How Should We View Postmodernism?

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The cost of eradicating scholastic thought from the memory of the society after the Enlightenment was that a century later, man and every thought/structure/work he produced/acted became result-oriented. Power now strictly dominates production; the entire production process is strictly tied to the judge's judgments and the meaning is restrained. The perception of the individual's dominance over deterministic processes has become gigantic with the advancing industrialization and now he has started to deny the paradoxical laws of nature/nature by assuming the role of the dominant god. Specialization and division of labor in line with mass production; With the polarization of every mechanism starting from the produced one to social structuring, it has turned into the desire of the one who dominates the production processes to monopolize the integrity/meaning of production. Production and the concept of “alienation” in the sense that Marx explained together with the dialectic of infrastructure and superstructure; It has been the main element of the continuity of the system paradigm, with the dysfunctionalization of intellectual productions and art and their reproduction every day by feeding on cultural policies.

The “smooth” functioning theory in the alienation fiction of capitalism; In the middle of the 20th century, the fascist governments that dominated and destroyed the whole world were dissolved as a result of the atomic bomb and the second world war. Capitalism rising on the shoulders of modernism; It has turned into Ouroboros on a stage where the extinction of humanity (and man through natural/artificial disasters) cannot be concealed. History, in the fifty-year period that prepared the 21st century; revolt and suppression, rebellion and massacre, freedom and slavery, scientific progress and religious domination, creativity and destruction, ruthlessness and conscience, brutal exploitation of nature and natural disasters, intertwining with all the concepts produced by humanity, positive-negative/good-bad has become a timed dialectical fusion. Marx remains correct in his analysis. As a result of all this chaos, Marx's concept of alienation still persists, but we can now talk about a schizophrenic alienation; The subject served by the alienation of the alienated individual has become ambiguous. 

The world they call the postmodern. 

As a matter of fact, after making a political analysis of infrastructure and economic relations as postmodernism as a "mine field of conflicting insights", David Harvey reads cultural politics, contradictory and intricate structures of cultural/ideological productions through time-space experiences/transformations as the basis of human existence. (one)

The conceptual treatment of postmodernism, in any field, is problematic because its existence is a minefield. It is one of the biggest mistakes to read postmodernism as a counter-response to capitalism, whether for infrastructure or superstructure elements. As explained above, the desperate and inevitably resorting to conceptual/ideological analyzes/solution theories while grappling with a schizophrenic alienation in the paradoxical chaos of the past century must be the most important reason for this mistake.  

Postmodernism is a mutation of capitalism that corrupts the gains of enlightenment and modernism, sells it by packaging the integrity/meaning and alienation of man from his own reality every day, and ultimately turns human into its product. The horror of the myth of Ouroboros, which seems to be eternal and indestructible, instilled in the subconscious as the system most suitable for human nature. Along with postmodernism, capitalism prepares the scene where it creates the impression that the thesis disappears in order to escape from the Marxist antithesis that will destroy it, while at the same time it feeds the delusion that the antithesis is too far behind the time to respond to social/political dynamics. If the thesis is postmodernism, the mutation of capitalism today, then the antithesis must inevitably be a contemporary Marxism. Evolution is dialectical, we have no other holistic theory of social revolution to cling to.

At the beginning of the 20th century, "radical avant-garde art"², while raising its voice collectively and strongly in parallel with the social revolutionary movements of the dialectical materialist antithesis, attempted to destroy all structures/concepts of capitalism that corrupt modernism and serve alienation. Even those who do not have a clear political or social stance among the contemporary artists who seek innovation in terms of meaning-style-technical in art have established a subjective relationship beyond the stereotypes in the production and reception methods of their productions. This subjective relationship; It was the entrepreneurs, who focused on the process, not the result, abandoned the artist level as a god-architect and started to pursue meaning, re-constituting space and time.  

In the 1950s (with the acceleration of the cold war), while the consumption capacity increased with the accelerated production capacity in the post-war period, its diameter also expanded, and all life became a monopoly of consumption by increasing in a period of about ten years. The concept of fashion that started in clothing; His hegemony of all production-consumption relations in terms of architecture, decoration, art, and music paved the way for the individual's free time and even the most basic motives to be taken over at his own will, and ultimately for the entire mechanism of cultural production to be confined to entertainment and the show society³ with Guy Debord's analysis. In the society of the spectacle, at the level of schizophrenic alienation, a single value can now be seen within the scope of the ephemerality of fashion; “throw away”¹ (p.319) This is the age of speed; It is a stage where every space turns into colorful hollow balloons and where production relations, labor, value judgments, ideas, art, basic human emotions, and the public space are faked/transient/pornographic, as well as the permanent commodity production and consumption of goods. 

In small virtual scenes where bodies that are fragmented, iconized, identical, and in a constant reproduction of this sameness drift away from their search for self and become zombies, despise/ignore those who do not fit them in their unquestioning lives, and while they are in the luxury of communicating simultaneously with the other side of the world, no one produces thoughts and dialogues; There can be no core of progress in the name of humanity, of the public sphere, or of social consensus.

Subjectivity has been killed in postmodernity, and an endless Ouroboros matryoshka has been created, extending from each individual individually to the whole system – including post-1950 contemporary art and music. 

In order to understand the latent power of the original ones after purifying the innovative and oppositional avant-garde art after 1950, which the system has constantly transformed into hollow balloons, and to combine it with a functional political counter-art expression for today, it is necessary to find and break that matryoshka among thousands. This need, which can be seen as the only way to get out of the system; The liberation of anti-system art/thought productions in the last seventy years means that all the concepts of the second period of the century are first read, comprehended, discussed in the purest and first language, and reinterpreted/produced subjectively in the 21st century actuality. 

Of course, this need not only includes rescuing modern science/art/concepts from the "disposable" garbage of postmodernity, but it is also necessary to re-read/discuss/receive a whole corpus in the historical evolution of humanity from the ancient period to the post-Enlightenment. 

Until today, the search has always been forward in every age. In order to look ahead in the schizophrenic postmodern life, we urgently need to recapture/recreate all the achievements of humanity from our ancient ancestors to the present. Thus, we may have a chance to save time-space by integrating its dimensions and values ​​from the false perceptions of the last century that falsified space and detached time from its dimensions. 

If we can realize that the outside and outside of the system still exist, even if it is invisible, and if we can save time-space, we can purify the achievements of the avant-garde and science, and reveal a contemporary new world theory in the Marxist perspective. And even though it may seem utopian, we can reach real and solid selves who will truly believe in it and show the courage to stand up and fight against labor exploitation in all areas of life, starting from our singular lives. If a livable world remains in this process…

Image: Atalanta Fugiens. Oppenheim, Johann Theodori de Bry, (1617). illustrations by Matthias Merian.

  1. Harvey, D. (2019). The State of Postmodernity (8th Edition). Istanbul: Metis Publications.
  2. Burger, P. (2017). Avant-garde Theory. (A. Artun, Dü.) Istanbul: İletişim Publications.
  3. Debord, G. (2020). The Society of the Spectacle (11th Edition). Istanbul: Details Publications.

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