I ranted a lot about this subject on QuoraAnswers :
Quora Answer : If pre-modernism is associated as the age of romanticism and if modernism is associated with the age of enlightenment, what age is post-modernism associated with?
Another way of looking at it is that TheEnlightenment put a lot of faith in "learning" and "education" and "books" etc ... when information was still a scarce resource, owned and managed by well educated and largely responsible, but also privileged and self-interested, gatekeepers.
Post-modernist philosophy grew in the second half of the 20th century, partly in response to the explosion of media : of many newspapers, radio, television, magazines. Of mass advertising. And, of course, kind of "predicted" the effects of the Cambrian explosion of even more media that we'd see with the internet.
To answer your question, if pre-modernism is associated with the age of "romanticism". And "modernism" is associated with "enlightenment", you can argue that post-modernism is the philosophy of the age of "InformationOverload"
When there's too much information - too many different, contradictory voices chattering at us - then Enlightenment ideals like "freedom of speech"; and Enlightenment institutions like modern "education systems" and "democracy" etc, are simply unable to cope with the excess of rival contradictory information.
There are now no centres of authority - whether the government, the university, the academics, the intellectuals, the media etc. - who people trust to distinguish truth from lies. Not even doctors in the age of Covid19 denialism. Meanwhile social media and YouTube have an infinite amount of space for an infinite number of rival narratives, all presented with equally passionate intensity.
People get the post-modernists wrong. They think that the post-modernists advocated relativism and the abandonment of truth. And they are outraged when they hear this. But the post-modernists were far less advocating abandoning truth than they were warning us ... that the institutions we were putting our trust in : "reason", "education", "democracy", "a free press" etc. - even "language" - were not adequate to cope with the creative power and inherent perversity of "narrative". (OnNarrative)
Post-modernists would talk about "the play of the signifiers free from the signifieds". And people think "what nonsense". But today, most of us understand that a meme's survivability and capacity to "go viral" on the internet is independent of whether it is true or not. But that's really just a different metaphor for saying the same thing. (SurvivabilityDoesNotEqualTruth)
The PoMos saw that language / media / symbols / signs / culture ... were autonomous from "reality". And had a life of their own. You could study these phenomena. You could enjoy them. (Lyotard and Baudrilliard are very big on the pleasure that this world of autonomous symbols gives us, and why we love it.) But we couldn't rely on it. We couldn't rely on language or signs or the media to stick with reality. Or to underpin rational discussion and decision making.
Like I say, a lot of people were outraged, and wanted to shoot the messengers.
But here we are in an age of the internet, with over 3 billion people absorbing and reiterating every bad idea that comes their way. The things that the PoMos were talking about now affect all of us. Memes and culture REALLY ARE autonomous of "reality". Reality can't hold the storytellers and the fake-news and the all mighty "narrative" to account. Academia, government authority, democratic institutions, rational argument etc. etc. have all failed to keep signs tied to reality.
Exactly as the PoMos implied they would.
The Enlightenment was a sham.
Imagine Voltaire or Benjamin Franklin trying to cope with the phenomenon of QAnon. Imagine how their simplistic liberal platitudes and homespun sensible wisdom stacks up against the machinations of Roger Stone and Alex Jones and the people who say "go out to work because COVID is a communist plot, caused by 5G and BillGates. And also stay home, despite all that smoke, because the wild-fires are a myth spread by AntiFa who want to rob your house".
Much of the self-confidence of Enlightenment ideals was based on the fact that it was a few, rather decent, and powerful men who held them and advocated them. And everyone else was a powerless peasant.
Now everyone really does have a voice. And a broadcast channel. And many people with these things are either stupid or malicious. And possibly both.
And the result is an unintelligible cacophony within which wisdom is swamped.
I've written elsewhere (FrenchPostModernism) that post-modernism thrived in Paris after the second world war because thinkers there had seen the Enlightenment fail with the rise of Nazism and the second world war.
Instead of learning from them, too many people today simply stuck their fingers in their ears saying "La! La! La! Can't hear you! How dare you diss the Enlightenment ideals I was taught to idealize!!!!" And, like I say, tried to shoot the messengers.
On Quora you get questions along the lines of "Is Fake News all the fault of the post-modernists teaching that facts don't matter?" NO. Fake News is the fault of people who denied the post-modernist insight that facts couldn't compete with the power of narratives and gave the narrative spinners a free pass.
So now we have a new "Nazism". Don't quibble about the details of whether it's the same as the old Nazis or not. What is obvious is that it IS the same catastrophic failure of the authority of Enlightenment reason to stand up to right-wing romanticism, racism and disinformation. And it is starting to do real harm and kill many thousands of people.
Post-modernism is the philosophy that correctly describes a world where information overload overwhelms the capacity of reason to guide us, and only raw power survives and shapes the world. Perhaps we were always living in such a world (Nietzsche thought so). Perhaps its a world that really appeared with Capitalism and the excess of production and products and signs (which is how various post-modernists would have described it) But it is VERY obvious that it's the world we have now made for ourselves.
So one response to this is that we all become shamanic.
What it means to become a shaman, is to stop taking a DesignStance towards a complex phenomenon, and start to take an IntentionalStance towards it. To stop thinking that it is something to be analyzed and controlled through understanding its mechanism, and to start thinking of it as a free, individual agent that must be negotiated with / placated.
Economics is at the forefront of the shamanic response to complexity : from AdamSmith's InvisibleHand, to Keynes talking about AnimalSpirits of the market. To Hayek pointing out that mere human rationality can't solve the "CalculationProblem" that the market "solves". To today's RightWingDeathCult satirized in the LineMustGoUp memes.
But all complex phenomena afford shamanization. Countries and corporations are talked about as agents. Meme-complexes are agents. Deleuzian machines are agents.
When I put this to HilanBensusan he suggested that the PostHumanists and CthulhuCene theorists (the the tradition of BrunoLatour's ActorNetworkTheory) might have other stances that afford shamanism towards and as a tactic for engaging overwhelming complexity, that are better than an "intentional stance" (which still smacks of Humanist notions of agency).
NetoCracy's break down into nexialists etc. might be yet another approach.
Quora Answer : Can you explain postmodernism to a fifth grader?
You know the story of the blind men and the elephant? Blind men and an elephant
Post-modernists are basically Western intellectuals who recognised the wisdom of that parable. You were never going to get a definitive theory about how human culture and society worked. Just a lot of rival perspectives and interpretations.
Quora Answer : What are the pros and cons of postmodernism?
Post-modernism isn't a single theory or ideology.
Rather it's a whole family of critiques of the various theories and ideologies that came before it.
The main pro of post-modernism is that these critiques have validity.
Some are merely sceptical ... pointing out that things that the previous ideologies assert can't actually be justified or shown to be true.
Some are based on historical research, where, for example, Foucault finds in various historical records that the same behaviour was, in one century, treated as crime, and in another, as madness, this strengthens the case that the line between the two is negotiable rather than absolute.
Others are entirely new conceptual frameworks for thinking about how the world works. They may sound weird compared to what we were used to. But they are often capable of helping us see things that the old frameworks don't. And even if there's no compelling reason to adopt the new one, its very existence shows the old one to be more arbitrary than you previously thought.
The main con of post-modernism is exactly that, because it's not a unified theory or ideology, and in fact a proliferation of different ideas, some of which are not compatible with each other, and many of which are odd, it doesn't necessarily give rise to a programme for action. It's not practical.
Once you've noted the slipperiness of words, and given some compelling evidence of it, what do you do? You can't STOP using words. Political discourse and argument and rhetoric goes on as before.
Once you've identified that oppression is diffused within the population in the form of biopower, and exerted horizontally ... how do you combat oppression? It's everywhere, in the cracks and interstices of everyday life. You can try calling out every occurrence, but it becomes intractable. And leads to some of the problems we have today where racism and sexism and other prejudices within the population, are called out and treated as heinous so universally, that sooner or later the accusation loses its force, and the population builds up a kind of immunity. (ThePyramidOfHate)
Quora Answer : Could someone explain the essence of postmodernism?
Post-modernism isn't a "thing" ... it's a kind of space.
Previous to post-modernism, the intellectuals of the modern era felt obliged to work within certain narratives or frameworks : Marxism, Freudianism, Humanism (what you're calling Liberalism), "Structuralism" (a theory of language and thought which saw them as a kind of system of relationships between signs.)
Largely these were "normative" or "opinionated" theories. They had an idea what was good and how to get there. History was seen as progressing in the right direction. Psychoanalysis was therapeutic. Etc.
Post-modernism was what happened when the thinkers allowed themselves to give up on these alleged certainties. Their motives for doing so were various. Some were disillusioned ex-Marxists who felt that Marxist predictions were busted. Some had always been anti-Marxists. Some were Feminists, kicking against the residual sexism they found in Freudianism and Marxism. Some were (small l) libertarians looking for space to pursue their own agendas free from the constrictions of the earlier narratives.
One of the strongest justifications for post-modernism was the way the world was obviously changing in the late 20th century consumer / media-saturated economy. You must understand that post-modernists were largely from the humanities and were cultural critics. They weren't doing Marxism as economists or political activists. Nor were they doing Freud as psychologists. They were interested in these narratives because these narratives claimed to be universal theories of human culture. How people thought and saw the world was seen as a byproduct of their economic situation or psychological development.
But as the electronic age evolved into the information age, what we saw was a proliferation of different ways of seeing the world. Not a single human mentality, but a patchwork of niche interests. Those who liked this kind of music or that kind of movie or read this newspaper, or were convinced by those adverts. It was hard to sustain a grand narrative that explained how human culture worked, faced with the fact that human cultures were diversifying and fragmenting (though sometimes also reunifying) under the influence of the explosion of media.
So the post-modernists set about shifting the focus; from some kind of external "reality" that was meant to underlie culture, to looking at how culture actually worked, how it changed and mutated. They started with the models they already had : Marx, Freud, Structuralism, the Human etc. and then began looking at how these models needed to be revised to make way for the increasingly dynamic cultural landscape of the 60s and 70s. These revisions became more radical : stretching and eventually breaking the original theories. In doing so, and focussing on change, they challenged all alleged fixed notions : siting their new models in ideas of flux and slippage and differance and in soft relationships like seduction rather than hard ones like opposition.
Quora Answer : Does postmodernism oppose progress? If so, why?
Postmodernism denies we can know the direction of progress.
It denies we can detect a single "arrow of progress" that points unambiguously in one direction (eg. towards Communism as the Marxists thought, or towards a Capitalist End of History, or towards ever more Liberal human rights etc.)
Instead it sees a lot of different agents in the world, all doing their own thing and pulling the world in different directions. Thus history is a kind of Brownian motion buffeted around between competing forces.
Quora Answer : Do conservatives and liberals define post-modernism differently?
That's a polite way of putting it.
The reality seems to be that conservatives are clueless as to "post-modernism" and why it arose.
As far as they're concerned it's a generic label to slap on every intellectual, academic or social trend that they don't like from the last 70 years.
It doesn't matter if it actually IS "post-modernism", if it's a different branch of left-wing thought, a kind of Marxism, a kind of feminism, a general society-wide trend to accept people of other sexualities or genders etc. If it isn't idolizing the economics of the 19th century or the social mores of America prior to the 1960s, it's now in that big bag of "what-we-don't-like-ness" they call "post-modernism".
Every time you hear a conservative use the word "post-modern" you might as well translate it into "new-fangled" because for them it's basically the same thing.
Now, to be fair, 99% of liberals don't know what the fuck "post-modernism" means either. But at least they aren't obsessively flaunting their ignorance by spraying the term around indiscriminately.
And for any conservative that actually does give enough of a fuck to want to have a better understanding of post-modernism, I have a couple of other answers on Quora that can help you not make such an ass of yourself next time you find yourself discussing the topic :
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