"Post" means "after," but how can there be such a thing as "after-modern"? Isn't "modernity"whatever is presently happening? In one sense that's true, but people don't start to think of themselves as being "modern" until there's a clear break with some kind of past. And for our culture, that break happened with the scientific revolution, which culminated in the Enlightenment, as ultimate authority of Religion passed to Reason. "Post-modernism," then, refers to another historical break, the beginning of a new era that is different in some special way from the period when we thought of ourselves as "modern," the period of reason and science:
But if the modern period was all about the transition from religion as the most trusted authority on Truth to science as the most trusted form of Knowledge, then what transition defines our postmodern period? According to Jean-Francois Lyotard's famous book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, there IS no longer any single trusted source of understanding. Science led to great technological progress, but also to the mind-numbing overload of the mass media, where "information" is "now something that is produced to be sold," not to be "true" (Lyotard). Most people in our culture no longer really believe in what Lyotard calls "grand narratives," which are belief systems that claim the absolute Truth about reality (Lyotard cites religion and Marxism). If Lyotard is right, our culture will become more and more fragmented, and "politics" as the large scale pursuit of social change will fade away. Even the idea of "society" could become outdated as technology evolves.
Is Lyotard right? Have we entered a "postmodern" phase that means the end of knowledge and society as we once understood it? Your goal is to take a position on this question after watching these videos by posting a one-paragraph response with at least one real-world examples that supports one of these perspectives:
1. Jean Baudrillard: Postmodernism, or as he calls it "Hyperreality," is here to stay. Watch movies, eat Arby's, do whatever... Just don't think you can change the world - those days are over. Simulations are all that remain.
(Optional - Also watch this explanation of how Baudrillard's ideas influenced The Matrix.)
2. Neo-Marxism: The "Postmodernism Condition" is an advanced stage of capitalism where everything has become a product thanks to advertising and "branding." We need to fight capitalism, not give up on politics.
(Optional - Watch modern Marxist Slavoj Zizek argue that capitalism's ideological power is the real problem).
3. Rorty's Pragmatism - Politics is not dead; Americans can and should come together to restore the American dream. This isn't going to be easy, because our politics have become corrupt, but we must retain hope.)
(Optional - Watch John Green address this question, hear from a variety of Americans, and a British perspective).