I have already introduced the term “postmodernism” when beginning to describe the challenges associated with “leading into the future.” Now is the time to step back a bit and examine what exactly is “postmodernism” – in its various forms. I begin this exploration by offering a quotation from David Harvey in his notable book concerning The Condition of Postmodernity
I cannot remember exactly when I first encountered the term postmodernism. I probably reacted to it in much the same way as I did to the various other “isms” that have come and gone over the past couple of decades, hoping that it would disappear under the weight of its own incoherence or simply lose its allure as a fashionable set of ‘new ideas.’ But it seemed as if the clamour of postmodernist arguments increased rather than diminished with time. Once connected with poststructuralism, postindustrialism, and a whole arsenal of other ‘new ideas,’ postmodernism appeared more and more as a powerful configuration of new sentiments and thoughts.
Postmodernism as an Elusive Perspective
In a book I wrote in the early 1990s (Bergquist, 1993), I declared that the postmodern world was in the midst of being born. It did not yet have clear definition, other than its origins in and difference from the modern era. Hence the name postmodern. It is still being defined with reference to its mother (modernism) rather than having broken off as a free and independent movement or set of ideas and images with its own distinctive name. In many ways, postmodernism is a fad and is at the same time about fads. If nothing else, it offers an elusive perspective on contemporary life and sociieties. Nevertheless, even though postmodernism is filled with superficial, facile and often internally contradictory analyses, it must not be dismissed, for these analyses offer insightful and valuable (even essential) perspectives and critiques regarding our 21st Century life:
The postmodern moment has arrived and perplexed intellectuals, artists, and cultural entrepreneurs wondered whether they should get on the bandwagon and join the carnival, or sit on the side-lines until the new fad disappeared into the whirl of cultural fashion. Yet postmodernism refused to go away. . . . At first, there was no clear sense as to what constituted postmodernism, when it arrived, what it meant, and what effects it was having and would be likely to have in the future. Eventually, more systematic and sustained discussion took place . . .