Posts Tagged ‘Postmodernism’

The ever-changing views of Donald Trump

May 11, 2016

Donald Trump sometimes says things that I agree with.  He is opposed to the odious Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and other corporate free trade deals.  He thinks the invasions of Iraq and Libya were big mistakes.  He doesn’t see any reason for the United States to pick fights with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But being familiar with his record, I am convinced that the only thing I can count on Trump to do or say is whatever he thinks is in his interest at the time.

His ever-changing views represent a way of thinking that some call postmodernism, and others by a less polite name.  It is not lying, because a liar knows there is a difference between truth and falsehood.   It is saying what is expedient at the time without giving thought to what’s true and what’s false.

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David Graeber on postmodernism

September 24, 2014

Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened?

The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies.  The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects.

Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

That last word—simulate—is key. The technologies that have advanced since the seventies are mainly either medical technologies or information technologies—largely, technologies of simulation.  [snip]

The postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical period in which we understood that there is nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and liberation were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation, and pastiche—all this makes sense in a technological environment in which the only breakthroughs were those that made it easier to create, transfer, and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or, we came to realize, never would.

Surely, if we were vacationing in geodesic domes on Mars or toting about pocket-size nuclear fusion plants or telekinetic mind-reading devices no one would ever have been talking like this.

The postmodern moment was a desperate way to take what could otherwise only be felt as a bitter disappointment and to dress it up as something epochal, exciting, and new.

via Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit – The Baffler.

Congressional Budget Office vs. postmodernism

March 29, 2010

In the debate over health care reform, both sides acted as if they inhabited different realities. But they both accepted the evaluations of the Congressional Budget Office as objective and fair.

It is remarkable that any institution should have an authority that is accepted by all side, if you considered the polarized nature of today’s politics. And the Congressional Budget Office is not alone in this respect. The National Institutes of Health, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Government Accountability Office, the National Academy of Sciences and many other institutions in and out of government can be relied upon for facts and non-partisan judgments.

It runs exactly counter to the version of postmodern philosophy which says there is no such thing as truth and falsehood, only individual subjective viewpoints – a philosophy which seems to underlie a great deal of politics and journalism nowadays.

We can’t take the integrity of such institutions for granted. They could easily become as partisan and political as the Supreme Court. Or they could be shut down, like the Office of Technology Assessment in 1995. There is a neverending struggle between those who desire to know the truth and those who desire not to know the truth.

Click here for an article on reviving the Office of Technology Assessment.