Definitions[ edit ] Social theory by definition is used to make distinctions and generalizations among different types of societies, and to analyze modernity as it has emerged in the past few centuries. Classical social theory has generally been presented from a perspective of Western philosophyand often regarded as Eurocentric.
Ideas such as God, freedom, immortality, the world, first beginning, and final end have only a regulative function for knowledge, since they cannot find fulfilling instances among objects of experience.
With Hegel, the immediacy of the subject-object relation itself is shown to be illusory. So-called immediate perception therefore lacks the certainty of immediacy itself, a certainty that must be deferred to the working out of a complete system of experience.
However, later thinkers point out that Hegel's logic pre-supposes concepts, such as identity and negation see Hegelwhich cannot themselves be accepted as immediately given, and which therefore must be accounted for in some other, non-dialectical way. The later nineteenth century is the age of modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions.
There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience. Indeed, many proponents of postmodernism challenge the viability of such a distinction tout court, seeing in achieved modernism the emergence of a problem the philosophical tradition has repressed.
A consequence of achieved modernism is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realization. De-realization affects both the subject and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved.
Important precursors to this notion are found in Kierkegaard, Marx and Nietzsche.
In this sense, society has become a realization of abstract thought, held together by an artificial and all-pervasive medium speaking for everyone and for no one.
In Marx, on the other hand, we have an analysis of the fetishism of commodities Marx— where objects lose the solidity of their use value and become spectral figures under the aspect of exchange value.
Their ghostly nature results from their absorption into a network of social relations, where their values fluctuate independently of their corporeal being.
Human subjects themselves experience this de-realization because commodities are products of their labor. Workers paradoxically lose their being in realizing themselves, and this becomes emblematic for those professing a postmodern sensibility.
However, with the notion of the true world, he says, we have also done away with the apparent one. What is left is neither real nor apparent, but something in between, and therefore something akin to the virtual reality of more recent vintage. The notion of a collapse between the real and the apparent is suggested in Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy Nietzschewhere he presents Greek tragedy as a synthesis of natural art impulses represented by the gods Apollo and Dionysus.
Where Apollo is the god of beautiful forms and images, Dionysus is the god of frenzy and intoxication, under whose sway the spell of individuated existence is broken in a moment of undifferentiated oneness with nature.
While tragic art is life-affirming in joining these two impulses, logic and science are built upon Apollonian representations that have become frozen and lifeless. Hence, Nietzsche believes only a return of the Dionysian art impulse can save modern society from sterility and nihilism.
This interpretation presages postmodern concepts of art and representation, and also anticipates postmodernists' fascination with the prospect of a revolutionary moment auguring a new, anarchic sense of community. In order to be responsible we must assume that we are the cause of our actions, and this cause must hold over time, retaining its identity, so that rewards and punishments are accepted as consequences for actions deemed beneficial or detrimental to others Nietzsche;, Thus logic is born from the demand to adhere to common social norms which shape the human herd into a society of knowing and acting subjects.
In this text, Nietzsche puts forward the hypothesis that scientific concepts are chains of metaphors hardened into accepted truths. On this account, metaphor begins when a nerve stimulus is copied as an image, which is then imitated in sound, giving rise, when repeated, to the word, which becomes a concept when the word is used to designate multiple instances of singular events.
Conceptual metaphors are thus lies because they equate unequal things, just as the chain of metaphors moves from one level to another. On Nietzsche's view, the life of an individual and a culture depend upon their ability to repeat an unhistorical moment, a kind of forgetfulness, along with their continuous development through time, and the study of history ought therefore to emphasize how each person or culture attains and repeats this moment.
There is no question, then, of reaching a standpoint outside of history or of conceiving past times as stages on the way to the present.
Nietzsche presents this concept in The Gay Science Nietzsche ,and in a more developed form in Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche —, — Many have taken the concept to imply an endless, identical repetition of everything in the universe, such that nothing occurs that has not already occurred an infinite number of times before.
However, others, including postmodernists, read these passages in conjunction with the notion that history is the repetition of an unhistorical moment, a moment that is always new in each case. In their view, Nietzsche can only mean that the new eternally repeats as new, and therefore recurrence is a matter of difference rather than identity.
Furthermore, postmodernists join the concept of eternal return with the loss of the distinction between the real and the apparent world. The distinction itself does not reappear, and what repeats is neither real nor apparent in the traditional sense, but is a phantasm or simulacrum.
Nietzsche is a common interest between postmodern philosophers and Martin Heidegger, whose meditations on art, technology, and the withdrawal of being they regularly cite and comment upon.
Heidegger's contribution to the sense of de-realization of the world stems from oft repeated remarks such as: Heidegger sees modern technology as the fulfillment of Western metaphysics, which he characterizes as the metaphysics of presence.
From the time of the earliest philosophers, but definitively with Plato, says Heidegger, Western thought has conceived of being as the presence of beings, which in the modern world has come to mean the availability of beings for use.Postmodern social theory is a field which is both difficult to define and rejects being defined.
Postmodern theory is largely concerned . That postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.
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In the aftermath of World War II, America stood alone as the world’s premier military power.
Yet its martial confidence contrasted vividly with its sense of cultural inferiority. Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to lateth century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism and that marked a departure from modernism.
The term has also more generally been applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era. (In this context, "modern" is not used in the sense of "contemporary", but merely as a name.
Essay on Postmodern Social Theory Postmodern social theory is a field which is both difficult to define and rejects being defined. It is, in fact, a field that struggles .
For example, postmodernists questioned the idea that there was an objective reality out there to be discovered and and they abandoned foundationalism (the idea that we can identify a sound foundation upon which to build other knowledge). Furthermore they were suspicious of the type of metanarratives that modernists sought (grand accounts which were supposedly true for everyone).