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Probabilistic Determinism. Values and Praxis. Pomo Modes of Discourse. Improving the Reliability of Ethnography. Origins of Capitalism. Max Webers Theory. He goes on to tell us that the ideal of multiple modernities rules out the notion of globality as a general condition characteristic of a new epoch, and then outlines a number of criticisms of modernization theory and, by impli- cation, postmodernization theory. It is interesting to note that all these factors, bar perhaps the last one, would not be at all difficult to incorporate into many of the positions which thrived in the opening developed by postmodernism.

Certainly those who work in social and cultural theory who draw upon the writings of Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, the postcolonial-inspired writings of Chakrabarty, Mbembe, Said, Sakai, Spivak and others, would not find these positions problematic.


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A key aspect of the unstable conceptual field opened up by the postmod- ern, then, is to question linear metanarratives and assumption of ordered his- torical development. There are clearly many genealogies of the postmodern and when one looks into its use in different societies around the world, the term fulfils different needs within particular local contexts for a history of the postmodern see Bertens, In China, postmodernism was introduced from the West through interest in the writings of Derrida, Foucault, Barthes and others in the s. It was taken up as a strong critique of both the state modernization project and modernism, which was also seen as legitimate.

The rapid expansion of the Chinese economy in the s, the urbanization of Shanghai and Beijing, offered new postmodern architecture, the expansion of television and advertising media and consumer culture in general led to a new sense of experience which could not be recovered into the traditional Communist Party vision of moderniza- tion see Chen, ; also Dirlik and Zhang, The different use of post- modernism in both China and Japan, points to the importance of understanding the local context to get the sense of what is at stake in the term postmodernism, which although given global impetus, clearly has a wide range of local inflections around the world.

The Chinese example suggests an interesting sociology of knowledge account of the reception of postmodern. A process, which was incidentally furthered in its earlier phase by the regular visits of Fredric Jameson to Beijing which helped stimulate a new generation of Chinese intellectuals to read his works and influential ideas on postmodernism Dirlik and Zhang, 1.

It is also worth adding that the Chinese translation of this book, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, which was published in , also proved timely not only in terms of its references to Western debates on postmodernism, which were useful background to the discussions in China, but also in terms of the chapters on consumer culture. The dramatic growth of the Chinese economy since the s has encouraged the development of consumer culture within China and opened up many questions for intel- lectuals and academics about the direction Chinese society should take and both the critical potential and social limitations of consumer culture.

The globalization process is making us more aware of the reception of works around the world and the changing structure of the global knowledge econ- omy. If, as Naoki Sakai argues, theoretical knowledge can be seen as flowing out from Western centres with data flowing back from the rest of the world, this process is becoming more complex. Not only through the continuing expansion of Western knowledge institutions such as universi- ties, publishing houses and media conglomerates to set up branches and franchises in the rest of the world, to cater for the growing global market for English-speaking symbol analysts that Reich speaks about.

But there are also signs of the emergence of other centres of knowledge pro- duction and formation around in the world, China being the most promi- nent example. The contemporary rise of China certainly poses interesting questions for Western-centred genealogies of modernity and threatens to declassify some of the disciplinary conceptual hierarchies.

This is the first of a number of planned special issues which include megacities, media, food, religion, consumer culture. The aim of the project is to use the encyclopaedia form to rethink the formation of knowledge under the impact of globaliza- tion and digitization.

8 Theories of Culture change

These processes not only increase the storage, scope and speed of access to knowledge, making more content available. They also pro- vide new opportunities to problematize existing disciplinary classifications by providing new spaces for counterexamples, dialogue and critical reflection. In effect they can encourage declassification moves and challenges to the authority of existing knowledge see Featherstone, b, Featherstone and Venn, The Problematizing Global Knowledge volume is interesting not only through the use of supplements, which deconstruct the authority of entries and provide additional content from different parts of the world, but for its theoretical reflection on knowledge.

Many things have happened since postmodernism initiated a new wave of critical reflection on the formation of knowledge and culture in the s. Postcolonialism in particular has deep- ened the critique of Eurocentric knowledge and has sought to provide alter- native genealogies of national and global histories Chakrabarty, ; Houtondji, ; Mbembe, ; Venn, A number of pieces in the Problematizing Global Knowledge volume, notably those which deal with assemblage, event, the unclassifiable, translation, the knowledge apparatus, method, media theory, life, experience, global assem- blage, global sovereignty and archive, favour a more processual and contin- gent theory of knowledge formation.

Postmodernism, then, may have been eclipsed in significance, yet the theoretical impulse it provided has encour- aged the search for alternative modes of critical knowledge formation. The book has sold well and has been translated into more than ten languages, which suggests that a good number of people have found it useful. Turner and Couze Venn.

I have benefited a great deal from their intellectual generosity and willingness to tackle new ideas. I would also like to thank Antonio A. The new edition has a special debt to Mike Hepworth, Huimin Jin and Couze Venn who made excellent suggestions to improve the additional chapter and pref- ace to the second edition. As the new edition is in press we have learned of the death of my close friend and long-standing TCS colleague, Mike Hepworth.

We worked together on many projects from the s onwards. One of the problems is that the term is at once fashionable yet irritatingly elusive to define. The more movements they can give names to, the more successful they will be. But it is all to easy to see postmodernism as a reactionary, mechanical reflection of social changes and to blame the aca- demics and intellectuals for coining the term as part of their distinction games.

Even though certain newspaper critics and para-intellectuals use the term in a cynical or dismissive manner, they confirm that postmodernism has sufficient appeal to interest a larger middle-class audience. Few other recent academic terms can claim to have enjoyed such popularity.

Before we can look at the means of transmission and dissemination of the concept, we need a clearer notion of the range of phenomena which are generally included under the umbrella concept postmodernism. The very names of those included and excluded in the list will doubtless strike some as controversial.

Scott Lash would want to regard Dada as post- modernism avant la lettre Lash, Yet it can be argued that one of the functions of the interest in postmodernism on the part of critics, para-intellectuals, cultural intermediaries and academics has been to diffuse the term to wider audiences in different national and international contexts this is one of the senses in which one can talk about the globalization of culture ; and to increase the speed of interchange and circulation of the term between the various fields in the academy and the arts, which now want to, and have to, pay more attention to developments among their neighbours.

In this sense it is possible that some greater agreement on the meaning of the term might eventually emerge as commentators in each particular field find it necessary to recapitulate and explain the multiplex history and usages of the term in order to educate new, academic audiences.

This would make the postmodern a relatively ill-defined term as we are only on the threshold of the alleged shift, and not in a posi- tion to regard the postmodern as a fully fledged positivity which can be defined comprehensively in its own right. Bearing this in mind we can take a closer look at the pairings.

Modernity—postmodernity This suggests the epochal meaning of the terms. Modernity is generally held to have come into being with the Renaissance and was defined in relation to Antiquity, as in the debate between the Ancients and the Moderns. Consequently, to speak of postmodernity is to suggest an epochal shift or break from modernity involving the emergence of a new social totality with its own distinct organizing principles. It is this order of change that has been detected in the writing of Baudrillard, Lyotard and, to some extent, Jameson Kellner, Both Baudrillard and Lyotard assume a movement towards a post-industrial age.

Baudrillard a stresses that new forms of technology and information become central to the shift from a productive to a repro- ductive social order in which simulations and models increasingly constitute the world so that the distinction between the real and appearance becomes erased. Lyotard talks about the postmodern society, or postmodern age, which is premised on the move to a post-industrial order.

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Yet Lyotard, like many users of the fam- ily of terms, sometimes changes register from one term to the next and switches usages. Fredric Jameson a has a more def- inite periodizing concept of the postmodern. Yet he is reluctant to conceive of it as an epochal shift; rather postmodernism is the cultural dominant, or cultural logic, of the third great stage of capitalism, late capitalism which orig- inates in the post-World War II era. This is the sense of being modern associated with Baudelaire which, as Foucault 40 argues, entails an ironical heroicization of the present: the modern man is the man who constantly tries to invent himself.

Marvin Harris

It is this attempt to make sense of the experience of life in the new urban spaces and nascent consumer culture, which developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, which provided the impetus for the theories of modern everyday life in the work of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin dis- cussed by David Frisby lb in his Fragments of Modernity.