When I get bored at work, I try to give myself something of a postmodern education (duplicity intended), as in I browse Wikipedia making some notes in my journal. I started on Derrida, in an attempt to understand him (see this) and wound up on marxist critic Fredric Jameson (see: Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism). Postmodernism, in all its postmodernity, has yet to achieve a generally agreed-upon definition. I have my own perspective, and I was SO happy to read Jameson’s definition and find that it corresponds with my own, only more eloquently put and academically legitimate. Jameson describes, and I paraphrase: Postmodernity is characterized by pastiche and a crisis of historicity. In a postmodern culture, parody or satire, which requires a moral judgement or comparison with societal norms, is replaced with pastiche , a collage, imitation, or other form of juxtaposition without a normative grounding. With the crisis of historicity, Jameson succinctly states: “there no longer does seem to be any organic relationship between the American history we learn from schoolbooks and the lived experience of the current, multinational, high-rise, stagflated city of the newspapers and of our own everyday life.”
What causes this crisis? For Marx, the proletariat worker was alienated through the increased methods of production (they had nothing to do with the output of their work, they just toiled away all day with no clear visualization of purpose). Perhaps the cause of postmodernity is not an alienation of labour, but an alienation of communication. I’m not sure, but I can definitely understand the feeling that we are somehow outside of history, that all the important things have already happened and we are simply the leftover; those few incoherent thoughts remaining after you awake from a dream. I can understand the crisis of pastiche; the feeling that there is nothing new to contribute to the world, other than simply recycling old ideas. And not even recycled with a hint of irony or self-reflexivity. Everything is a trend; a signfier without a signified. Is pastiche just a series of empty signs? I shall have to read more Jameson, and maybe some Derrida and McLuhan.