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Lecture three. The Enlightenment, Modernity and Postmodernity.

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Presentation on theme: "Lecture three. The Enlightenment, Modernity and Postmodernity."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lecture three. The Enlightenment, Modernity and Postmodernity.

2 Postmodernism Concepts of rationality, knowledge, normalisation and power at heart of Postmodernism. Postmodernism is a critique of the Enlightenment and the Modernist project.

3 What do we mean by Postmodern? A slippery concept. The term Postmodern has different connotations depending on context. An historical period, a new social milieu and societal order, a philosophical perspective, an artistic and intellectual movement and a cultural shift. Postmodernity, postmodern. and postmodernism linked to a cultural trend which began in the arts. Encompassed many areas of cultural life- art, architecture, cinema, literature and music.

4 Postmodernity A new phase, or stage in society- this is hotly contested. It is argued that society has moved out of one historical phase and into another. Out of the modern era and into a new phase of development. In this view the cultural, economic and political phenomena referred to as postmodern are simply expressions and manifestations of this historical transition or shift. In the area of social and political theory postmodernism refers to a loose grouping of developments.

5 These can be summarised as followed: A particular type of relativism in which universal truths are suspect and local know ledges are privileged. A deep suspicion of any form of politics or social engineering which roots itself in forms of knowledge which claim universality. A suspicion of any kind of historical narrative that attributes any internal logic or telos to social change, including suspicion of the most basic notions of social development. An emphasis on the fragmented and decentred nature of the subject. An emphasis on the importance of cultivating and defending cultural diversity, incommensurability and fragmentation. An emphasis on the intimate connection between power and human discourse.

6 Where did this term come from? Origins difficult to pin down to a particular moment. Many agree that it began life as a movement in architectural theory and practice. A reaction against conformity and rigid in modernist architecture. Charles Jencks We need an appreciation of human diversity in architectural planning.

7 Po-mo and Architecture A new architectural aesthetic that acknowledges the pluralistic needs of man. Modernist architecture obsessed with planning environments to suit carefully defined functions. Based on top down, rationalist, expert systems and a scientific orientation to the world. Modernist architecture built on principles of enlightenment social engineering. Modernist architecture impossible for humans to live in comfortably. Planning neglects the complexity of human beings and human communities. The big theories about how human beings actually lived and worked didnt match up to the reality. Jencks observed the characteristics of lived environments that had grown from the bottom upward. Learning from Las Vegas. Attempts to design lived spaces on the basis of overarching theories of human nature, or human society should be abandoned. No single theory can possibly do justice to human complexity. The imposition of planning on the basis of such theories leads to new forms of oppression and control. Architecture should learn from human diversity - it should reflect that diversity and where possible enable and amplify it.

8 What is Postmodern architecture? An architecture of pastiche - of mixing and hybridising of styles and innovations. Less concerned with particular functions, or any grand theory of society. A new postmodern aesthetic. Emphasising complexity, diversity and incomensurablility. Concerned with provoking sensations. Mixes diverse styles e.g. the aesthetic beauty of Greek columns and ballustrades, mixed with open plan living inspired by 1970s interior design. The gothic might sit with Victoriana or Tudor style frontage with the design plan of a modern Breton Villa. Often uses light, modern sustainable materials.

9 All style and no substance? This is what some of Postmodernisms critics suggest. No! Say postmodernists- modernist architects universalised man and his needs, they fail to appreciate diversity and pluralism- thus they created oppressive and unsuitable environments that excluded difference and failed to account for minority needs. Foucaults discussion of the normalisation and control of certain behaviours ties up with the homogenisation of man and his needs, this is central to modernity and the modernist project, the idea that there exists a universalisable version of humanity.

10 Postmodernism and the Arts. Before postmodernism high art clearly separated from popular culture. The final stages of modern art - abstract expressionism- concerned with issues and experiences, entirely alien to ordinary people. Sixties and seventies, art draws on popular culture for its raw materials. The divisions between popular culture and high culture begin to disintegrate. Elitism of the artistic world rent asunder. Dominic Strinati everything was up for grabs. Pastiche, collage and mixing of styles shapes art and artistic forms.

11 This disintegration of boundaries. A classic theme in postmodernism debates. For the purpose of creating sensation. The post-modern aesthetic less to do with trying to say anything universal or profound in any way about the human condition. Sensation. E.g. Philip Rothkos coloured squares, Damien Hirsts cow, Tracey Emins tent. The medium is the message. A rejection of the homogenising tendencies of modernism

12 Modernity and Modernism Modernism, modernity or the modern era - a particular cultural, political and intellectual mileu. The Enlightenment. Postmodernism a reaction against and a rejection of enlightenment ideals and principles.

13 The Enlightenment. A European philospohical and social movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries. The Age of Reason. A largely secular movement that challenged religious explanations of human social life. Committed to progressive idea of feedom of thought and expression, the criticism of religion, the value of reason as opposed to tradition, the value of rational scientific enquiry, a commitment to social progress and emancipation and the significance of individualism.

14 O'Donnell ("Introduction To Sociology", 4th Edition 1997) defines modernity. "...a period during which science and reason become the main means by which human beings seek to understand the world and solve problems. The modern age of enquiry and exploration began around the time of the Reformation [that is, the 16th century] but gathered fresh impetus with the industrial and political revolutions of the late 18th / early 19th century...modernity is driven by a belief in the power of human reason to understand and change, in short, to master the world".

15 Sociology and the Enlightenment Origins of Sociology as a discipline, rooted in the modern period. Sociology (from Comte onwards) concerned with the description, theorising and explanation of modernity and all its associated processes. The concept of sociological understanding a profoundly modernist project.

16 The Enlightenment and Science. O'Donnell: Sociology...is driven by a belief in the power of human reason to understand and change,in short, to master the world. Challenges organised religion. Scientificism provides answers to questions of existence Science, provides plausible answers. Scientific knowledge was based on reason. Science demands evidence and proof.vidence and proof Challenges the "monopoly of knowledge" claimed by organised religion. Undermines the power of custom and tradition. Science and progress go hand in hand. Reveals cause effect relationships in the social world. Reveals laws that govern societies. Makes social engineering possible. Change, progess and emancipation. (Link to Foucault).

17 Essentialism Involves the ideathat there are essences or features of the natural or social world. A philosophy / ideology that argues we can reduce complex forms of behaviour to their essential, relatively simple, causes. Sometimes called "Reductionism". Many sociologists reject the concept of essentialism applied to explanations for human behaviour. Postmodernist writers reject the possibility of there being any valid form of essentialist theory. This has important ramifications for the way in which we can construct knowledge about both the natural and social worlds.

18 Anti-Essentialism Essentialist thinking of Enlightenment thought radically opposed by Postmodernists. They suggest that human beings and human societies are complex, fluid and dynamic and can not be reduced to simple essences. There is no essential deviant or madman or sexual miscreant all of this categories are labels created by particular forms of discourse within particular value systems, and frameworks of knowledge that are bound up with complex relations of power. Complexity is central to Postmodern thought. Concept of truth in complete dissarray. Postmodernism about uncertainty

19 Epistemological relativism. There is no such thing as objective knowledge. Everything is viewed through the lens of our values and our culture. Question- How can we make judgements about the world around us if all knowledge and truths are relative. This is a central critique of the epistemological relativism generated in much of Postmodern thought.

20 Postmodernism can be summed up as being defined by the following features. A particular type of relativism in which universal truths are suspect and local knowledges are privileged. A deep suspicion of any form of politics or social engineering which roots itself in forms of knowledge which claim universality. A suspicion of any kind of historical narrative that attributes any internal logic or telos to social change, including suspicion of the most basic notions of social development. An emphasis on the fragmented and decentred nature of the subject. An emphasis on the importance of cultivating and defending cultural diversity, incommensurability and fragmentation. An emphasis on the intimate connection between power and human discourse.


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