March 13, 2001
|What is postmodernism? Postmodernism is defined as a set of quite different social science theories. Some are highly affirmative, looking at positive aspects of complexity, progress, and technologization of life and work. Others are more skeptical looking at the dark side of claims of progress since 16th century Enlightenment, and the impact of technology, such as in biotechology, and cyberization. There are quite radical positions by Baudrillard (claiming all is simulacra), and Lyotard (claiming incredulity to all modern narratives of science, progress, etc). Less radical are postmodern approaches that combine with Critical Theory (Frankfurt School, before Habermas). Critical postmodernism contends some modern narratives, such as ethics, is worth retaining, while managerialism (manager's monologic perspective), for example, needs to be balanced with labor and environmental perspectives. (D. Boje, Feb 20 2007)|
|Critical Postmodern Ring has been growing steadily as people add more links. Most are sites have some text explaining their critical postmodern position. Since Leonard Koscianski’s art did not, I asked to explain the connection of his art to “critical postmodern.” Press here to see what he had to say.|
What is critical postmodernims in relation to other modernisms, and to my writings on (ante)narrative and storytelling? Click here to see visual mapping of the field. http://peaceaware.com/McD/narrativemapping/eud1E.htm
Critical postmodern is the nexus of critical theory, postcolonialism, critical pedagogy and postmodern theory (See Tamara, Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science). It is a growing field of study that is moving beyond the supposedly "radical postmodern" positions of Lyotard and Baudrillard by recognizing the interplay of grand narratives of modernity with the spectacularity of virtuality and hyper-competitiveness that is the basis of global predatory late modern and postmodern-capitalism, and the new forms transcorporate-empire, the postindustrial supply and distribution chains addicted to sweatshops, wedded to postmodern identity-formation through the age of virtuality and advertising, such that we no long discern real from phantasm. Radical postmodern theory is not a tautology, and we can explore the differences between many critical postmodernisms.
Some postmodern theory is conservative and neo-liberal, so "radical postmodern theory" is not a tautology. (6-2-2001 - Steve Best)
In our post-11adventure and our moves toward global war, there is no better time to explore critical postmodern narrative theory.
My Perspective on Critical Postmodernisms
My philosophical approach is critical postmodern narrativity, one that combines narrative ethics with critical postmodern theory (Boje, 1995, 2000). This means, I see myself as a consumer of narratives, as complicit in the working conditions of labor in the global supply chain; I view my food choices as connected to the plight of animals in the food chain; and I view my life style as answerable to the world's need for sustainable choices (Boje, 2001a). I diverge from postmodern theories that seek to limit being to what is "socially constructed." Social construction theory (or interpretivism) is what many think of as postmodern, and that is dangerous, since it leaves out any consideration of the material conditions of the political economy. I prefer Debord to Baudrillard, and to combine Marx's focus on the material conditions with Guy Debord's (1967) Society of the Spectacle, as the basis of critical postmodern theory. Critical postmodern theory also argues that there is a material condition. The Holocaust did happen, genocide of indigenous people continues, as does the slaughterhouse of animal murder. The postmodern world is often quite a violent one, and I am answerable to try to minimize it, and not participate in it, and find a more festive path (See Festivalism for study guides on interplay of spectacle with carnivalesque resistance, and festive alternatives that are mostly corrupted in spectacle). I am a champion of vegetarian capitalism (Boje, 2001f), but in the current post-11 age, the forces of West and East fundamentalism, marginalize philosophies of non-violence, and beliefs in Ahimsa. Vegetarian capitalism is one of many critical postmodern approaches to theory and life-praxis. The purpose of this piece is to explore the differences in postmodern theories.
What is Critical Postmodern Theory? In a 'Critical Postmodern Manifesto' Boje, Fitzgibbons, and Steingard (1996: 90-1) argues that critical postmodern theory is about the "play of differences of micropolitical movements and impulses of ecology, feminism, multiculturalism, and spirituality without any unifying demand for theoretical integration or methodological consistency." Critical postmodernism is theorized as a mid-range theory exploring the middle between "epoch postmodernism, epistemological postmodernism, and critical modernism" (p. 64). Critical postmodern theory is epochal in the sense that there is a postmodern turn (Best & Kellner, 1997) from modern to postmodern, but it is still in its infancy (Boje, Fitzgibbons, & Steingard, 1996: 64). Where there are "as yet, no postmodern organizations" there are examples of postmodern discourse embedded in the play of differences (Tamara) of premodern, modern, and postmodern discourses at Disney, as well as Nike (Boje, 1995, 2001b, c). And in the postmodern turn as well as the postmodern adventure of postmodern warfare in the Gulf War, and the new war on terrorism, we there is a dark side to postmodern, that is missed by non-critical approaches to postmodern (Best & Kellner, 2001; Boje, 2001d, e).
Using methods of deconstruction, theatrical, and narrative analysis, I think it is possible to de-code the layers of public relations spectacle that heroize global virtual corporations (and since the 9-11, the global war machine), while distancing transnational corporations from responsibility over their far-flung global supply chains, where particularly exploitive conditions seem to flourish (Boje, 1995, 2000, 2001d, e). As an academic I prefer a more non-violent capitalism to the current one, and would like to become more conscious of my connection to the animal, plant, and human, and material world. Consult http://business.nmsu.edu/~dboje for more on this line of thinking.
Non-Critical Postmodern Approaches: There are many versions of postmodern theory. These range from the extreme positions of Baudrillard (rejecting real in favor of simulation and implosion), Lyotard (rejecting all grand narrative in favor of networks of local ones) to approaches by Best and Kellner (1991, 1997, 2001) that integrate the work of Marx and the spectacle writing of Guy Debord. The critical postmodern approaches incorporate a concern with how systems of ideas affect the material condition. For example in the Tamara Manifesto (Boje, 2001a), I am concerned with how we can explore the interplay of critical theory, critical pedagogy, and postcolonialism, and their relationship to critical narrative approaches.
Other Approaches: Critical postmodern has a number of competing definitions and perspectives. Most include Marx and Nietzsche, but others are decidedly pomophobic (seeing the partnering of critical and postmodern as somehow responsible for all that is wrong with the world). In other words, postmodern has its affirmative and dark side. For the past ten years, I have been studying the dark side of postmodern, the ways in which corporations such as Nike, Disney (Boje, 1995; Boje & Dennehy, 1993), Nike Corporation (2001b), and Las Vegas casinos (Boje, 2001c) pass themselves off as postmodern corporations, as virtual zones of pleasure. Yet, beyond the virtual corporate core of the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon are 720,000 (mostly) women working in some 730 sweatshop factories in pre-Tayloristic work conditions. Beneath the postmodern architecture and "Happy Kingdom" of Disney, is the mechanistic assembly lines, the Tayloristic story production machine, and the women of Haiti, and now China that make the garment and toys Disney sells in theme parks and Disney stores. Postmodern casino resorts fashion a Paris, an Egyptian Pyramid, or a Venice more real than the real, and use Circus acts, street carnival, and the rides and exhibits of a Disney, as well as the mechanistic of McDonaldization to attract entire families to participate in gambling and sex addiction. In short, the postmodern has its dark side and is in strange hybridity with both modern factory, and pre-modern sweatshop and carnivalesque.
On the plus side, critical postmodern theory is a way to analyze the fractured and tortured lives of the voiceless who toil beneath the virtual glitz of Nike, Disney and Pairs, Paris. Critical postmodern theory is a way to get a clearer understanding of the relation between modern and postmodern, and take a Deleuzian journey into the middle of the hybridity of per-modern, modern, and postmodern (Boje, 1995). A critical postmodern project can move us beyond exploitation, racism, sexism, and abuse by reframing and restorying organization theory away from its patriarchal lingo in order to reaffirm social justice, equality, democracy, and the wonders of multiplicity (Boje, 1995: 1004). In a critical postmodern theory, such as Tamara, we can explore the 'micro-practices' of organizational life, as well as contextualize the stories of the marginal Other, within the workings of a postindustrial supply and distribution chain addicted to sweatshops, and the cover-stories produced and distributed by the postmodern storytelling organizations that turn out consumer identities and spectacles for mass consumption (Boje, 1995: 998-2). On the plus side, there is always resistance to the forces of global and individual domination and exploitation that stem from the strange hybridity of premodern, modern, and postmodern organizing amalgams.
"Critical postmodern" theory would recognize the multiplicity and multi-dimensionality that makes up our organizational and consumer experience of ambiguity, conflict and discontinuity, and can inform more useful ways of working and thinking in this postmodern age (Boje, Fitzgibbons, and Steingard, 1996: 64).
There are other definitions: Critical postmodern...
"fuses what may be considered the three great materialisms of Modernity--Marx, Nietzsche and Freud--into a critical postmodern cartography" (Smith and Tedesco-Gronbeck, 1995). And...
... critical postmodern spatial theory privileges the lived spatialities of left-margined communities as sites of socio-spatial critique. A postmodern identity politics enacts critical postmodern spatial theory by nurturing the development of, and solidarity between, 'counterpublics', which are subaltern community spaces where private spatialities of alienation are brought to public discourse (Allen, 1999).
... Shaping a new democracy, understanding the role institutions play, and attending to how knowledge is reproduced are all goals of a critical postmodern pedagogy (Nancy Diekelmann, 1999).
... researcher’s perceptions, experiences, language, culture, gender, race, class, age and personal history and so on, shape the political and ideological stance that researchers take into their research (Eva Dobozy).
... The task of critical postmodern thinking is the dismantling of narratives to expose their hidden interests and oppressive intentions-whereupon the old assumptions about foundational reality will be abandoned (Fitzgerald, 1996).
Critical postmodern theory is a rich variety of perspectives that do not accept the total rejection of the grand narrative such as in the work of Lyotard, nor do they abandon the material condition by being seduced into the vortex of hyper-real as in the work of Baudrillard. Rather, as Best and Kellner (1991, 1997, 2001) explore in critical postmodern philosophy, we are looking at a critical postmodern theory that is up to the task of exploring the postmodern turn that never transcends modern, and the postmodern adventure that in its darker manifestation protects predatory transnational corporations that pursue the Biotech Century at the expense of human life and biodiversity (2001: 1). My own project is to awaken the already seduced organization and management theory community of practice to the predatory global capitalism of McDonaldization, Disneyfication, and Las Vegatization. And this requires new forms of writing, and journals such as Tamara: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science, that are prepared to say there is a material condition and a postmodern rampant consumerism as well as a predatory global capitalism, and pockets of resistance. Critical postmodern theory can also mean ways of deconstructing the post-11 war machine (Boje, 2001, d, e).
It is time to move beyond the naive constructions of postmodern theory that are devoid of any discussion of the material conditions of Holocaust, slaughterhouse and post-11 war. There is a postmodern turn, but it has not left behind all grand narratives. Being postmodern does not mean surrounding ethical claims. Critical postmodern theory can analyze the dark side of the postmodern adventure, the heroic quest for world war of Western imperialism with premodern fundamentalism. There is a dark side the the endless replays of 11th event, that constructs a specter that leads to mass trauma and a rhetoric of good versus evil, that legitimates global war. There is a play of differences in the forces of resistance in East as well as West. The spectacle socially constructs narrative characters, plots, and scripts outcomes that are produced via power holders defending corporate and State economic interests. Narratives that posit a "totality" of people in the West versus another "totality" of people in the East need to be deconstructed to reveal the play of differences and emergent forces of resistance to such grand narration. The social constructions in the war speeches contain contradictions and dualities that become scripted products. Our critical postmodern praxis is to free up the forces of resituation and reconstruction in ways that unleash ethical commitment and non-violent resistance to the war machine. We call for critical-reflexive critical-postmodern analysis of the waves of storytelling that create the self-organizing emergence of missile launch. Storytelling is a tool in the hands of the forces of the political economy, the war industry, and the non-critical academy.
A critical postmodern manifesto resists the reduction of all postmodern theories into the camp of naive interpretativism or relativistic social construction. There is a beyond good and evil. There is a myth of Western capitalist Biotech progress. And there has not been a total displacement of premodern discourse by (systemic or critical) modern, or by (critical and uncritical) postmodern epochs, theories or praxis. History is in its grand narrative a three-act play of epochs, but in its material conditions, alternative histories (microstoria) is de-selected for mass consumption. Postmodern theory in it quest to vanquish systemic modernism, has ignored the contributions of critical postmodern and the dark side of the virtual postmodern hyperreality. We do not advocate the dismissive of all grand narratives, and we think that ethical standards can be worked out in networks of local discourse. As we said in 1996, in the Critical Postmodern Manifesto (Boje, Fitzgibbons, & Steingard, 1996: 90-91), "Critical postmodernism is a radical disjunction from the systemic modernism discourse" of Taylorism, reengineering, and structural functionalism. Critical postmodernism is also "a play of differences of the micropolitical movements and impulses of ecology, feminism, multiculturalism, and spirituality without and unifying demand for theoretical integration or methodological consistency" (p. 90). Critical postmodern theory is a middle between critical modern, critical pedagogy, critical feminism, critical hermeneutics, critical-ethnomethod, critical-ecology, and post-colonial theories (p. 90-91). Instead of Baudrillard, we invoke Debord's analysis of the spectacle of late capitalism, and its Frankenstein marriage of postindustrial global supply chains with sweatshops, and the fetish of postmodern consumer identity formations facilitated by NikeTown, Disneyfication, McDonaldization, and Las Vegatization. The Holocaust did happen, the heroic story of Columbus is a fabrication of Washington Irving, animal slaughter is covered over by advertising by feminizing 'meat,' and the macho of carnivores, and it is time we unplug from the Matrix.
What does this mean for praxis. For me, it means the pursuit of non-violent alternatives to the violence of predatory capitalism, deconstructing spectacle, and resisting premodern fundamentalism. Praxis is taking action, not just writing more theory. That is for pretenders to critical or critical postmodern. There needs in addition to theory, to be a life style of action, more than cynicism and skepticism, there needs, in my view, to be action. Mine may differ from yours. For me, it is visit our local slaughterhouse, examine our food and clothing habits, spend our Spring break in a sweatshop, take a trip to the land of the Other, and conduct an action of non-violent resistance to the dominant narratives and discourse. In whatever praxis, disabuse yourself of the notion that postmodern is without ethical or critical purchase or answerability.
Critical Postmodern Theory References
Allen, Lee Ricky (1999) "The Socio-Spatial Making and Marking of 'Us': Toward a Critical Postmodern Spatial Theory of Difference and Community." Social Identities. Volume 5 Issue 3 (1999) pp 249-277.
Australian Feminist Law Journal.
Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner (1991) Postmodern Theory. NY: Guilford Press.
Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner (1997) Postmodern Turn. NY: Guilford Press.
Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner (2001) Postmodern Adventure. NY: Guilford Press.
Best and Kellner web sites:
Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner - Kevin Kelly's Complexity Theory: The Politics and Ideology of Self-Organizing Systems Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner - Preface. The Postmodern Turn: Paradigm Shifts in Theory, Culture, and Science Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner - Debord, Cybersituations, and the Interactive Spectacle Best, Steve & Douglas Kellner - Debord and the Postmodern Turn: New Stages of the Spectacle
Boje, D. M. (2001). Toward a Narrative Ethics for Modern and Postmodern Organization Science. Paper rejected by Organization Science.
Boje, D. M. (2001a) "Tamara Manifesto." Tamara, Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science. Vol 1 (1): 15-24.
Boje, D. M. (2001b) "Academics Studying Athletic Apparel Industry: Annotated Bibliography" - of ACADEMICS STUDYING NIKE, REEBOK, ADIDAS, CAMPUS & ATHLETIC APPAREL INDUSTRY.
Boje, D. M. (2001c) Introduction to Deconstructing Las Vegas, M@n@gement, 4(3): 79-82. (Guest editor for the issue). See http://www.dmsp.dauphine.fr/management/PapersMgmt/43Boje.html for introduction and special issue at http://www.dmsp.dauphine.fr/management/
Boje, D. M. (2001d). Before the Story Can be Told: An Antenarrative of the World Trade Center and Pentagon Disaster contact email@example.com
Boje, D. M. (2001e). What does it mean to be anti-sweatshop and anti-globalism in the Post-11 World? http://www.zianet.com/boje/4_wtc/what_does_it_mean_to_be_anti-sweatshop.htm
Boje, D. M. (2001f). VEGETARIAN CAPITALISM: Toward a Wholistic Animal and Vegetable Consciousness. Paper to be presented to "The First Asian Vegetarian and Wholistic Congress Convention" to be held in Goa, India from October 14 to 20, 2000. http://www.zianet.com/boje/vc/vegetarian_capitalism.htm
Boje, David M., Fitzgibbons, Dale E., and Steingard, David S. (1996). Storytelling at Administrative Science Quarterly: Warding off the postmodern barbarians. Pp. 60-92 in Boje, D. M., Gephart, R. P., Jr., and Thatchenkery, T. J. (Eds.), Postmodern management and Organization Theory. Thousand Oaks, CAL Sage Publications.
Burbules, Nicholas, C. 1997. Aporia: Webs, Passages, Getting Lost, and Learning to Go On. http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/eps/PES-Yearbook/97_docs/burbules.html
Collins, P. H. (1986). Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of black feminist thought. Social Problems, 33(6), 514-532.
Davis, Erik (1995) It Ain't Easy Being Green Eco Meets Pomo. This is call for a critical postmodern ecology.
Originally appeared in the Voice Literary Supplement, February, 1995
Feldman, Steven P. (1999) "The Leveling of Organizational Culture: Egalitarianism in Critical Postmodern Organization Theory," Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 35:2.
Grace, André P. (1997a). Where critical postmodern theory meets practice: Working in the intersection of instrumental, social, and cultural education. Studies in Continuing Education, 19(1), 51-70.
Grace, André P. (1997b) Taking it to practice: Building a critical postmodern theory of adult learning community.
Hall, Joanne M. (1999) "Marginalization revisited: Critical, postmodern, and liberation perspectives." from Advances in Nursing Science, 22
Elisabeth Hayes and Sondra Cuban (2001) Border Pedagogy: A Critical Framework for Service-Learning MJCSL Volume 4. - This paper proposes that the metaphors "border crossing" and "borderlands," drawn from a critical postmodern perspective, are new and powerful lenses for viewing the often contradictory and conflictive experiences of university students engaged in service-learning.
Kincheloe, J. (1995). Meet me behind the curtain: the struggle for a critical postmodern action research. Critical theory and educational research. P. L. McLaren and J. M. Giarelli. Albany, State University of New York Press: 332.
Lopez, Elizabeth Sanders. (1995). The geography of computer writing spaces: A critical postmodern analysis. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Purdue University, West Lafayette.
Miron, Louis F. (1996) "Preface to "The Social Construction of Urban Schooling" - Hampton Press, Inc.
Munck, R and O'Hearn, D (eds) (2000), Zed Books, London Critical Development Theory: Contributions to a New Paradigm. The book has a focus on critical postmodern theory as a new paradigm.
Postmodern Dictionary on line
Terence Smith and John Gronbeck-Tedesco (1995) "Mapping the Postmodern: Deleuze and Guattari's Social Schizophrenia."
Tamara, Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science - Tamara and its subtitle, Critical Postmodern Organization Science applies critical and postmodern theory, along with critical pedagogy and postcolonialism to the social milieu that is organization science.
Tierney, W. G. (1993a). Building communities of difference: Higher education in the twenty-first century. Wesport, CT.
Tierney, W. G. (1993b). Naming silenced lives. New York: Routledge Press.
Tierney, W. G., & Rhoads, R. A. (1993c). Postmodernism and critical theory in higher education: Implications for research and practice. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, pp. 308-343. New York: Agathon Press.
Tierney, W. G. (1994). Multiculturalism in higher education: An organizational framework for analysis. This article suggest that a critical postmodern organizational perspective offers significant ways to asses an institution of higher education's effectiveness. The first part of the article outlines what is meant by "critical post-modernism" and then delineates a definition of multiculturalism in higher education based on the work of Henry Giroux, Michael Foucault, and bell hooks. (RL).
Ziegler, R. L. (1999). "From the critical postmodern to the postcritical premodern: Philip Wexler, religion, and the transformation of social-education theory." Educational Theory 49 (3): 401-414.