Notebooks

## Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, etc.

18 Apr 2012 12:47

I'm not going to try to explain these fashions here.

My favorite poststructuralist is Gilles Deleuze (with or without Guattari). I like to think that he was really writing an elaborate series of works of science fiction, in a non-fictional format (much as Stanislaw Lem did in Imaginary Magnitude and A Perfect Vacuum), only without letting anyone in on the joke. Partly this is because there are moments where what he says is almost right (such as the definition of "relation" he gives in his interview with Claire Parnet, where he visibly reaches for, but can't quite grasp, the notion of a set of ordered pairs), much as many science fiction writers get things almost right. That, plus the fact that he was obviously channeling La Mettrie, which seems to have escaped many people.

Recommended:
• Andrew Bulhack, The Postmodernism Generator
• Manuel DeLanda
• A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity [Actually, you can profitably read this while completely ignoring DeLanda's inspiration by Deleuze, since the verbiage is stuffed into a few footnotes.]
• A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History
• War in the Age of Intelligent Machines
• Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues
• John M. Ellis, Against Deconstruction [Hostile, obviously (?), but also the clearest and fairest presentation I have found]
• George Huppert, "Divinatio et Eruditio: Thoughts on Foucault," History and Theory, 13 (1974): 191--207 [JSTOR link]
• Leonard Jackson, The Poverty of Structuralism [And post-structuralism]
• Noretta Koertge (ed.), A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science
• Michele Lamont, "How to Become a Dominant French Philosopher: The Case of Jacques Derrida", American Journal of Sociology 93 (1987): 584--622
• Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge [The key to understanding this book is to realize that it was written in 1979, and is, underneath it all, a fairly typical futurological work of that vintage. Speculation was rife about the then-coming world of information networks, and The Postmodern Condition is best compared to books like Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave (1980) or John Wicklein's The Electronic Nightmare: The New Communications and Freedom (1981). Lyotard was worrying about what would happen when computers were hooked up by telecommunications (like most futurologists, he thought it meant centralized databases), about treating information as a commodity, and generally about irresponsible, greedy uses of technology. His track-record as a prognosticator is dismal, but so is everyone else's. The particular awfulness of the book, however, is that these fairly standard, if sensible-at-the-time, issues are drenched in an incredibly pretentious and ignorant discussion of "knowledge," "science," and a supposed fundamental shift in western culture (see Nola and Irzik). Also, he really, really didn't understand computation. The translators, it must be said, did not help by, e.g., turning grand recit into "metanarrative". Overall, if you must look at such dreams of futures past, you're better off reading John Brunner's novel The Shockwave Rider than Lyotard; maybe even better off reading Toffler.]
• J. G. Merquior
• Foucault
• From Prague to Paris: A Critique of Structuralist and Post-Structuralist Thought
• Charles Newman, The Post-Modern Aura: The Act of Fiction in an Age of Inflation [An attempt at an economic analysis. It would be more convincing if his economics were better. Still good on drawing out connections between postmodern literature and modernism as such.]
• Robert Nola and Gürol Irzik, "Incredulity towards Lyotard: a critique of a postmodernist account of science and knowledge," Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 34 (2003): 391--421 [Abstract: "Philosophers of science have paid little attention, positive or negative, to Lyotard's book The postmodern condition, even though it has been popular in other fields. We set out some of the reasons for this neglect. Lyotard thought that sciences could be justified by non-scientific narratives (a position he later abandoned). We show why this is unacceptable, and why many of Lyotard's characterisations of science are either implausible or are narrowly positivist. One of Lyotard's themes is that the nature of knowledge has changed and thereby so has society itself. However much of what Lyotard says muddles epistemological matters about the definition of knowledge' with sociological claims about how information circulates in modern society. We distinguish two kinds of legitimation of science: epistemic and socio-political. In proclaiming incredulity towards metanarratives' Lyotard has nothing to say about how epistemic and methodological principles are to be justified (legitimated). He also gives a bad argument as to why there can be no epistemic legitimation, which is based on an act/content confusion, and a confusion between making an agreement and the content of what is agreed to. As for socio-political legitimation, Lyotard's discussion remains at the abstract level of science as a whole rather than at the level of the particular applications of sciences. Moreover his positive points can be accepted without taking on board any of his postmodernist account of science. Finally we argue that Lyotard's account of paralogy, which is meant to provide a `postmodern' style of justification, is a failure."]
• Christopher Norris
• Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War
• Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction and Critical Theory [Review]
• Thomas G. Pavel, The Feud of Languages: A History of Structuralist Thought = The Spell of Language: Poststructuralism and Speculation
• Pauline Marie Rosenau, Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions [If she presents any insights, I missed them.]
• Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism [Pedestrian, but decent]
• Alan Sokal
• Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy [Mini-review]
• Richard Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism [Wolin is very good on the exceedingly unsavory political affiliations and sources of many writers who have become canonical for the postmodernists, and it's fun, for people like me, to see them try to squirm out of the fact that their intellectual ancestors were (to coin a phrase) all a bunch of raving fascists. However, Wolin's philosophical critiques are less than compelling. (Especially in the case of Nietzsche, where he seems to think that when Uncle Fritz talked about the will to power, he was making a moral proposal or command ("You should desire more power!") instead of making a descriptive psychological statement ("You're really doing that because you want power") sometimes a descriptive physical or metaphysical claim ("Everything does what it does in an attempt to enhance its power"). This is, I should think, pretty clear.) I thus find myself in the odd position of more or less agreeing with Richard Rorty, in his review of Wolin's book in The Nation.]
• Philip Bell, Confronting Theory: The Psychology of Cultural Studies [Blurb]
• Thomas Bewes, Cynicism and Postmodernity
• Raymond Boudon, "The Freudian-Marxian-Structuralist (FMS) movement in France: variations on a theme by Sherry Turkle," Revue Tocqueville, vol. II, no. 1 (Winter 1980), pp. 5--24
• Paul Cilliers, Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems
• Manuel DeLanda, Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy [Exposition of "Deleuze's world" (as opposed to his "words") aimed at analytical philosophers and philosophically inclined scientists. We'll see! — DeLanda's book on social complexity is actually very good.]
• Marianne DeKoven, Utopia Limited: The Sixties and the Emergence of the Postmodern
• Nancy Easterlin and Barbara Riebling (eds.), After Poststructuralism: Interdisciplinarity and Literary Theory
• Mark Edmundson, Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defense of Poetry
• David Harvey, The Condition of Post-Modernity
• John Johnston
• Information Multiplicity: American Fiction in the Age of Media Saturation
• The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI [blurb]
• Charles Lemert, Durkheim's Ghosts: Cultural Logics and Social Things [Blurb]
• John McGowan, Postmodernism and Its Critics
• Christopher Norris
• Deconstruction: Theory and Practice
• Derrida
• Ann Norton, Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists: Word, Flesh and Revolution
• Carl Rapp, Fleeing the Universal: The Critique of Post-Rational Criticism
• Gillian Rose, Dialectic of Nihilism: Post-Structuralism and Law [1984. Bookseller's blurb: "This book fundamentally challenges the radical credentials of post-structuralism. Though Derrida, Foucault and Deleuze claim to have 'deconstructed' metaphysics, their work has much in common with previous attempts to 'end' the metaphysical tradition, from Kant to Nietzsche and Heidegger, and by sociology in general. Gillian Rose shows that this anti-metaphysical writing always appears in historically specific jurisprudential terms, which themselves found and recapitulate metaphysical categories. She reconsiders post-structuralism in this light and assesses the relationship between deconstruction and the earlier structuralism of Saussure and Levi-Strauss. She argues in conclusion that the choice between post-structuralist nihilism and Hegelian and Marxist dialectic is spurious."]
• Horst Ruthrof, Pandora and Occam: On the Limits of Language and Literature
• Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
• Nico Wilterdink, "The sociogenesis of postmodernism", European Journal of Sociology 43 (2002): 190--216