Post-modernism Today

A Brief Introduction



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A Total Rejection of Post-Renaissance Development


Oswald Spengler, in his book written during the World War I, The Decline of the West declared the end of western civilization with its dominant values. Four decades later, C. Wright Mills, in his book The Sociological Imagination, pronounced the end of the modern age with a virtual collapse of liberalism and socialism. Post-modernists in the current decades do share many of the pessimistic formulations of those writers and others, who, in the world of capitalist onslaughts, imperialist wars and temporary defeats of socialism, present a non-emancipatory dismal picture of the world. Post-structuralists or post-modernists move to the extreme, like the structuralists who believed that the signifier points to one or two signifieds, or in other words, the language of literature proceeds in some deterministic way. There was some scope left for reaching out to truth or fact, i.e. moving towards a centre. Post-structuralists or post-modernists opposed these structuralists’ supposed binding the signifier and the signified in a structure. Saussure found the meaning through differences between one signifier from another signifier; as a ‘cow’ is a ‘cow’ because it is not a ‘horse’ or a ‘dog’ or a ‘tiger’, etc. If such differentiation between the signifier and the signified, the post structuralists argued, is stretched further and further the Saussurean concept of fixed relationship in a structure begins to fall down. Post-strucralists or post-modernists want to unremittingly carry on such negation of the use of certain signifier for some signified in an endless way. Not only that, they think that the moment when a sentence is formed, in a certain unconscious manner, we feel the absence of words which has been abandoned by the used signifier. This way they moved further on to a road absolutely non-deterministic. In this scheme the signifier cannot provide any determinancy to the signified, making the relation between the signifier and the signified extremely uncertain. Thus comes a total rejection of the fact that the signifier truly reflects the signified. This uncertainty of language forecloses, through the view of post-structuralists, the possibility of unfolding oneself to another since "I am also built by language". On the basis of this sense of uncertainty between the signifier and the signified Derrida built up his post-modernist theory of deconstruction. It is, however, necessary to keep it in mind that both structuralists and post-structuralists or post-modernists base themselves on a common platform by inverting the general base-superstructure model and reducing base to a secondary or extremely negligible position. Here knowledge is language-based and human beings too are built by language. What post-modernism brings to the fore may be summed up as a focus on language, culture and ‘discourse’ (on the grounds that language is all we can know about the world and we have no access to any other reality), to the exclusion of: "economistic" concerns and supposed pre-occupations with political economy as Marxism preaches; a rejection of "totalizing" knowledge and of "universalistic" values like western conceptions of "rationality"; the general ideal of equality, both liberal and socialist, and the emancipatory theory of Marxism. They emphasize "difference", on varied particular identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, on various particular and separate oppressions and struggles; an insistence on the fluid and fragmented nature of the human self (the "decentered subject"), which make our identities so variable, uncertain, and fragile that it is hard to see how we can develop the kind of consciousness that might form basis of solidarity and collective action based on a common social "identity" like class, a common experience and common interests. They reject a unilinear development theory, and, in this respect, criticise Marxism. They celebrate the marginal and repudiate grand narratives such as Marxist theory of history, western ideas of progress, etc. They reject the Marxist emphasis on the role of mode of production as a historical determinant, the material or economic determinants. And while rejecting such objective factors, post-modernists announce "discursive construction" i.e. language-based construction of reality. Simultaneously post-modernists reject any kind of causal analysis terming it "essentialism".

There are a number of post-modernist views. Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, Leotard, and such post-structuralists, laid their basis by placing the signifier before the signified. In the words of Derrida "the meaning of meaning is infinite implication, the indefinite referent of signifier to signified .......... It always signifies and differs." This signification resists any implied structural hindrance and opposition. Derrida calls it dissemination. Such explanation is evident in Lyotard’s theory of intensities, in the concept of power in Foucault, and Baudlliard’s notion of Synergy. On this basis attack was launched against the foundations of knowledge in philosophy. Nietzche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, et al, are the pioneers of this thought. It was Nietzche’s view that there is nothing like truth, cause and effect, values, etc. Lyotard shows that in the post-modern situation there is nothing like grand narrative and modernism has lost all hope of existence. Foucault declared the death of man. As a whole, the entire Enlightenment of the Renaissance period came under attack. The very notion of wholesomeness is rejected. Post-modernism is actually an outcome of a crisis situation in the USA and Europe and at the same time a sort of romantic effort at coming out of this situation at the theoretical plane.

There are many shades of opinion in post-modernism. In the words of Barman Marx was the first modernist. To be modernist in this sense is to create an atmosphere where it provides "adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world, and at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are." But when it is stated by Anderson that "the vocation of the socialist revolution in that sense would be neither to prolong nor to fulfill modernity, but to abolish it" — we have just the reverse thinking on the role of socialist revolution vis a vis modernism. Another writer John Robert in his book Post-modernism And Art (1990) wrote that "That is why Post-modernism, as a proliferation of a critical legacy of modernism across subject positions, ideological fronts and expressive resources, is an attempt to keep faiths not only with Marx’s materialist view of art, but with his historical method."

Ihab Hassan thinks "the Post-modernist era is marked by a radical decomposition of all the central principles of literature, the falling into deep questionability of critical ideal about authorship, audience, the process of reading and criticism itself."

Philosophically speaking Post-modernism raised some critical points, aswe shall now recount: Till today, conventional philosophy started from some fundamental concepts or foundational conceptual scheme as constant, true and an inevitable basis. Post-modernism states that those fundamental concepts are closed concepts, in ideology or theory. To come out of them needs deconstruction. They think that there is no concept as self-sufficient and everlasting. Such concepts emerged in some context and so with the contextual changes those ideas also undergo changes. They are not infinite. Post-modernists/ Post-structuralists think that in universities philosophy should not be taught as a separate discipline; philosophy can at least, subsist as a part of other disciplines. It decries the role of philosophy as the highest judgment-making discipline. For this reason philosophical judgment is called a meta-discourse. The main theme of philosophy is epistemology. They think that philosophers base themselves on axiomatic categories. Descarte taught that if we remain alert and follow correct methods then we can acquire correct knowledge without any skepticism. Such knowledge is based on reason so it is incontrovertible. Here the Post-modernists take objection. As they rigidly conceive of the relativity of knowledge they don’t accept any fundamental knowledge. They are skeptical of all foundational theories and facts and try to deconstruct them. They argue that philosophers have refuted various types of fundamental concepts: Kant attacked Descartes, Bogenstien rejected many concepts of Frege. In the view of the deconstructionists all such arguments are the bickerings, internal to the discipline of the philosophers. Their criticisms were never to come out of the reason-based system. However, the deconstructionists cannot altogether reject philosophy. Descartes in his book ‘Discourse on Method’ changed the pattern of thinking by shifting the primary concern of philosophy i.e. metaphysics, to reason-based non-skeptical knowledge. What we learn as non-skeptical, is truth. He thought the human mind can be made refined through Reason, to learn the reality. God has made it possible to acquire this knowledge, as He is kind. And as God is not a deceiver, he has created the world knowable, not mysterious with intrinsic vagueness. The point is that we learn through experience, but Descartes opined such knowledge is not reliable. What he stressed is reason-based knowledge to unearth the apparent mystery. Through Descartes epistemology thus took center stage.

After 100 years, while accepting epistemology, Kant brought forth the role of human beings from a relatively secondary to principal role. He thought without the active contribution of man no knowledge is possible. Like Descartes’ knowerman he does not merely unfold truth, nor is he the passive receiver, Kant showed that man can make the world acceptable to Reason. Man’s Reason-based knowledge may produce a distorted notion, but he is helpless, he explains the world as he can. The real world is never possible to know, and we can never know it. We learn the world basing ourselves on some categories, which are of course not pure imagination. He thought that we learn through the application of some categories and by way of application of sensory organs we explain space and time through the help of intuition. And what we do not learn through experience, they are concepts without experience. As human beings are thinking animals they possess certain ideas akin to Aristotelean logic which also has two axes; either false or true. Kant said "we need categories to make the experience of an object thinkable". Kant accepted relations between categories to state it in a categorical framework. And those categories, he thought, are found without experience and they are universal and indispensable. Thus categories are true in all respects while experiences may not be.

Post-modernists complain that modern philosophers thought that for everything there must be a cause and effect to get a reason-based conclusion. They critically state that for removing all skepticism, ultimately one goes to mysticism or metaphysics or reason without experience. Post-modernists challenge this ultimate validity of any theory.

Modern capitalism is based on individualistic and egoistic thought. Hobbes (in the 16th-17th centuries), in his social contract theory on the emergence of the state, opined that when man lived in a state of nature it was a state of war of all against all. Thus he justified the emergence of the state, to be free from chaos. This view later became a strong element in modern political theory. Descartes, in the same period, as the father of modern philosophy, was a rationalist and his aim was to base his philosophy on scientifically established truths. His philosophical belief was of organically interconnected branches of one science. In his view there can be only one kind of scientific knowledge and one science. He also had a mechanical view like, that animals can be considered as machines.

Post-modernism identified modernity in the Enlightenment that opened up a new era in Europe unfolding the process of modernisation. The new thinkers, like Locke, Kant and others started with the basic notion that man is a rational being. The philosophers of the Enlightenment held that any knowledge has to meet the standards of rationality and so rational thinking became the yardstick of measuring truth. Like in philosophy, many thinkers of the Enlightenment believed that politics should also be subjected to rational scrutiny and political institutions are required to follow a rational path. This Enlightenment also drew a dividing line between the sphere of religion and other political and intellectual spheres.

The principal critique of post-modernism is directed against the Enlightenment reason as the core of modernism. Kant and other thinkers stressed that reason must be the guidelines for all action and explanations. Kant thought that theoretical and practical reasons are two sides of the same coin. And that this theoretical reason provides a systematic understanding of our experience and the world. Through practical reason, in the Kantian view, a rational agent moves towards a goal voluntarily adopting means he believes to be right and then follows certain general principles to evaluate the end.

Behind all the above process, Post-modernists stress, it is implied that man is a rational animal; free and altruistic and cultivating reason as a regulative principle of all actions. The process is thus characterised by some emphasis on precision, enquiry, critical attitude, empirical data-collection, pursuit of a rigorous methodology, etc., in order to attain some certainty. In an extreme form, this knowledge makes the above agent a self-sufficient individualist who wants to dominate over nature through the attainment of scientific knowledge. Post-modernists make a persistent criticism of the modern ways of life, its reason and epistemology, anthro-pocentrism, historicism, cultural homogenisation, state-centric politics, emphasis on productivity through rampant technological growth and emancipatory notions. Post-modernists claim that the universal or global truth emerging from the Enlightenment reason is false. Their critique is based on the thought that as there are different forms of rationality and heterogenous traditions of reason, there cannot be only one form of rationality; the rationality of the Enlightenment cannot and should not be given any privilege. Foucault, the principal critique of modernism, stated that power and claim to universal truth turned out to be repressive towards all other forms of reason. Such truth, he added, marginalised them as "unreason" or "irrationality". Kant was criticised for his theorisation of reason based on Aristotelian logic and his metaphysics.

Discourse, is a term basically associated with Foucault. It is used to designate established ways of thinking together with the power-structure that supports them as the discourse of science, the discourse of patriarchy etc. The existence of "discursive practices" within a society allows for certain subject positions to be taken up, as a person at once belongs to a class, gender, race or such other identities. Modes of discourses are established and modified over time, and ideas of class, gender, race, individuality, etc. are determined by them. In this sense a discourse depends on shared assumptions, so that a culture’s ideology is inscribed in its discursive practices. Contrary to the Marxist method of the dialectical way of analysing the mode of production and relation of production as fundamental to study a society, discourses are related to power relations, and the basic consideration is that social meaning often arises at the point of conflict between different discourse. Thus, concepts of gender result from the struggle between the legitimised discourse of patriarchy and the marginalised discourse of feminism. Similarly colonial discourse refers to the group of texts, both literary and non-literary, which were, produced by the British writers in the British colonial period.

Epistomologically, Post-modernists stress plural, fragmentary and heterogenous realities. They reject the possibility of arriving at any objective account of reality. Lacan wrote about the "incessant sliding of the signified under the signifier". They reject the border of knowledge considering it as a human construct. In biology there is living and non-living, plant and animal kingdoms; in science there is the border between physics and chemistry and as they are human constructs they can be challenged. Derrida believes in a system of floating signifiers, with no determinable relation to any extra-linguistic referents at all. This signifier receives all pre-ponderence over the signified. Post-modernists reject the concept of truth, causality and even questions the status of science itself. For Foucault, knowledge is only fragmentary and there is no continuity in history. So, for him truth is merely a truth within a discourse. Post-modernists think that the human subject is devoid of any unified consciousness but is structured by language. They make a bitter criticism of the modernist view of keeping man at centre-stage. They reject this philosophical concept as "anthropocentrism". In Foucault’s view human sciences have reduced man to a subject of study and also a subject of the state. The object behind it is to subject human beings to a set of laws to define their entities, e.g. economic, rationality, laws of speech, social behaviour and even biological functioning. Thus the "real selves" are which conform to the set of laws of the state. Foucault considered it that such a man as a universal category is the creation of the Enlightenment reason. So he predicted the death of Man. He thought that there cannot be a constant "condition" and "nature". They are quite strong in their criticism of the modernist view of domination over nature. They think that the anthropometrical view goads man to comprehend the laws of nature with the aim of subjugating her for his desires and aspirations. They stress an organic bond between man and nature.

Kant, Hegel, Marx and others strongly believed in the progressive development of history. Post-modernist/Post-structuralist thinkers like Derrida, Foucault and others reject such a view. They do not believe in historical progress. They do not consider that modern society is better than past societies. Foucault strongly criticised Marxism for its faith in historical development. For the post-modernists, history is discontinuous, without any goal, directionless and the narrative of human agency from the past to the present is an illusion.

Post-modernists stoutly oppose cultural homogenisation, which projects a universal culture. This process of homogenisation, when carried on written boundaries of nation-states, marginalises and subjugates culture of various groups and communities. They lay great stress on the question of power. Modern state power suppresses and appropriates the identities, aspirations of various communities and groups. However, post-modernism, unlike Marxism, does not hold the main focus on state power. For Foucault there is no central power; power is everywhere and it is not a thing that can be acquired, and its relations are immanent in all kinds of relations, economic, political, etc.

It is now necessary to refer to some of the salient contentions of Foucault in regard to the concept of power as presented in "Two Lectures" in his book Power/Knowledge in 1976.

"The general Marxist conception of power is an economic functionality of power. Here ‘power’ is conceived primarily in terms of the role it plays in the maintenance simultaneously of the relations of production and of a class domination ........."

"Power is primarily the maintenance and reproduction of economic relations, but it is above all a relation of force ...... Power is essentially that which represses. Power represses nature, the instincts, a class of individuals .... So should not the analysis of power be first and formost analysis of the mechanism of repression?"

"......... Power must be analysed as something which circulates, or rather as something which only functions in the form of a chain. It is never localised here or there, never in any body’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or a piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organisation. And not only do individuals circulate between its threads; they are always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power ...."

Foucault starts from some written or artificial or such language-based presentation of some facts to the statement. The statement is about some object that in turn makes one scientific subject and that also in its turn gets separated to another scientific subject. A number of such presentations make one discourse. For each of the discourses has its centre point based on the ideology current in the market.

In the meaning of words a perceptible difference is obvious between the modern and the post-modern. Every work, in the post-modern/ post-structural view, symbolises many different meanings. Such multi-linear meanings were suppressed towards a single meaning during the modern age — through the force of power. With the single meaning man, society and also human life have been given shape. Thus words have assumed the symbol of a power equation. Post-modernism/Post-structuralists believe that in traditional society power was decentralised, marginal, dispersed. In the new arrangements power emerged from all sides. No interim or intermediary step remained in existence. For wielding power there emerged a stock of experts, who are to remain in feed-back responsibility at the top, in order to appraise the necessities for making humans in conformity with requirements.

Post-modernism rejects the unilinear approach and strongly prefers pluralism or a many-sided point of view.

Foucault in his book Power/Knowledge said "The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language, relations of power, not relations of meaning. History has no meaning, though this is not to say that it is .......... incoherent. On the contrary, it is intelligible and should be susceptible to analysis down to the smallest detail - but this is in accordance with the intelligibility of struggles, of strategies and tactics."[1980:114]

Thus the end part of the above furnishes it that the continuous struggle, tactics and strategies make us aware of our history. He thought civil society and political society were tied together through the form of power. Power cannot be removed from our life, as if it were passing through our vein. Foucault said "power is everywhere, not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere." [1984:93] So, in Indian society the marginalised position of the subaltern is proof positive. In other words in civil society itself power is dispersed in multifarious forms.

Foucault said "We should admit that power produces knowledge ...... That power and knowledge directly imply one another, that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge"[1977:27]

Foucault added "Truth is not outside power or lacking in power .......... Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is the types of discourse, which it accepts and makes function as true". [1980:131]

Derrida’s version of "deconstructionism" argues that all of existence is a text. In "reading" (i.e., trying to understand) any text — whether a book, nature or society, or ourselves — we rewrite it. All reading is "writing", a constant, endless process inherent to the living, that cannot be carried out consciously, at least not with the autonomous self-consciousness prior modernity had posited. Hence we can no more determine an author’s intent than could the original author. There is no experience per se that is shared by all human beings; everything is a surface that constantly reconstitutes itself. Absence dominates all presence, and we are left to pursue the "traces" of an absent itself. What is concealed, for example, on the "margin" or in the spaces between the lines becomes as important as what is present in the words of a text. Hence we try to avoid "logocentrism". Since all reading is writing, a flux of alternative explanations is inevitable. An urbane openness to diverse interpretations, which actually reduce to a cacophony of voices, is required; whenever anything in reality begins to ossify, the deconstructionist moves in to play the role of solvent.[Gregory Bruce Smith, Nietzche, Heidegger and The Transition to Post-modernity, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1996, p. 9]

Such a Post-modernist/Post-structuralist view focuses on the extent to which reality, including our own being, is constituted by our very acts of trying to use, describe, and understand what it is. Post structuralism is built on the notion that reality both human and non-human is fundamentally malleable. We cannot, however, do our constituting of reality consciously or rationally. That would require a stable, unchanging actor facing a structurally stable world, and we are not beings with a simple, pre-given structure or nature. Hence the modern desire to consciously or rationally reconstitute the world is seen as a chimera. Any closure is simultaneously rejected.

In Post-modernism respect is shown to the tradition, a major part of it being a sort of blind worship of native tradition. This view on tradition considers the concept of time and space is a question of a complex notion. Indian astronomer Aryabhatta predicted that time is measurable. Later we find in Copernicus the concept of zero hour or the point of a beginning. Later it was developed by others. Minkovaski’s measurable time brought the concept of a four-dimensional world-view. With the notion of length, breadth and width was added the concept of time. As the fourth dimension is measurable, the world no longer remained outside the pale of measurement. Modernism, the Post-modernist/post-structuralists’ claim, after World War I, found its reason in the progress of thought in respect of time and space. It wrongly made use of measurable and divisible dimension of time to make the concept of limited space. When time and space became ‘limited’, the world was placed in some measurable points. Thus came the notion of Omega point or the point of destruction while the point of beginning was conceived as alfa point. This concept also connected those two points in a straight line. With the concept of those two points came the idea of naming, and thus time and space was divided into pre-modern and modern. Post-modernism asserts that modernism provided the tag "modern" or pre-modern to certain points in the above straight line. The Post-modernist says that the bourgeoisie has taken the notion of ‘limited’ utilising the time-space theory. Post-modernism argues that when modernists speak of modernising tradition, it tries to discover good or bad elements in the tradition. While the Post-modernist think that they should accept tradition considering the ‘unlimited’, uninterrupted notion of ‘time and space’. It says that reconstruction of tradition or its replication, etc. is not its concern; it is the concern of the modernists. Minkovsky himself stated "space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality. Only a world in itself will subsist". (H. Minkovaski, Space and Time).

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), the intellectual brain behind various trends like Satrean existentialism, linguistics, the ‘structuralist’ and ‘hermeneutic’ schools of textual interpretation, postulated the primacy of language : "Language is the house of being. Man dwells in this house. Those who think and those who create poetry are the custodians of the dwelling".[Quoted in George Steiner, Heidegger, Fontana press, London, 1992, p.127]

We have seen that Saussure gave the privileged position to "Langue" over "Parole". The concept of "Langue" leads to the concept of "differentiation". When language as signifying, depends on the selection of one linguistic item as against other possible items, language as signifying does not depend upon the particular positive properties of what is uttered and what is not uttered as we generally understand, because in Saussure’s way of thinking has nothing to do with images or mirrorings or mental "things" of any kind. Such a notion is completely different from the general view of language accepting words as closely related to concrete things. Thus, in the sphere of ‘Langue’, the dualism between objective things and subjective ideas fall apart. Such a metaphysical concept is further taken to its extreme point in the theorists of post-structuralism/post-modernism by snapping the link with the societal aspect of language as contained in Saussure.

Rolland Barthes, who had passed through both structuralist and post-structuralist phases, emphasized "mythologies" behind the ordinary everyday things of the objective world even when they are simply perceived without concepts or verbalization. Barthes declared that when we eat a piece of steak, what we enjoy is not just that material steak itself, but also the idea of steak. A particular piece of steak carries the interpreted cultural glamour of all steak-hood even before it comes into contact with the taste-buds. Thus a word uttered standing for a general meaning by way of rising to a level-breaking resemblance to the referring or naming or asserting functions.

Post-structuralist/post-modernist current of language theory reaches its height through Jacques Derrida’s writings with a priority of the sign over objective things and the subjective mind, by making the sign "material" in an unusual way, thereby finally discarded all notions of the objective. Derrida is more concerned with writing. For him writing is language in the most self-sufficient way, it exists not insubstantially in the mind nor briefly and transparently in sound-waves of the air, but solidly and enduringly in marks upon a page. Derrida justifies writing over voice by turning the commonsense way of looking at the world upside down. He stresses that writing is the fundamental condition which language has always aspired. For the post-modernist/post-structuralists constitutes the human world and the human world constitutes the whole world. Derrida expands Saussurean linguistics by emphasizing writing rather than Langue, and by doing this he displaces objective things and subjective ideas with their binary relation. With all this Derrida brings to the centre-stage writing. In effect, he brings a kind of apparent "thingish-ness" into the inside world. It is the Derridean way of "materialising" subjectivity with the help of the Freudian concept of sub-consciousness. Derrida argues that the unconscious mind underlies the conscious mind in the form of writing on the matter of the brain, breeding all speech. The trace in the brain, in the Freudian sense appears as a sign, as writing as a sign. While in Freud there was a relation, however mechanical, between perception and memory in a metaphysical way, in Derrida the trace turns into a sign, of course leaving out all notion of mind or soul. "Writing supplements perception before perception even appears to itself" [V. Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978, p. 224] Thus Derrida goes to the extreme point of accepting life and consciousness in a dreamy state. He interprets Freud stating that "speech... figures in dreams much as captions do in comic strips." [ibid p. 218] Thus the signifier that are fundamental in Derrida’s general theory of language, are not to be considered as things which first exist in their own right and then point out to some other things. It is the signifiers signify before they are themselves. We are formed by language and signifier in this Derridean model, and losing all objectivity assumes all centrality.

The Derridean theory of deconstruction is concerned with what is going on in a text — not by seeking out its meaning, or its component parts, or its systematic implications — but rather by marking off its relations with other texts, its contexts, its sub-texts. It means that deconstruction accounts for how a text’s explicit formulation undermines its implicit or non-implicit aspects. It claims to bring out what the text excludes by showing what it includes. In the first part of Dissemination Derrida offers a deconstructive reading of Plato concentrating on the word Pharmakon used by Plato. He shows how the word does service for Plato while it reveals a complex network of signigications associated with Plato’s text. The varied significations of the word Pharmakon have metaphysical oppositions and hierarchical valuation. The Greek word Pharmakon has multiple and contradictory meanings like a drug, a healing remedy or medicine, an enchanted potion or philter, a charm or spell, a poison, a dye or paint. Derrida insists that even when Plato contextualises this word with a certain meaning, the multivalence or the word remaining in effect in the Greek text.

While the western tradition of philosophy points to the binary opposition of the logic for the term like that a remedy being the opposite of a poison, Derridean deconstruction attempts at subverting this dialectical logic. He states that traditional commentator subjects the value of his/her writing to the authentic meaning of the text that is being commented on. Derridean language works on differentiation but it is a differentiation with a difference or to state precisely with a "difference", a word coined by him. It is in one sense that the differer indicates distinction, inequality, etc. or the other. It expresses "differing". The meaning of poison does not exist merely by its difference from the meaning of remedy, but also for the deferring of the meaning "remedy". The meaning that is differed is put off for the present and in time, that differs will have to flow over it. Derrida displaces the assumption of authoral privilege. Dissemination deconstructs the difference between the inside and the outside and seeks to move both interior and exterior. Thus it claims to shake up an endless contradiction. Derrida studies the Platonic text moving at a point where the text is open to a moment of alertly and from which, Derrida claims, divergent paths through the texts can be pursued. In the Derridean deconstructive exercise, this movement is which cannot be experienced if one thinks that the structure of a text is emanating from a fixed centre or origin. Here every origin is always already displaced in the activity of writing, as writing poses signs as substitutes for the intrinsically absent and non-locatable origin — an origin that is always other and different, an origin that is perpetually deferred by writing. Thus we find two fundamental notions of Derrida as well as post-modernism/ Post-structuralism. The absence of center or origin in a discourse and the concept of Derridean "deferance" which are fundamentals to post-modernism were revealed in the Derridean scheme of language. The Derridean approach to reading a text grows out of the thinking that aligns itself in various ways with the work of Nietzche, Freud, Sussure, Levians, Heidegger, rejecting the centre in the claimed "post-metaphysical epoch".

Jacques Lacan (1901-81), the controversial figure in French psychoanalysis, interpreted Freud in the light of the new structuralist theories of linguistics and focussed on the human subject as defined by linguistic and social pressures. Lacan speaks of the ‘law of the signifier’ in which "the signifier comes and in its turn exerts upon the desiring subject. Subjects, the theorists and their fellow human beings are quite bound by it". [Malcolm Bowie, Lacan, Fontana Modern Masters, Fontana Press, 1991, p.79]

The primacy of language working as a sovereign in the human world is the fundamental pillar of post-modernism/ Post-structuralism. Post-modernism gives priority to culture over nature. Influenced by this trend, a new crop of literature has come up in the name of ‘cultural studies’ obviously distancing itself from earlier studies on culture. Such cultural studies emphasize that differences are always decisive while similarities are the result only of coincidence. It is the idea, which posits differences, not only as real and important, but fundamental, permanent, and stable, that is to say trans-historical. Like structuralism, post-structuralism or post-modernism "cultural studies" claimed in the 1980 the position of radical alternative to positivisim. Samuel Huntington in his much-hyped book The Clash Of Civilization and The Remaking Of World Order in the last decade of the last century elevated the role of culture to an imaginary plane, obviously reductionist in nature. He claimed that with the end of Cold-War, after the exit of the Soviet Union, world politics has now turned into a clash of various cultures leaving aside the role of class conflict and other conflicts emanating from economic causes. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was also now justified as a clash of civilizations.

With the so many ‘post’ theories, Post-Colonial thought or theory emerged as an offshoot of post-modernism/post-structuralism. Edward Said, the founder of this thought, through his much-publicised book Orientalism, published in 1978, appeared as a professedly Foucaultian critique of the West. Said, in the Derridean line, argued that Europe establishes its own Identity by establishing the Difference of the Orient. He went to the extreme by bracketing Asschylus, Victor Hugo, Dante and also Marx in the formation of Orientalism. [ibid p.3] For him Orientalism is "a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient." Said’s Orientalist Discourse, stressing the primacy of representation, has given birth to Colonial Discourse Analysis. Orientalism is also a discourse. In such discourse-theory also, it is not economic exploitation, but language that is important: language doing the speaking through humans.


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