'Postmodernism' as Existential Threat.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
But do you believe they actually alter their beliefs in accordance with Trump? Or do they just change what they express, rolling with the punches?
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
I tend to believe something more like the latter. That for them, it isn't really about what they believe, just that they have been riled up enough into a kind of abandon. Not sure which is harder to deal with, though.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
Yeah, I'd probably say the latter too. I dunno that there's much functional difference after a while though. If you live your life as though you believe something then eventually it doesn't matter whether you actually do or not because you're behaving as though you do anyway. It's like the people who "ironically" post racist stuff online all the time. They may think they're being ironic and don't really mean it, but ultimately they're just making racist comments.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Yeah, I'd probably say the latter too. I dunno that there's much functional difference after a while though. If you live your life as though you believe something then eventually it doesn't matter whether you actually do or not because you're behaving as though you do anyway. It's like the people who "ironically" post racist stuff online all the time. They may think they're being ironic and don't really mean it, but ultimately they're just making racist comments.
True, in terms of the effect you have on the world. I suppose the key difference, in theory at least, is that if they don't believe this stuff, there is still a chance you can appeal to what they do believe in, which may be easier to negotiate with. That gets at my central hope regarding dialogue and reconciliation here.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I noticed people trying to do that and it didn't work. You'd get people looking to catch out or simply appeal to Trump supporters by calling him a traitor, a threat to national security, un-American, unchristian, basically all the things his base claimed to despise and the Trump supporters either didn't care or took the position of "Trump trolled them so hard they all genuinely became patriots and all the things they claimed to disagree with".
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
The new radicals were more in a libertarian, anarchist, anti-elitist tradition, desperate for authenticity even at the expense of lucidity... Instead of the rigorous analysis of classic texts, the new radicals were suspicious of theory. Political acts had to be genuine expressions of values and sentiments. Convictions took priority over the calculation of consequences, reflecting a wariness of expediency and a refusal to compromise for the sake of political effects. At times it seemed as if deliberate and systematic thought was suspect and only a spontaneous stream of consciousness, however inarticulate and unintelligible, could be trusted. Todd Gitlin, an early activist and later analyst of the New Left, observed how actions were undertaken to “dramatize” convictions. They were “judged according to how they made the participants feel,” as if they were drugs offering highs and lows. If it was the immediate experience which counted for most, then there was little scope for thinking about the long term.[3]
I do not think American intellectual thought has ever really recovered from this. The SDS and the constellation of social movements that it was a part of created the "New Left." These students, and those they influenced, would go on to take control of university departments, editorial chairs, and other positions in the 'commanding heights of American culture. Though most are now passing from the scene, the American imagination still refracts politics through the cultural lens these boomer rebels created.[4] Most of the intellectual sloppiness that you find in modern activism comes from this source (not from Foucault et. al., who was brighter than conservatives give him credit for, and has largely been appropriated as intellectual cover for shoddy thinking that had been entrenched before Foucault was published in English).
 

Linebaugh

Well-known member
I do not think American intellectual thought has ever really recovered from this. The SDS and the constellation of social movements that it was a part of created the "New Left." These students, and those they influenced, would go on to take control of university departments, editorial chairs, and other positions in the 'commanding heights of American culture. Though most are now passing from the scene, the American imagination still refracts politics through the cultural lens these boomer rebels created.[4] Most of the intellectual sloppiness that you find in modern activism comes from this source (not from Foucault et. al., who was brighter than conservatives give him credit for, and has largely been appropriated as intellectual cover for shoddy thinking that had been entrenched before Foucault was published in English).
There was a chapter in Pyschopolitics about this, that neoliberal production is the cause for institutional switch in favor of emotion:

"Today, talk of feeling and emotion has grown inflationary. Many academic disciplines are researching emotion. All of a sudden, the human being no longer counts as an animal rationale; instead, man is a creature of sentiment...The boom in emotion today stems, not least of all, from a new, immaterial mode of production in which communicative interaction plays an ever-greater role. It calls not just for cognitive competence, but also for emotional competence. In this context, the integral person is installed in the very process of production. Daimler-Chrysler has publicly declared that since employees’ ‘behaviour and their social and emotional skills play an increasing role in the evaluation of their work … this will … be assessed … on the basis of objectives achieved and the quality of outcomes.’ Now, sociality, communication and even individual conduct are being exploited. Emotions provide ‘raw material’ with which to optimize corporate communication. As Hewlett-Packard puts it: ‘HP is a firm where one can breathe a spirit of communication, a strong spirit of interrelations, where people can communicate, where you go towards others. It is an affective relationship "

"The neoliberal economy, increasingly dismantling continuity and progressively integrating instability in order to enhance productivity, is pushing the emotionalization of the productive process forward. Accelerated communication also promotes its emotionalization. Rationality is slower than emotionality; it has no speed, as it were. Thus, the pressure of acceleration now is leading to a dictatorship of emotion."
 

poetix

we murder to dissect
David Chapman argues that postmodernism is an incomplete bridge between Kegan Stage 4 of cognitive development and Kegan Stage 5.

Briefly, stage 1 is infant drives, stage 2 is reward/punishment motivations ("if I don't wear a mask I'll be thrown out of the shop"), stage 3 is doing things so people will like you ("all my friends are wearing masks, I should do as others do"), stage 4 is doing things because they're the right thing to do according to the rules organising larger social structures and institutions, i.e. with a sort of impersonal sense of utility or appropriateness ("if as many of us as possible wear masks, the rate of replication of the virus will be diminished"). Stage 3 is common in adolescence, stage 4 is common among domesticated professionals. Most people have a mixture of these types of motivational structures, and are more "developed" in some areas of life than others. Some leapfrom somewhat over stage 3, or never really develop that structure of motivation (which can be richly complex in its own way - consider all the attitudes, perceptions and practices involved in negotiating social acceptability), and end up seeing the world in terms of a fairly stark division between rationally planned arrangements and those maintained purely by force and the fear of force.

The problem for people very invested in a stage 4 worldview is that the modern world is too complex and multilateral to be understood, much less governed, in terms of a single stable set of rule-bound arrangements. Systems of that kind are increasingly failing, breaking down as the wider world comes rushing in upon them - social media allows us to see this happening in real time, with a wild chorus of voices overwhelming local discursive norms. Talk like a non-internet person (of whatever variety) on the internet, and someone will soon be along to tear you a new one. Postmodernism (according to Chapman) celebrates this leap in complexity, and the concomittant breakdown of locally-stable orders, but offers no pathway towards a more fluid understanding of the role of system and structure in our understanding of the world.

This "fluid understanding" is Kegan Stage 5, and entails the ability to take up rational, systematic models, apply them where they work, tinker with them constantly, and discard them or hybridise them with other models as necessary. Chapman calls it meta-rationality, and it's his Big Thing. The problem for many people is that "meaning" or the experience of "meaningness" is no longer located in one stable place in Stage 5, but sloshes about from situation to situation. For many postmoderns, the impossibility of pinning meaning down in one place is taken to be a sign that there is no meaning - we fall into nihilism, or in practice, since nihilism is hard to live with, we fall cynically back into a stage 2 or stage 3 motivational structure - there's nothing real but power, man! or, it's all a game, might as well grift away for as much social capital as you can grab.

Worst of all, according to Chapman, not only does postmodernism's exit from stage 4 lead nowhere, it also sabotages the ability to acquire a stage 4 outlook - to become familiar with the tools of rationality, and capable of picturing the world in the terms they prescribe. Why bother, if you know that it's all a con anyway - that stable meaning is not reliably to be found in institutional structures or the habits of mind that support them, so you might as well study astrology as physics?

Here's Chapman's site, and his account of this situation in his own words: https://meaningness.com/metablog/stem-fluidity-bridge
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Brilliant. I think that sheds a ton of light on postmodernism.

Do you think part of the hangup on stage four is that we think there is a single correct system for values? Perhaps something to do with how one's reality makes an impression upon them, and prompts them to devise a system for the impression that was made, rather than devise systems for all possible impressions that could have been made?

That would involve thinking beyond one's reality, seeing as one's reality is largely if not entirely limited to the impression their holistic environment has made upon them.

But I guess a central question for me is: can a stage five ontology be attained by way of systematiziation, even though our techniques of systematization tend to lend themselves to creating static systems rather than fluid ones? Perhaps stage 5 requires a meta-systematization, a systematic approach to navigating a variety of systems, rather than just seeking out the right system?

The meta-system would then be schizo, in the philosophic/conceptual sense, of being inconsistent. If it was consistent, it would be a stage 4 system, and would lead us right back to the kind of issues laid out in your post.
 

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Either its possible to establish some kind of meta-system to render stage 5 accessible to those who need systems to live, or it is only accessible to nomads, no?
 

poetix

we murder to dissect
In some ways I think the cannier postmoderns actually had a good handle on the situation. Lyotard, for example, talks about incommensurable language games, whose mappings of the world can't be made to cohere under a single overarching mapping - but he leads this question back to Kant, and the way that Kant's different "faculties" (of reason, imagination and so on) already manifest irreconcilable differences in terms of what they are able to grasp or present. This fact is what gives thinking, of all kinds, any work to do, whether it's the artistic manifestation of the sublime, which shows that there are things within the realm of sensory experience which exceed our ability to conceptualise them, or the ethical work of recognising the "differends" that arise when the moral vocabulary of an oppressor cannot even express, or systematically minimises, the harm done to the oppressed. So for Lyotard we have to invent ways of linking together "phrase regimes" (discourses, language games, systems of representation) where there is no rule already given for how to make such links. We can't rely on any one of these systems to provide a final source of legitimation for such linking moves - instead, we have to try them out, and see what new logics they display. I don't think Lyotard's account of the postmodern condition does lead to nihilism - it's actually rather exacting, but also quite exciting.

It's a bit like the realisation that you can't generate all of mathematics out of one single formal system, laying down some axioms then following rules to generate all the true theorems that follow from them. But this doesn't mean that mathematics is bunk - it means that mathematics isn't greedily reducible to a small set of rules and procedures. There is always a need for invention, for new interventions that make it possible to think new things.

As to how one navigates: yes, it's obviously true that there can't be a global map of maps (or "map of meaning", arf) that shows where everything is in relation to anything else. But the absence of such a map isn't necessarily chaos, or an "anything goes" type of situation. What one needs is more a kind of tact, a feeling for where and how meaning happens, and an awareness of some of the common patterns of formation and breakdown of systems. This can be learned, but not in the way that systems themselves are learned - it happens in a different register.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
that classic socialist problem where work for many is unnecessary and wealth is comparatively endless and the state can forever stave off the collapse point that would motivate counter action
sure - w/obv caveat that only in that portion of the world with a high enough standard of living. that's how you get the weirdness of Peter Thiel (or a friendlier, less actively evil version like Andrew Yang) overlapping with fully automated luxury communism types in UBI advocacy. the former is an acknowledgment that the proles are going to lose their jobs to robots etc and/or be forced into remaining labor conditions so bad/precarious that they have to be pacified to stave off revolt. it's exactly the same impulse - as plenty of folk have noted - as that behind the Roman grain dole, just replace "cheap slave labor" (in, unsurprisingly, often horrific conditions) with "robots etc".

a couple things. first, I keep thinking about both those unknowns unknowns - you don't see the collapse point coming, and knowns we don't know how to deal with - the effects of climate change, direct + knock-on, being the sword of Damocles poised over that ability to stave off collapse - which is already happening, even if the worst effects have so far mostly been limited to places that are hot (and generally very poor), albeit with spillover i.e. the effect of immigration in destabilizing the political order of Europe. second, I wonder to what extent the last decade plus of crises and mass disillusionment has demonstrated the limits of the state/capital in these conditions to "forever stave off" even without the effects of climate change - which is related to both unknown unknowns and UBI as safety valve (vs UBI as post-scarcity utopia).
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
the idea of politicized dropping out isn't new. it's always been anarchist praxis - dual structures i.e. building a new society "within the shell of the old", and it's become default revolutionary praxis since the end of the Cold War or thereabouts. the EZLN is the canonical example and its original founders, who began as typical 70s Maoist academics, symbolize that transition in focus from seizing power to autonomy. Marxist intellectuals in academia jumped on the bandwagon when the total failure of state communism became undeniable - whether that was 1956, 1968 (i.e. council communism, autonomism, etc), 1991, or whenever.

how practicable it is depends on conditions and on what your expectations are. at a mass level it seems to, unsurprisingly, require conditions bad enough to force mass collective action - for the EZLN that was the PRI more or less openly stealing the election in '88, which was the final straw convincing many indigenous folks/campesinos in Chiapas they were never going to get a fair shake through the ballot box. what it would take in a developed society with a high standard of living is the question - tho clearly the economic etc disruption of lockdown was a driver of the post-George Floyd protests (going again, back to pacification - stimulus checks as proto-UBI).
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
the question ofc would be how attain a more equitable society without incurring mass suffering, either as a precursor or in the process

not that I have an answer, nor do I think in such grandiose terms - just making observations

my own expectations are quite low - damage mitigation, if that

one thing I am fairly - not 100% but close - certain of is that all yr post-structuralist etc types are basically zero prescriptive help

they're worth studying for the same reason as always, that their critique and analysis is probably the best game in town, or some of it anyway

but actually doing something, no - which is also why their focus as a rightwing bugbear is so (frustratingly/amusingly) misplaced

the fundamental mistaking of effect for cause, i.e. the motivation for this thread in the first place
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
yes but are you talking about ontological universals within the world of forms/world spirit/whatever, or moral 'universals?'
only the latter

I'm, again, not claiming the absolute absence of a universal morality, just as is no one here is claiming its existence, just that it's unknowable by finite beings whether or not it exists, or if it does, what it is

also, anyone can espouse a supposedly universal morality but they don't work in practice

Kant himself was perfectly fine with colonialism and slavery

by our 21st C standards that's particularly egregious, but there will always be hard points of disagreement and as soon as there's any imperfect resolution there's no universal morality because you and I now disagree about what is moral - what the universal law should be - as regards whatever the issue is

I'm not going to pretend like I can match you (or half the people here, really) in a history of philosophy tangle, but I assume various objections have been raised to the categorical imperative on various grounds

the best I think a person can do is acknowledge that your worldview can't be separated from the context (historical, cultural, evolutionary, etc) that formed it, having acknowledged that use your own best judgement, and live with the resulting doubt
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I don't really care about ontological universals tbh

or, they're interesting in a purely intellectual sense, but in terms of determining one's actions, who cares

perhaps that's a failure of knowledge or thinking on my part, idk

I do agree that whether or not there's a cosmic judgment of anything is totally irrelevant

that's the whole point of learning to live with doubt, i.e. the ethics of ambiguity

my guiding principle is consent, which for me is consistent with de Beauvoir talking about turning natural into moral freedom

I just don't think there's a universal conception of what moral freedom is, which is where one's own best judgement comes in
 
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