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Different Perspectives on (Post) Modernism: Foster, Habermas, Jameson, and Baudrillard

This short reflection paper aims to explain and discuss briefly how different scholars shed light on the conceptions like modernism and post-modernism. The essays to be discussing here are collected in a book named “The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture” (PDF) which is important to notice and understand the connections among these scholars reflecting on the concepts mentioned above. This present paper, though, aims to concentrate on these following essays: Postmodernism: A Preface written by Hal Foster, Modernity: An Incomplete Project argued by Jürgen Habermas, Postmodernism and Consumer Society discussed by Fredric Jameson, and lastly, The Ecstasy of Communication written by Jean Baudrillard. Overall, the primary goal here is to show the major breaking points in each of these pieces within the scope of modernity and postmodernism.  

  • Hal Foster
    Hal Foster

Beginning with “The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture”, as edited by Hal Foster, is written to give some major discussions and arguments regarding concentration on the conception of postmodernism. Foster’s preface aims to explain the scope and limitations of this piece while drawing the readers’ attention to what is going on in the postmodernism literature. Foster begins with the preface by asking that whether postmodernism is a concept or a practice. It is a fruitful question to answer because it might bring the readers to think on this subject more elaborately.

While explaining the structure of the book, Foster starts with mentioning the discussion centering on the conception of the modernity as a failed project by a little bit pointing out Habermas’ arguments to address the problematic of the postmodernist shift. Other than this, Foster tried to give a broader landscape for postmodernist discourse in terms of its relation to the textual models. Putting it differently, Foster (1983: xi) claims that “one postmodernist strategy becomes clear: to deconstruct modernism not in order to seal it in its own image but in order to open it, to rewrite it (…)”. One can infer from this quotation is that postmodernism does not mean to apply a set of theories for a social phenomenon and analyze it within this scope. Rather than this, as Foster put it in Preface section, postmodernism deals with deconstructing what we should see what we miss or/and what we could not be able to see.   

What Foster mentions in his piece on postmodernism is not limited to its counter position against modernism as a failed project. He also points out the content of the book by giving some historical and conceptual background which readers might be able to have an idea about the topics. Overall, Foster finishes his text by remarking why these essays found in a book named with the spotlight under the conception of anti-aesthetic. For Foster (1983: xv), anti-aesthetic does not refer to a modern nihilism, but on the contrary, it is “a critique which destructures the order of representations in order to reinscribe them”. His statement says a lot about the rest of the book centering on postmodernism.

Habermas

What we have in the work of Habermas under the light of these frames is the discussion revolving around whether we need postmodernism since modernity is a project failed, or not. For Habermas (1983: 3) modernism is not a concept as unique for the Renaissance, simply put, it is “the result of a transition from the old to the new”. So, modernism is all about a shift in time and/or space. In addition to this, Habermas also criticizes the avant-garde as for not being creative enough, though it exists. That is why one might say that he called his text as an incomplete project.

While rejecting the idea of modernism as a child of Renaissance, Habermas also put emphasis on some concepts like aesthetic modernity, cultural and societal modernization, as well as the Enlightenment project that negated culture. What one needs to do is not to shift from modernism to postmodernism, but rather, one needs to learn the mistakes negating modernity so that it would be possible to reestablish the missing connection between culture and everyday life. As succinctly told, Habermas put a lot of pressure on culture in every aspect of his arguments about transformation. In other words, every change we have needs cultural changes, and that is why modernity in its literal form needs not to be revaluated but corrected.

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