Post-modernism Today

A Brief Introduction



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Anti-revolutionary Discourse Theory

What unifies all trends of Post-Modernism is that there can be no grand narrative about matter, life and society. They think that the Discourse that tries to bind everything under a single head is faulty Discourse. There is no master discourse in the World. If someone refers to Hegelian dialectics or Marxism as a grand discourse Post-Modernists will reject it outright. For argumentís sake, if there are separate discourses concerning feudalism, capitalism, etc. it is simply foolish to have a generalised discourse like historical materialism.

Post-Modernists think that in a society there exist multiple separate discourses of religion, caste, gender, family, etc. And in every discourse there will remain a hegemonistic part along with possibilities of generating one or more discourses. Through the deconstruction of hegemonistic discourse such counter discourses emerge. As for example in India the Dalits build up counter discourse against domination of the priviledged. So also in the gender discourse men constitute the dominating discourse. In both cases the counter discourse of the Dalits or Women deconstructs the dominating discourse making room for democratic space of the Dalits or Women.

The relevant question comes up immediately as to the possibility of interrelation of unity or alliance of all the dominated parts of various discourses. At this Post-Modernists smell the tendency towards forming a meta-narrative. Thus while the discourse of men is deconstructed by discourse of women, even if the discourse of men is the discourse of working men it is also dominating. Post-Modernists here adduce the argument that if efforts are made to unify on the basis of labour, feminism, etc. they will invariably turn into a sort of servility to the discourse of men.

The ideology of this Discourse accepts certain preconditions. Firstly, truth has no existence independent of Discourse. What dominating Discourse will pronounce as the truth that is truth. In the works of Post-Modernists truth is text-based. In the 19th century such view was condemned as idealism by the materialist thinkers. Secondly, the multiple types of discourses as pointed to by the Post-Modernists do not have any inter-relationship. They do so because they simply reject the rational efforts of the European Enlightenment period to establish cause-effect relationship in the material or animal world. Post-modernists donít bother as to why there exist gender, caste or such divisions in a society and why there is class division and such relevant questions. Their queries are confined to the genealogy of a particular Discourse. Whether inter-relationships can be found among the discourses or whether some discourse can be accorded the status of a fundamental or an unimportant one is not the concern of the post-modernists. In their consideration the efforts at finding out such inter-relationships will impose determinism and essentialism. Actually, they announce, nothing can be determined by something else. They reject that the discourse of economy ultimately determines the discourse of politics. They do not consider it essential that the discourse of class will have any determining role in the law-making of a state. Instead of considering inter-relationship between the discourses, the Post-modernists think it wise to address a Discourse which assumes some importance at a given moment. It is actually a policy meant for contingent demand. This does not mean the fading away of other discourses. They lose their importance for a temporary period.

However, it will be mistaken to think that like the Marxists Post-Modernists also differentiate between primary and secondary importance of discourses. For the Post-Modernists society itself is the arena of war for multiple constructions and deconstructions. In this war he who constructs a Discourse deconstructs it in another discourse. This refers to the multiple identities of the persons concerned. In this sense on one occasion the same category of people is both target of attack and targeting some aim.

Thus there is an unremitting war of all against all with no question of discrimination between important and unimportant aspects. It is downright anarchism. Actually the politics of Post-Modernism is the politics of subversion. In a given period against a dominating Discourse there emerges a counter discourse through the deconstruction of the former. However, the deconstruction of the dominant discourse by the dominated does not end repression or domination by a certain Discourse. Post-Modernists generally agree that whatever discourse comes up displacing another discourse the erstwhile dominated now starts wielding power over others. So there is unending process of domination through power politics with no hope of emancipation. The space of democracy formed by the struggle of the counter discourse against a dominating discourse shall ultimately lead back to square one. So the discourse analysis passes into an anarchic state with the total neglect by Post-Modernists to build up a concrete programme against such bleak prospect of humanity. Marxists also admit aspects of multiple identities but lay stress on essential aspects for the destruction of main sources of exploitation and domination taking into consideration inter-relations of various contradiction. Despite immense success in the Russian or Chinese Revolution there remained numerous loopholes as regards resolution of certain other contradiction in a proper way. But this does not teach us to reject the rich experiences of the socialist revolution and to go about courting anarchism.

While preaching discourses in a society based on power, Post-Modernists conveniently avoid delving deeper into the facts that difference does not invariably mean bossing or domination and that a society can move forward having many differences, some are open to change with fundamental changes in a society. This however, does not preclude the conscious efforts on the part of revolutionaries from the beginning to address various types of domination and exploitation while spearheading the attack against the principal forms of exploitation and domination. This was one of the crucial theoretical mistakes of the C.P.I. and C.P.I.(M) leadership to shelve struggles against caste system and such other questions with the fond hope that a socialist society shall automatically erase them from the Indian society. Such a fatalistic approach based on Discourse is clearly anti-Marxist, and hence harmful to the revolutionary struggle. It only poses a question whose post-modernist solution is embedded in anarchy, passivity and also running away from the actual struggle against any type of domination.


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