Leading into the Future VII: Constructivism and Postmodernism
As a result of this postmodern commitment to the shattering of epistemological icons, the traditional distinction between liberal and conservative breaks down. While the capitalist and communist offer quite different versions about what the world is like and should be like, they both begin with the assumption that there is a “reality” that they can describe and assess. They both assume that there are stable standards and values against which one can test alternative futures. The constructivists are critical of both political stances. They suggest instead that one must construct models of social reality and social value that are fluid. These models must be flexible and open to new data and to social conditions that change in rapid and unpredictable fashion.
The postmodernist (and neo-Marxist) Frederic Jameson disagrees with Daniel Bell’s assessment that ideology (and in particular, liberal ideology) is dead because of improved social conditions in society, but does agree that postmodernism has brought about the end of ideology:
As with so much else, it is an old 1950s acquaintance, “the end of ideology,” which has in the postmodern returned with a new and unexpected kind of plausibility. But ideology is now over, not because class struggle has ended and no one has anything class-ideological to fight about, but rather because the fate of “ideology” in this particular sense can be understood to mean that conscious ideologies and political opinions, particular thought systems along with the official philosophical ones which laid claim to a greater universality—the whole realm of consciousness, argument, and the very appearance of persuasion itself (or of reasoned dissent)—has ceased to be functional in perpetuating and reproducing the system.
The social psychologist, Milton Rokeach has been one source of insight regarding this new way of thinking about social and political models of society. Rokeach pointed out in The Open and Closed Mind that in certain important ways, the far left and the far right tend to think alike. They search for absolutes and tend to portray their adversaries in what William Perry later described as a “dualistic” framework: either you agree with me or you disagree with me. Either you are right or I am right. Which is it? Both the liberals and conservatives often believe that their own models of social justice and governance can be applied throughout the world (with a few adjustments for culture). They are both missionary in their zeal for dissemination of the truths that they hold.