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Postmodern Political Theory. Baudrillard. From the mid 70s on…. Neo-Conservative policies (structural adjustment, militarization) & Postmodern thinking. Modernity. Challenge to Tradition and Authority, by The Renaissance The Protestant Reformation

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from the mid 70s on
From the mid 70s on…
  • Neo-Conservative policies (structural adjustment, militarization)


  • Postmodern thinking
  • Challenge to Tradition and Authority, by
    • The Renaissance
    • The Protestant Reformation
    • The Scientific Revolution (against Dogma) (16th & 17th centuries)
    • The Industrial Revolution/s
    • The Bourgeois Revolution

The order of the universe is accessible to reason and observation Method

  • Faith in:
    • Science (to master the Universe)
    • Humanity
    • Progress
jean fran ois lyotard
Jean François Lyotard

.The Postmodern Condition

Lyotard definedPostmodernity as

“incredulity toward metanarratives,”or those all-encompassing stories that account for the ultimate meaning of the world...

modern postmodern political theory
Individuals are seen as independent, stable, free, and rational agents (agency)

Individuals have and manage power voluntarily

Individuals pursue the satisfaction of their needs and interests

Individuals transform the world

Power is an effect of structures

Individuals are effects of power that emerge from a changing, unstable, and complex environment

(no agency)

Concern with identities as defined by power relations (trans/post/hybrid)

Modern & Postmodern (political?) theory
modern postmodern political theory1
The meaning of the entire Universe centered on man

Laws & regularities


Conscious & rational political processes

Focus on relationships

Universal Truth (& universal method/s)

Theory mirrors reality

Hobbes, Locke

Humankind is an accident

Humankind goes nowhere/lack of meaning


Unconscious processes

Focus on the Self

Perspectivist (Nietzschean) denial of (epistemological or ethical) common foundations

Theory ≈ Literature (all theories are just narratives)


Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida (Foucault?)

Modern & Postmodern (political?) theory
some roots of postmodernism
(Some) Roots of Postmodernism
  • Nietzsche - Heidegger
  • Einstein’s theory of Relativity
  • The Holocaust/Hiroshima
  • (French) Structuralism
    • Sociology
    • Linguistics
      • The Linguistic “turn”
french postructuralism
(French) Postructuralism
  • Late ’60s
  • Reject “Grand Theories” & Science
  • Postructuralists engage with “specific analyses of how particular forms of power achieve particular effects within particular historical periods” (Thiele 81)
jacques derrida deconstruction
Jacques Derrida -Deconstruction
  • Assumption: Language CREATES reality
  • Utilization of the rhetorical features of a text to undermine its manifest content or argument
  • Exposition of the self-contradictory forces present in any attempt to conceptualize categories or structures
  • Is EVERYWHERE (Michel Foucault)
  • Multiplicity of territories of power.
  • We are all simultaneously subject to power while exercising power on others.
  • Power= Spider’s Web without a spider
  • Power frames us a SOUL and enchains us through the soul (Domination works by telling us WHAT and WHO we are)
rejection of science humanism and progress
Rejection of Science, Humanism, and Progress...
  • Because of the secret Will to Power and MASTERY over the Universe (and Human Beings) that Modernity embodies
  • Discussion of the COSTS that Science, Humanism, and Progress carry with them...
jean baudrillard
Jean Baudrillard
  • Viruses
  • Virtual reality
  • Physics (black holes)
jean baudrillard disneyworld company
Real people (workers, prostitutes) transformed…

“The idea would be simply to transform, in situ, one of the high centers of pornography into a branch of Disney World. Transforming the pornographers and the prostitutes, like the factory workers in Smurfland, into extras in their own world,metamorphosed into identical figures, museumified, disneyfied. By the way, do you know how General Schwarzkopf, the great Gulf War strategist, celebrated his victory? He had a huge party at Disney World. These festivities in the palace of the imaginary were a worthy conclusion to such a virtual war.”

Jean Baudrillard: Disneyworld Company
not working class but the masses
Not working class, but… The masses
  • “Successive events attain their annihilation in indifference. Neutralized and bullet-sprayed by information, the masses neutralise history retrospect and act as a screen of absorption. They themselves have no history, no meaning, no conscience, no desire. They are potential residues of all history, of all meaning, of all desire.”
loss of meaning
Loss of Meaning
  • “What has been lost is the glory of the event, its aura, as Benjamin would say. Over the centuries, history lived under the sign of glory, under the sign of a quite strong illusion that had played on the durability of time which one inherited from the ancestors and then passed onto descendants. This passion today would seem rather pathetic. What we are after is no longer glory but identity… whereas the task once was to lose oneself in a prodigious dimension, in an "immortality" Hannah Arendt speaks about, and the transcendence of which would equal God (glory and salvation have long been the topic of discussion among people, like passion and compassion, rivals in the face of the Eternal). The prodigious or phenomenal event which cannot be measured either in terms of its causes or its consequences and which creates its own scene, its own dramaturgy - no longer exists.”
history meaning progress
History, Meaning, Progress?
  • “… history, meaning, progress are no longer able to find their speed or tempo of liberation. They can no longer pull themselves out of this much too dense body which slows down their trajectory, slows down their time to the point from whereon perception and imagination of the future escapes us. All social, historical and temporal transcendence is absorbed via this mass's silent immanence. Already, political events no longer conduct sufficient autonomous energy to rouse us and can only run their course as a silent movie in front of which we all sit collectively irresponsible.”
  • “History… implodes… in current events.”
big bang
  • “Somewhere in the course of the eighties of the twentieth century, history took a turn in another direction. Once it passed its apogee in time, once it reached the peak of the curve in its evolution, its solstice of history, a sliding back of events set in, an unfolding of inverted meaning. As in the case of cosmic space, historical space-time would also have a curvature. By way of the same chaotic effect in time as in space, things go faster and faster as they approach their culmination, just like the flow of water speeds up mysteriously as it approaches the waterfall. In the Euclidean space of history, the fastest route from one point to another is a straight line, the one of Progress and Democracy. This however only pertains to the linear space of the Enlightenment. In our non-Euclidean space of the end of the century, a malevolent curvature invincibly reroutes all trajectories. The phenomenon is doubtlessly linked to the sphericity of time (visible on the horizon of the end of the century just like the earth is visible on the horizon at the end of the day) or to the subtle distortion of the field of gravity. (…)This is the end of linearity. Viewed from this perspective, the future no longer exists. And if there is no future, neither is there an end anymore. And yet this is not what is meant by the end of history. What we have to deal with is a paradoxical process of reversion, a reversal of effect with respect to modernity which, having reached its speculative limit and extrapolated all its virtual developments, disintegrates into its rudimentary components through a catastrophic process of recurrence and turbulence.”
  • This self-dissolving, typical of the West as it is of the East, can be seen in the degradation of the structures of power and representation (in other words, the more the political sphere is intellectualized, the more it secretly negates its will to govern or rule and this premonition about itself is the source of all corruption), and also in the numerous strategies aimed at the re-enchantment of values, cultures, difference[s].
  • “Messianic hope was founded on the reality of the Apocalypse. Today, this has no more substantive reality than the original Big Bang. We will no longer have a right to this dramatic illumination. Even the idea of putting an end to our planet via an atomic clash has become barren and superfluous - if this no longer holds any meaning for anybody, not even for God, what good is it for? Our Apocalypse is not real, it is virtual.”
there is no final solution
“There is no final solution.”
  • “We cannot escape the worst, to comprehend that History will not have an end because all of its components - the Church, communism, democracy, ethnic groups, conflicts, ideologies - continue on an indefinite course of recycling. What is truly incredible is that as much as we had thought to have gone beyond history, none of it has really been surpassed, none of it has disappeared - they are all there ready to resurface, all the archaic, anachronic forms quite intact and atemporal like the virus in the furthest recesses of the body. In an attempt to rescue itself from cyclic time, all that history has managed to accomplish was to relapse into the order of recyclables.”
  • “…when one speaks of "the end of history", of "the end of the political", of "the end of the social", of "the end of ideologies", none of this is true. The worst indeed is that there is no end to anything and that everything will continue to take place in a slow, fastidious, recurring and all-encompassing hysterical manner - like nails and hair continue to grow after death.”
  • “…defunct ideologies, completed utopias, dead concepts, fossilized ideas that continue to pollute our mental space. These historical and intellectual waste products give rise to more serious concern than industrial waste. Who will do us the favour of cleaning out all the sedimentation of secular idiocy?”
  • The problem is resolved via the postmodern invention of recycling and the incinerator. From the ashes of the Great Incinerators of history, one resurrects the Phoenix of postmodernity!”
  • “Nostalgia for the lost object? Not even that. Nostalgia was nice in the way it sustained the feeling vis-a-vis things that have taken place and could also branch out to encompass those that could come around again. It was beautiful as a utopia, as an inverted mirror of utopia. Beautiful in the way of never being fully complete, like a utopia never fulfilled.“
the procession of simulacra
The Procession of Simulacra
  • “At Disney World in Orlando, they are even building an identical replica of the Los Angeles Disneyland, as a sort of historical attraction to the second degree, a simulacrum to the second power. It is the same thing that CNN did with the Gulf War: a prototypical event which did not take place, because it took place in real time, in CNN's instantaneous mode. Today, Disney could easily revisit the Gulf War as a worldwide show.”
the virtual
The Virtual
  • “Disney, the precursor, the grand initiator of the imaginary as virtual reality, is now in the process of capturing all the real world to integrate it into its synthetic universe, in the form of a vast "reality show" where reality itself becomes a spectacle, where the real becomes a theme park. The transfusion of the real is like a blood transfusion, except that here it is a transfusion of real blood into the exsanguine universe of virtuality. After the prostitution of the imaginary, here is now the hallucination of the real in its ideal and simplified version.”
the virtual takes over the real
“The virtual takes over the real…”
  • “There is no reason why Disney would not take over the human genome, which, by the way, is already being resequenced, to turn it into a genetic show. In the end, they would cryogenize the entire planet, just like Walt Disney himself who decided to be cryogenized in a nitrogen solution, waiting for some kind of resurrection in the real world. But there is no real world anymore, not even for Walt Disney. If one day he wakes up, he'll no doubt have the biggest surprise of his life. Meanwhile, from the bottom of his nitrogen solution he continues to colonize the world - both the imaginary and the real - in the spectral universe of virtual reality, inside which we all have become extras. The difference is that when we put on our digital suits, plug in our sensorial captors, or press the keys of our virtual reality arcade, we enter live spectrality whereas Disney, the genial anticipator, has entered the virtual reality of death.”
  • The New World Order is in a Disney mode.
  • The Matrix
the spectacle
The Spectacle
  • “…reality itself, the world itself, with its frenzy of cloning has already been transformed into an interactive performance, some kind of Lunapark for ideologies, technologies, works, knowledge, death, and even destruction. All this is likely to be cloned and resurrected in a juvenile museum of Imagination or a virtual museum of Information.”
  • Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
vanishing or disappearance of history
Vanishing or disappearance of history
  • Meaning results from relations within a whole. Outside that whole, there is no meaning
  • We have been so “liberated” (=atoms) that we no longer have either place, meaning, or History (thrown in the emptiness of the Virtual)
  • The “referential orbit of things” is broken.
  • Both individuals and events move in the void

(People get killed in mass scale, we die, but nobody cares… There is no tragedies anymore. We all become “mere life”)

  • “A certain type of slowness or deliberation (i.e. a certain speed, but not too much), a certain distance, yet not too much, a certain liberation (the energy of rupture and change), but not too much - all these are necessary for this condensation, for the signifying crystallization of events to take place, one that we call history - this type of coherent unfolding of causes and effects we call the real.”
  • History requires duration, but our obsession with “real time” eliminates it…
post historical utopias
Post-historical Utopias
  • “Disney realizes de facto such an atemporal utopia by producing all the events, past or future, on simultaneous screens, and by inexorably mixing all the sequences as they would or will appear to a different civilization than ours. But it is already ours. It is more and more difficult for us to imagine the real, History, the depth of time, or three-dimensional space, just as before it was difficult, from our real world perspective, to imagine a virtual universe or the fourth dimension.”
  • “…demand for a violent resolution to reality when this reality, in fact, eludes us endlessly in a hyperreality?”
  • Hyperreality leads to the “obliteration of a reckoning, of a Judgement Day, of an Apocalypse or of a Revolution” (their time is gone, the Messiah arrives one day later…)