Postmodernism: Roots and Politics

Postmodernism: Roots and Politics

Something must be at stake in the edgy debates circulating around and about something called postmodernism. What, then? Commentators pro, con, serious, fey, academic, and accessible seem agreed that something postmodern has happened, even if we are all (or virtually all) Mr. Jones who doesn’t know what it is. (At times the critical world seems to divide between those who speak with assurance about what it is and those who are struggling to keep up.) The volume and pitch of the commentary and controversy seem to imply that something about this postmodern something matters. In the pages of art journals, popular and obscure, abundant passion flows on about passionlessness. It would be cute but glib and shortsighted to dismiss the talk as so much time-serving space-filling, the shoring up of positions for the sake of amassing theoretical property, or propriety, or priority. There is anxiety at work and at play here. I think it is reasonable, or at least interesting, to assume that the anxiety that surfaces in the course of the discussion—and I confess I share in it—is called for. A certain anxiety is entirely commensurate with what is at stake.