from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The postmodernism (from Latin post behind ',' for ') is in the general sense of the state of Western society , culture and art "after" the Modern . In a special sense, it is a political-scientific-artistic direction that turns against certain institutions, methods, concepts and basic assumptions of modernity and tries to dissolve and overcome them. The advocates of postmodernism criticize the modernity's striving for innovation as merely habitual and automated. They certify that modernity has an illegitimate predominance of a totalitarian principle that carries traits of despotism on a social level and that must be fought. Relevant approaches of modernity are one-dimensional and have failed. This is contrasted with the possibility of a diversity of perspectives that exist side by side on an equal footing ( relativism ). With the demand for a fundamental openness of art, reference is also made critically to the aesthetics of modernity.

The discussion about the time and content of what exactly is postmodern has been going on since the early 1980s. Postmodern thinking does not want to be understood as a mere diagnosis of the time , but as a critical movement of thought that turns against basic assumptions of modernity and shows alternatives.


The term was shaped by Jean-François Lyotard's report The Postmodern Knowledge , in which he declares the philosophical systems of the modern age to have failed. His speech about the end of the great narratives became known , which also expresses the core thesis of his diagnosis: Lyotard does not speak of philosophical systems, but of "narratives". According to Lyotard, the individual modern "narratives" based the explanation of the world on a central principle (e.g. God or the subject) in order to arrive at general statements on this basis. In doing so, however, they exclude the heterogeneous or force the individual under a general point of view, which forcibly levels out its peculiarities. Lyotard uses a number of language games that offer different "narratives", ie explanatory models , in place of a general and absolute principle of explanation (God, subject, reason, system theory , Marxist social theory , etc.) . Lyotard is not against rationality in general, but against a certain historical form of rationality based on the exclusion of the heterogeneous.

This has social consequences: in the modern age, the meta-narratives served to legitimize social institutions, political practices, ethics and ways of thinking, in postmodernism this consensus is lost and dissolves into a multitude of irreconcilable concepts of truth and justice . At the same time, a tolerant sensitivity for differences, heterogeneity and plurality increases and with it the ability to endure the incompatibility of language games.

The discussion following Lyotard on the diagnosis of the epoch of postmodernism, which was conducted very intensively and with great attention in the intellectual public in the 1980s, has flagged since 1989 or shifted to other areas, such as the dispute over Francis Fukuyama's thesis of End of story . The term also begins to lose the fixed character of an epoch designation, which u. a. this is because some of its representatives also have ties to modernity. Others, such as Umberto Eco , on the other hand, tried to free the term from any relationship to modernity and to propagate it as a general artistic endeavor that can occur in any historical epoch.

Concept history


With the term postmodern , first used around 1870, various authors attempted to grasp and in some cases to evaluate very heterogeneous social and cultural developments. Around 1870, the English salon painter John Watkins Chapman suggested developing a postmodern style of painting that should be more modern than that of the French Impressionists.

In 1917 Rudolf Pannwitz was already using the term as a philosophically shaped “concept of culture”.

A few years later, in 1926, the American theologian Bernard Iddings Bell describes a new religious spirituality, which should open to new research findings within the framework of the Christian creed, as "postmodernism".

The literary scholar Federico de Onís used the term exclusively for literary purposes in 1934. He referred to an intermediate period in Hispanic-American poetry between 1905 and 1914 as “postmodernismo”, which was characterized by a brief, backward-looking turning away from modernism as an intermediate phase a renewed, increased turn to modernity.

In 1947 Arnold J. Toynbee describes a phase of culture as “post-modern”, the beginning of which he begins in 1875: postmodernism in this sense is characterized by an early politics of thinking in global contexts and differs from the previous understanding of politics in overcoming the national perspective only. According to Toynbee, postmodernism ushers in the late phase of Western culture.

In the North American literary discourse of 1959, Irving Howe describes contemporary postmodern literature as a phenomenon of decline in a modern age that is characterized by a lack of willingness to innovate. Howe uses the term “postmodern” here for the first time in its current sense. The revaluation took place especially in the 1960s by Irving Howe himself and Harry Levin , but above all by Susan Sontag and Leslie Fiedler .

The term was transferred to architecture in 1977 by the American-British architect and architectural theorist Charles Jencks .

What all these approaches in art, cultural history, philosophy, theology and literature have in common is that they each formulated a specific unease about modernity and its developments and developed consequences from it. This first formation phase came to an end with Howe, whose conception can be seen as fundamental for further developments.

Authors such as Michel Foucault , Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes , who developed new analytical methods with deconstructivism , poststructuralism and discourse analysis , but also Luce Irigaray , who based the work of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan on the feminist, are important for the theory formation and method finding of later representatives of postmodernism Driving theory building. However, many of these theorists are critical of the term postmodernism (→ criticism ).

Concept formation

To speak of “postmodernism” as a spiritual and cultural movement that can be understood under this term only became popular through Jean-François Lyotard with his work The Postmodern Knowledge , despite the named predecessors . The work was first published in 1979. It was originally written for the Canadian government as a study of the role of knowledge in post-industrial societies . Here Lyotard prepares the basis for many developments in philosophy, art, culture and social sciences with his thesis of the end of the great narratives : “In extreme simplification one can say: 'Postmodernism' means that one no longer believes in the meta-narratives . "

According to Lyotard, there are three major meta-narratives:

In the postmodern era, these no longer form a unifying legitimation and goal orientation. The emancipation of the individual, the self-confidence of the spirit, which in the sense of Hegel flows into a holistic ideology, and the idea of ​​a meaningful progress of history towards a utopia are the great stories that one can no longer believe. Consequently, there can no longer be a modern project, no great idea of freedom and socialism that has to be given general validity and to which all social action has to be subordinated.

There is no superordinate language, no generally binding truth that legitimizes the whole of a formal system without contradiction. Scientific rationality, moral behavior and political ideas of justice each play their own game and cannot be brought into line.

From a systematic point of view, Lyotard points out that theoretical and practical forms of implementation of "reason" are immediate. In his main systematic work, “Der Widerstreit”, Lyotard relates this particularly to the functioning of linguistic linking operations. Neither theoretical nor practical reason could be responsible for building bridges; at best, artful interchanging is possible and an “aesthetic” judgment must be used, for which it is essential to constantly search for rules for their own mode of operation. Among other things, the image of the cruise in a rugged archipelago became known for this.

Lyotard himself and others believe that they can tie in with Wittgenstein's ideas regarding specific procedures in specific "language games" which, at least according to this accentuation, in principle rule out communication beyond their language game limits (that this somewhat associative connection would be compatible with Wittgenstein's texts will be however doubted by many experts). In a similar sense, partly following Thomas S. Kuhn (who, however, referred to the dynamics of scientific theories), different language games, cultures and smaller “discourses” of “incommensurability”, i.e. the lack of a common measure, are used .

In diagnosing the ruggedness of “reason”, Lyotard further exacerbates fractions and antinomies that he himself identifies, for example, in the configuration of Kantian thinking, to which he sometimes devoted very detailed studies. Because even Kant saw a mediation between the realms of necessity (in the theoretically grasped nature) and (practical) freedom at best through (aesthetic) judgment, but had emphasized, for example, that at least the aesthetically beautiful gives the subject a promise of unity. For Lyotard, however, this promise is undermined by the gap that appears in the “sublime”. Lyotard's interpretations of Kant's Critique of Judgment in this regard and its application to the works of Barnett Newman , for example, attracted a great deal of attention at times.


In postmodernism, innovation is not the focus of (artistic) interest, but a recombination or new application of existing ideas. The world is not a progress goal-considered way, but rather as a pluralistic , random , chaotic considered and in their frail moments. Human identity is also considered to be unstable and shaped by many, sometimes disparate, cultural factors. Mass media and technology play an important role as carriers and mediators of culture (see also media theory ).

Postmodern art is characterized, among other things, by the expanded concept of art and quotations to past styles, some of which are ironically staged. Where the irony fails or does not exist, the whole direction can be compared with eclecticism .

Elements of postmodern thought and judgment are:

In postmodern cultural studies and the humanities, the predominant methods are discourse analysis and deconstructivism .

In music, sports, art, architecture and literature


The musicologist Jörg Mischke understands postmodernism as a clearly grown plurality of grown ways of thinking and acting in music, which goes hand in hand with the pluralization of lifestyles . Techniques such as collage , crossover , montage and pastiche can be counted as part of musical postmodernism. The break with compositional traditions such as atonality , serialism , twelve-tone technique or the adoption of postmodern discourses in music also belong to musical postmodernism , e.g. B. in post-feminist Riot-Grrrl bands.

According to Jonathan Kramer, there are 16 different characteristics of postmodern music, for example: breaking tradition, ironizing, crossing borders, disdain for musical dogmas, fragmentation, music quotations, eclecticism, discontinuity, playful handling of traditions, ambiguity. The use of the term postmodern to describe musical styles and forms of appearance is, however, controversial.

Typical representatives of a musical postmodernism with very different forms of expression include Laurie Anderson , Luciano Berio , John Cage , Steve Reich , Philip Glass , John Adams , Michael Gordon, Sofia Gubaidulina , Charles Ives , Gija Kantscheli , Krzysztof Penderecki , Olga Neuwirth , Arvo Pärt , Alfred Schnittke , Jóhann Jóhannsson , King Crimson , The Cinematic Orchestra , Bugge Wesseltoft , Nils Frahm , Ólafur Arnalds , The Necks , Nik Bärtsch , Max Richter , Hans Florian Zimmer , Amon Tobin , Frank Zappa , John Zorn and Valentin Silvestrov . Postmodernism has found expression in almost every genre of music, such as orchestral, notated music, improvisational music, jazz, rock, pop, film music and electronic music . Sometimes whole genres belong to it, like post-rock , minimal music , Nu: Jazz or EDM .


With the admission of professional athletes to the Olympic Games , the long prevailing ideology of the amateur has been ended since 1981 , whereby one of the traditional definitions of sport has dissolved; With the self-dissolution of the Eastern Bloc , one of the main reasons for state funding for top-class sport in western countries ceased to exist. This elimination of meta-narrative structures was identified in sport and sports science with postmodernism. The doping dilemma, in which the decision for fair play can mean the reduction of equal opportunities and professional athletes are not allowed to take certain drugs that are taken for granted in ballet , has also been identified with postmodernism. The 1936 Olympic Games have also been associated with postmodernism, because on the one hand they were perceived differently in each country and, on the other hand, Pierre de Coubertin said in an interview immediately after the games that it didn't matter whether one was propaganda for a political system ( 1936) or for fine weather ( Southern California , 1932). It is crucial that the games are celebrated great. Such a rejection of meta-narrative attempts at explanation is symptomatic of postmodernism. Phillips goes one step further by countering the entire positivist approach of sports historiography with postmodern deconstructivism .


Please refer



In political science

In political science and especially in international relations , postmodern approaches, for example in comparison with realistic or liberal approaches , are a very recent form of theory formation. Postmodern approaches have two central characteristics:

  1. the focus on the analysis of texts and other publications, such as images and symbols, rather than on the events themselves.
  2. the skepticism about “objective” truths or categorizations.

"Because if what we know about events is conveyed discursively , then there is always more than one version of these events."

Which form of discourse is superior is on the one hand a question of power . In other theoretical approaches, such as realism, this power is reserved for states . Those who are better positioned on the international stage (e.g. through resources ) dominate. Postmodern approaches, on the other hand, not only assume that discursive representations are an expression of power, but also the discourse itself. So power is not tied to a single participant in the discourse, but extends across the entire context of the action.


Postmodernism turns against fixations, especially ideological, but also cultural ones. Postmodern philosophers were therefore exposed to violent attacks.

Criticism from representatives of scientific realism

The scientific realism raises representatives before postmodernism, to abuse the institutions of science for the dissemination of political views. In terms of content, a tendency towards irrationalism was criticized in positions of postmodernism , as well as a denial of the fact that scientific theories are well-founded by observation and can therefore claim to describe reality objectively.

Criticism of the methodology

Famous is the so-called Sokal Affair , in which Social Text , a postmodern journal without peer review , accepted for publication an article that was purposely made up of nonsensical statements. According to the statement of the author Alan Sokal in the table of contents, the article is about the further development of postmodern concepts, taking into account new developments in quantum gravity . Linguistically, he leaned on the work of Baudrillard and came across as a postmodern criticism of scientific realism in order to have a sympathetic effect on the postmodern audience. According to Sokal, the success of this attempt shows inadequate intellectual standards and misuse of mathematical and scientific metaphors in the postmodern humanities and social science scene.

Political criticism

Classical political ideologies such as conservatism and liberalism and parts of the political left accuse postmodern thinking as a deficit of arbitrariness with regard to important questions in culture and society. Seyla Benhabib criticizes, for example, that “postmodern positions not only erase the specifics of feminist theory, but [could] even question the emancipation ideal of the women's movement”.

Similar objections have also been raised on the part of critical theory . Robert Kurz attacks the culturalization and aestheticization of contradictions inherent in capitalism through postmodernism. Stefan Zenklusen denies the validity of the basic assumption of “irreducible plurality” in terms of subject and language philosophy, sociological and political considerations. According to Samuel Salzborn , postmodernists succeed "in creating an increasing representation of ideas of fundamental inequality, as they are generally advocated in culturalist approaches". By creating “counter-enlightenment concepts”, the emancipatory claim of the founders of postmodern criticism of modernity was turned into its opposite.

In contrast, sections of the New Left and other feminist debates see postmodern ideas as productive for understanding current social developments.

Criticism by Foucault

Many late modern philosophers, who are now and then attributed to the “postmodern” trend, have also expressed themselves critically. Michel Foucault , for example, emphasizes a “tendency to be combated”, “to declare what has just happened to be the main enemy, as if it were always just a matter of freeing oneself from the main form of oppression”. Against Lyotard, Foucault declares that he is “completely in agreement” with the “problem raised by Habermas: If, for example, we give up the work of Kant or Weber, we run the risk of falling into irrationality”. Instead, Foucault calls for “as close as possible to” the question of the nature and genesis of reason “that we use”. Far from thinking that "reason is the enemy that we have to eliminate", Foucault is concerned with the acceptance of a "revolving door to rationality", insofar as even exemplary forms of irrationality such as that of racism can be seen as a form of "radiant rationality" represented, in this case that of Social Darwinism .

See also


Important works by well-known representatives
  • Guy Debord : The Society of the Spectacle . Edition Tiamat, Berlin 1996
  • Gilles Deleuze : The fold. Leibniz and the Baroque. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995
  • Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari : Mille Plateaux. Paris 1980
    • German: capitalism and schizophrenia 2 - a thousand plateaus. Merve, Berlin 1992.
  • Jacques Derrida : Grammatology. Frankfurt am Main 1974
  • Jacques Derrida: The Voice and the Phenomenon. Frankfurt am Main 2003.
  • Jacques Derrida: The margins of philosophy. Vienna 1988.
  • Jacques Derrida: The différance. Selected texts. Stuttgart 2004.
  • Charles Jencks : The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. London 1977
    • German: The language of postmodern architecture. The emergence of an alternative tradition. Stuttgart 1978.
  • Jean-François Lyotard : The Postmodern Knowledge. Passagen-Verlag, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-85165-902-3 (Original title: La condition postmoderne, éditions Minuit, Paris 1979)
  • Jean-François Lyotard: The Controversy. Fink, Munich 1987.
  • Jean-François Lyotard: The Inhuman. Stanford University Press, Stanford 1991.
About postmodernism and postmodernism
  • Zygmunt Bauman : Intimations of Postmodernity. Routledge, London 1992
  • Roger Behrens : Postmodern. EVA Wissen 3000, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-434-46237-6 .
  • Christopher Butler: Postmodernism. A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, New York 2002, ISBN 0-19-280239-9 .
  • Alex Callinicos : Against Postmodernism. A Marxist Critique. Polity Press, Cambridge 1989
  • Terry Eagleton : The Illusions of Postmodernism. Blackwell, Oxford 1996
  • Mike Featherstone: Undoing Culture. Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity. Sage Publications, London 1995.
  • Bernd Goebel / Fernando Suárez Müller: Critique of Postmodern Reason. About Derrida, Foucault, and other contemporary thinkers. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2007, ISBN 978-3-534-20486-1 .
  • Jürgen Habermas : The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1988
  • David Harvey : The Condition of Postmodernity. Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge 1995
  • Peter Kemper (ed.): 'Postmoderne' or The Struggle for the Future. The controversy in science, art and society. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1988.
  • Jens Kastner : Politics and Postmodernism. Libertarian Aspects in the Sociology of Zygmunt Baumans. Unrast, Münster 2000.
  • Scott Lash : Sociology of Postmodernism. Routledge, London 1990
  • Wolfgang Welsch : Our post-modern modernity. 6th edition. Academy, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-05-003727-X .
  • Peter V. Zima : Modern - Postmodern. Society, philosophy, literature. 2nd Edition. Francke, Tübingen u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-8252-1967-4 .
  • Alfrun Kliems (ed.): Poetry of the 20th century in East-Central Europe . Volume 1: Late modernism (= literary studies , Vol. 2). Frank & Timme , Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-86596-020-7 .
  • Christoph Riedweg (Ed.): “After postmodernism. Current Debates on Art, Philosophy and Society “(= Schwabe reflexe 34), Schwabe, Basel 2014, ISBN 978-3-7965-3250-4 .
Text collections
  • Peter Engelmann: Postmodernism and Deconstruction. Texts by contemporary French philosophers. (= RUB 8668). Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-008668-X .
  • Wolfgang Welsch : Paths out of modernity. Key texts in the postmodern discussion. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1994
  • Thomas Docherty (Ed.): Postmodernism. A reader. Harvester Wheatsheaf, New York et al. a. 1993.

Web links

Wiktionary: Postmodernism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A. Preda: Postmodernism in Sociology. In: Neil Smelser, Paul B. Baltes (Eds.): International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Elservier Science, Amsterdam a. a. 2002, pp. 11865-11868.
  2. ^ Lyotard : The Postmodern Knowledge. Passagen, Vienna 1999. (orig .: La Condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir. Paris 1979)
  3. Fukuyama : The End of the Story. Munich 1992.
  4. Umberto Eco: Postscript on the name of the rose. 1984, p. 77.
  5. On the conceptual development cf. Welsch : Our postmodern modernity. Weinheim 1987, p 12ff .; See also Hassan: The Postmodern Turn, Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture. Ohio University Press, 1987.
  6. ^ Higgins: A dialectic of centuries. Notes towards a theory of New Arts. New York 1978.
  7. ^ Rudolf Pannwitz : The crisis of European culture. Nuremberg 1917, p. 64.
  8. ^ BI Bell: Postmodernism and Other Essays. Milwaukee 1926; See also the review in: The Journal of Religion. Vol. 6, No. 6 (Nov. 1926), pp. 629f.
  9. de Oniz: Antologia de la poesia española e hispoamericana. Madrid 1934.
  10. ^ Arnold J. Toynbee : A Study of History. 1947, p. 39.
  11. ^ Howe: Mass Society and Postmodern Fiction. Partisan Review, 1959, pp. 420-436.
  12. ^ Leslie Fiedler : Cross the Border - Close the Gap. 1969.
  13. ^ Charles Jencks: The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. Rizzoli: New York 1977.
  14. ^ Lyotard: The Postmodern Knowledge . 1986, 7/14.
  15. ^ For example, by Hilary Putnam in Renewing Philosophy
  16. ^ Charles Jencks: What is Postmodernism? Zurich / Munich 1990, p. 7: Foreword.
  17. ( Memento from August 11, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  18. Joseph Stein: Postmodernism. (PDF), p. 6.
  19. Jonathan Kramer: The Nature and Origins of Musical Postmodernism. In: Postmodern Music / Postmodern Thought. Routledge, New York 2002, ISBN 0-8153-3820-1 , pp. 16-17.
  20. ( Memento from August 11, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  22. ^ Hermann Danuser: On Postmodernism in Music. In: International Postmodernism: Theory and Literary Practice. Benjamin Publishing, 1997, ISBN 90-272-3445-0 , pp. 160 ff.
  24. The Music of Frank Zappa - Background and Concepts (Slideshow 6.5 MB)
  25. Arnd Krüger : A hundred years and no end? Postmodern Notes on the Olympics. In: I. Diekmann, JH Teichler (Ed.): Body, Culture and Ideology. Sport and zeitgeist in the 19th and 20th centuries. (= Studies on Intellectual History. Volume 19). Philo, Bodenheim 1997, pp. 277-300.
  26. ^ Arnd Krüger: Postmodern Notes on Ethics in Top Sport. In: Arturo Hotz (Hrsg.): Acting in sport in ethical responsibility. (= ESSM series of publications. Volume 62). ESSM, Magglingen 1995, pp. 292-317.
  27. Arnd Krüger, William Murray (ed.): The Nazi Olympics. Sport, Politics and Appeasement in the 1930s. Univ. of Illinois Press, Champaign, IL 2003, ISBN 0-252-02815-5 .
  28. Arnd Krüger: 'What's the Difference between Propaganda for Tourism and for a Political Regime?' What the 1936 Olympics the first Postmodern Spectacle? In: J. Bale, M. Krogh Cristensen (Eds.): Post-Olympism? Questioning Sport in the Twentyfirst Century. Berg, Oxford 2004, pp. 33-50.
  29. ^ Murray G. Phillips (Ed.): Deconstructing sport history. A postmodern analysis. State University of NY, Alabany 2006, ISBN 0-7914-6610-8 .
  30. Thomas Diez : Postmodern Approaches. In: Siegfried Schieder, Manuela Spindler (ed.): Theories of International Relations. 2. revised Edition. Stuttgart 2006, p. 473f.
  31. see, for example, James Der Derian , Ian Shapiro : International / Intertextual Relations. 1989.
  32. ^ Diez, p. 474.
  33. Patrick Hall : Discourse analyzes av nationally identified. In: Petersson & Robertson (Eds.): Identitetstudier i Practices . Malmo 2003.
  34. ^ Stefano Guzzini : Structural Power: The Limits of Neorealist Power Analysis. In: International Organization. 47/3, p. 472.
  35. ^ Paul R. Gross, Normal Levitt: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science . Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1994; Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, Martin W. Lewis: The Flight from Science and Reason . New York Academy of Sciences, New York 1997.
  36. ^ Alan Sokal: A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies. In: Lingua Franca. May / June 1996, pp. 62-64.
  37. The Sokal Hoax: The Sham That Shook the Academy. University of Nebraska Press 2000; Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont: Elegant nonsense. How postmodern thinkers abuse the sciences. CH Beck, Munich 1999.
  38. See, for example, Noam Chomsky on Postmodernism .
  39. ^ Seyla Benhabib : Feminism and Postmodernism. A precarious alliance. P. 13.
  40. Regarding the conflicts with critical theory cf. z. For example: Jürgen Habermas : The Modern Age - An Unfinished Project In: Habermas: Small Political Writings (I-IV). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1981, pp. 444-464; Also Lash: Sociology of Postmodernism. Routledge, London / New York 1990, pp. 153-171.
  41. Robert Kurz : The world as will and design. Postmodernism, lifestyle leftists and the aestheticization of the crisis. Edition Tiamat, Berlin 1999.
  42. Stefan Zenklusen: Farewell to the thesis of the 'most plural' of all worlds. wvb, Berlin 2007.
  43. ^ Samuel Salzborn: Global anti-Semitism. A search for traces in the abyss of modernity. 2nd edition, Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2020, p. 101
  44. ^ Nancy Fraser : False Opposites. P. 59.
  45. Space, Knowledge and Power. In: Writings. Volume 4, 1982, pp. 333f.