Is Postmodernism Dead?

“Postmodernism is dead,” proclaims Edward Docx in his recent article. This obscure British author has spent a while in the category of “promising” writers but never delivered on his promise. His most recent novel, The Devil’s Garden, sounds as trite as its title promises it to be. It is pretty obvious at this point that the book is not going to be successful, so Docx is trying to attract attention to himself by declaring that postmodernism has given way to what he calls ” the Age of Authenticism.”

If I were even slightly likely to trust Docx’s judgment, I would be quite distraught right now. “Authenticity” is a term I abhor almost as much as I do the term “community.” The two are inextricably linked, as well. We are always expected to go back to our community in order to look for our authentic roots. Or practice authenticity in order to reconnect with our community. Or any variation thereof that is as vapid as it is annoying.

The good news is that there is no reason to rely upon this writer’s opinion. A person who is capable of writing the following passage is not a prophet capable of envisioning the future. He is simply a bad writer.

We desire to be redeemed from the grossness of our consumption, the sham of our attitudinising, the teeming insecurities on which social networking sites were founded and now feed. We want to become reacquainted with the spellbinding narrative of expertise. . . If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us. We can see it in the specificity of the local food movement or the repeated use of the word “proper” on gastropub menus. We can hear it in the use of the word “legend” as applied to anyone who has actually achieved something in the real world. (The elevation of real life to myth!) We can recognise it in advertising campaigns such as for Jack Daniel’s, which ache to portray not rebellion but authenticity. We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

The sham of attitudinising?  The spellbinding narrative of expertise? Brands taking up an interest in ethics? A consumer who takes values out of the object? Advertising campaigns that ache to portray? The only thing that aches here is the language that has been tortured in a very cruel manner in this paragraph.

P.S. I just found David Ruccio’s analysis of the same article by Docx. I respect David Ruccio a lot but I kind of think my critique of the article is more fun to read. Wouldn’t you agree?

7 thoughts on “Is Postmodernism Dead?

  1. It is trendy to proclaim the death of postmodernism these days. Modernity, Postmodern theory, and Postmodernism appear less and less in book titles and articles.

    And what is this particuar writer talking about when he proclaims the death of Postmodernity? Which Postmodernity is he talking about?

    As for me, Postmodernism is still a very relevant term to understand the present. In this I follow Zizek, who thinks that postmodernity is still relevant because it characterizes the post 1968 era. And we are still discussing “the post 1968 era” pretty much.


    1. ‘As for me, Postmodernism is still a very relevant term to understand the present. In this I follow Zizek, who thinks that postmodernity is still relevant because it characterizes the post 1968 era. And we are still discussing “the post 1968 era” pretty much.”

      – That’s exactly my position, too. There will have to be a truly cataclysmic event to augur a new era, like there has been with every period in history. I’m sure Docx sees his inevitable failure as a writer as such a cataclysmic event but I don’t think anybody else will share his viewpoint on that.


  2. Well, postmodernism can mean anything and nothing, and there are too many definitions of it. Usually, it’s used to repeat a set of cliches, So I’ve always tried to avoid using it. Besides, when it comes to Latin America, it’s usefulness is dubious at best.


  3. It’s interesting that this guy claims that ‘postmodernism is dead’, then talks about advertising in a way which would not look out of place if it led directly into a discussion of how Jean Baudrillard was right all along.


  4. “Community” has been emptied of meaning by those who misuse it to describe as “communities” non-existent things – for example people speak of things like “the blind community” or “the left-handed community”, where they create a “community” around a characteristic that has nothing to do with community. A common interest, or a common culture can be the basis of a community in which people interact with each other, but some characteristics do not do this.

    “Authenticity”, however, has never had a meaning of which it can be emptied, at least not the kind of meaning ascribed to it by those who like to have it floating around. I can speak of the authenticity of a historical document, but not of authenticity on its own, detached. Some people used to use “relevance” in the same way — it didn’t have to be relevant to anything. It just had to be relevant.


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