is a direct set of judicial standards and objective definitions, from which we derive true justice, that are not dependent on the whims or fancies of any humans.
What is so devastating about postmodernism, to my mind, is the fact that once you cast loose of a fixed point of reason, you are set adrift on a sea of whimsy, and are subject to the prevailing ideas of the day. This is how such movements as “Occupy Wall St.” and “Black Lives Matter” come into existence, since they are derived directly from beliefs prevalent in “Social Justice”. The question must be asked then whether or not “Social Justice” is any form of real justice at all?
The answer is simple, in that you can boil an idea down into the results which derive from it. The Bible clearly articulates that all men and women are equal in God’s eyes, and that every soul has intrinsic value. Social Justice, on the other hand, says that some have more current value, and the only way to achieve true “Social Justice” is to artificially elevate the present circumstance of the individual to make all equal in terms of said present realities. Obviously, that is not at all what the Bible is after in terms of defining the value of a soul (or individual), but it does show the difference in context between the two systems of thought. One is predominantly eternal, while the other is temporal. So, the next logical question arises as to whether there is any overlap, or congruence in these two systems of thought.
My answer is a categorical and emphatic “No” since the eternal perspective clearly takes precedence over the temporal. I would argue further that in attempting to change circumstances and influence the daily lives of individuals, that the group is harmed greatly, and that such ideas do not spring from any kind of notions of “True” justice, but rather, as stated earlier, flow from the prevalent and changing winds of popular opinion at any particular time.
I argue further, that these ideas of “Social Justice” and postmodernism in general, flow from socialist/communist ideas (as espoused with Karl Marx in his Das Kapital) that claim that man’s number one issue is not sin, but rather lack of resources. In fact, it was Marx himself who asserted that “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. He considered those who followed any kind of “Supreme being” for guidance to be damaged and even deranged to the point where they were like sheep being led astray by some mystical entity that could neither be seen nor sensed in any fashion. Marx’s reality became the concrete, the perceived world around him, and nothing more. His existence became narrowed to the point where he saw all of human suffering in terms of resources, money, knowledge and so forth. His was certainly not the first voice to “Cast off” restraint from the Bible and the view of man as a damaged being presented therein, but his became the most influential of the 20th Century and beyond.
So have we gotten to the bottom of what Postmodernism is (or is not)? The reader is challenged to investigate these views presented here, and to form their own opinions. It is certain that according to the Bible, casting off bounds and setting oneself adrift on a “Sea of human ideas” is a form of idolatry. Any form of idolatry ceases to recognize God as the authority and the end of all existence (as well as the beginning!), and instead attempts to show that man can solve his own problems. As the proof of this, I always argue that the 20th Century was the bloodiest in all of history.
And the bloodiest of all mass murderers were those who practiced the ideas of Karl Marx (e.g., Mao Tse Tung, Joseph Stalin, etc…). But, arguably, there is an even more deadly form of postmodernism in practice in our society. Let’s analyze that:
- More people were killed in wars in the 20th Century than all of history prior to that, combined.
- More people were killed in genocides in the 20th Century than all of history prior to that, combined.
- More Christians were martyred for their faith in the 20th Century than all 1900 years prior to that, combined.
- And the kicker, and the ultimate proof to the our whole discussion, is that more babies were killed by abortion in the 20th Century than all those other numbers – COMBINED.
It is estimated that, world wide, more than 500 MILLION babies were killed in the womb during the 20th Century. The number of babies killed in the womb world wide each year continues to climb, while there are local declines, but the estimate is that as of today, in 2016, nearly 1.7 BILLION babies have been killed world wide since the epic “Postmodern” ruling in the United States (Roe v. Wade, 1973).
Clearly, the most damaging of all postmodern ideas is that, as the NAZI’s espoused, the individual that has least “Utilitarian” value, is the most likely to be “Pruned” or killed. Since babies in the womb no longer have intrinsic value (as the Bible says, “all children are a gift from God”, Psalm 127:3), murdering them is no longer murder but is redefined in terms that man dictates and calls “Choice” (another form of “Social Justice”). How murder became “Choice” is one of the great studies of the 20th Century, and involves the convoluted and distorted reasoning that are intrinsic to the postmodern way of thinking.