This idea of de-privileging any one meaning

Thanks to Terry Glavin, I saw this postmodernist article on postmodernism, by one Edward Docx. Now there’s a postmodern nym. Let’s all change our names to App.

It’s too stinking long (shouldn’t pomo articles on pomo be wittily short? or do I mean ironically short?) so I might cut it up into bits. Or I might just say one bitty thing and leave it at that. Who knows. That’s postmodern.

Postmodernism was a high-energy revolt, an attack, a strategy for destruction. It was a set of critical and rhetorical practices that sought to destabilise the modernist touchstones of identity, historical progress and epistemic certainty.

Or, to put it another way, it was a set of conceited goons in literature departments who thought they had invented everything simply because they didn’t know very much. Like, for instance, that “epistemic certainty” was not a “modernist touchstone.”

Philosophical skepticism has been around for a good deal longer than postmodernism, and the difficulties of “epistemic certainty” were not discovered in 1960.

So, let’s now turn with a little more confidence to the quagmire of sociology, politics and philosophy—Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault and so on…There are two important points. First, that postmodernism is really an attack not just on the dominant narrative or art forms but rather an attack on the dominant social discourse. All art is philosophy and all philosophy is political. And the epistemic confrontation of postmodernism, this idea of de-privileging any one meaning, this idea that all discourses are equally valid, has therefore lead to some real-world gains for humankind. Because once you are in the business of challenging the dominant discourse, you are also in the business of giving hitherto marginalised and subordinate groups their voice.

Like the Taliban. Like al-Shabaab. Like child-raping priests. Like the BJP. Like the Tea Party. Once you think that “all discourses are equally valid,” you’ve relinquished the tools you need to argue that some discourses are wrong and bad and harmful. Hooray; rejoice in the play of the signifier.

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