The conception of a utopian society has both motivated and haunted countless civilizations since the dawn of time. Sublime and intangible, the aspiration to reach a "perfect" society is arguably the heart of one of the world's most significant movements; modernism. Proponents of modernism believe that it was [and still is] society's best chance at reaching any semblance of a utopia. Theorists such as Jurgen Habermas and Fredric Jameson celebrate modernism as the peak of recent thinking, and rail against society's contemporary movement; postmodernism. These advocates of modernism believe postmodernism to be a giant leap backward; a movement bent on destroying all that modernism has created. Modernism, in the eyes of its advocates, attempted to seek out and destroy any injustices and frustrations within society by attacking them head on, and with the utmost seriousness. Postmodernism, with its deeply rooted use of irony, ambivalence, parody, and contradiction, has often been dismissed by its opponents as lacking the gravity and significance of modernism; an extremely faulty claim. Postmodernism is, in fact, the most appropriate, valid perception of humanity modern man has shaped. In Jim Powell's book Postmodernism for Beginners, he points out that Fredric Jameson admired modernism because it "expressed its dissatisfaction with the world" (Powell 36). Jameson considered this application of modernism to be the vital first step in any conquest of utopia. Moreover, he and other advocates of modernism believed postmodernism to be a flawed, destructive movement which not only accepted the dissatisfactions of the world, but merely made jokes of them. Jameson, along with other opponents of postmodernism, is simply mistaken. Postmodernism is more powerful and productive a concept than modernism could ever have been; it does not accept the injustices and dissatisfactions of the world. Instead, it uses methods of parody, ambivalence, and irony to transcend these societal barriers. If there is any chance of reaching a utopian society, postmodernism is truly the first step.
[...] In his essay Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge”, Jean-Francois Lyotard, an advocate of postmodernism, defines the term “postmodern” as “incredulity toward metanarratives” (Lyotard 72). The skepticism of metanarratives Lyotard discusses is truly the core of postmodernism. People began to realize that the oversimplified metanarratives of modernism were destructive to human progression. The world is not black and white, and nothing is ever as simple as “good versus evil”. The ambivalence of postmodernism offers numerous viewpoints for every situation; there are no fundamental or “wrongs”. [...]
[...] In Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge”, Jean-Francois Lyotard states that postmodernism “refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable” (Lyotard 73). The road to a utopian society begins with humanity's acceptance, and eventual transcendence, of all differences. Opponents of postmodernism criticize it for its ambivalence and heavy use of parody, and believe that the movement is detrimental to any “serious” sense of history. The lack of “seriousness” critics of postmodernism speak of is based largely in its quest for self-awareness. [...]
[...] irony to transcend these societal barriers. If there is any chance of reaching a utopian society, postmodernism is truly the first step. It is important to understand that postmodernism is not an opposing force to modernism. In his essay “Modernity versus Postmodernity”, Jurgen Habermas goes as far as declaring postmodernism to be “anti-modernism”. Postmodernism, as it relates to modernism, is not a contradictory theory, but the next step in the natural progression of human thinking. In Fredric Jameson's essay “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”, he views modernism as a “final, extraordinary flowering” (Jameson 312). [...]
[...] High and low culture, fascism and Marxism, everything is viewed with equal irony. Just as Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany are satirized in Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), 1980's heavy metal bands are lampooned in 1982's This is Spinal Tap. The subject matter of these films could not be any more different, and yet, both are parodic, ironic, and satirical films one may find placed next to one another in the section of any video store. Postmodernism has a way of boiling everything down to a point where it can be satirized; nothing is sacred, nothing is taboo. [...]
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