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There have been massacres based on ethnicity and religion throughout history and pre-history some on a very large scale. Industrialisation and technology gives the ability to perform actions on a wider scale and more efficiently but otherwise Auschwitz does not seem especially modern. I am reminded of slavery.

The newly capitalist countries on the verge of the industrial resolution captured and relocated slaves on a vast scale but the trade itself had existed for millenia and the same western countries for the first time banned slavery across large areas of the world. I have no data to back it up but I suspect that the modern era is if anything characterised by a reduction in the number of massacres and genocides. The Final Solution was rationalized with Social Darwinism and race science.

Eugenics was a big part of it — they gassed the disabled. This was cutting-edge philosophy of science in that day. The Nazis were reading American race science pontificators like Madison Grant. Fascism is an ideology of nations — which are quite modern, only a few hundred years old, and it spread partly through electronic means. Add to that the industrial organization and trendy methods of killing and you have a phenomenon that was thoroughly modern.

What about the Holocaust was NOT modern? Was the banal bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann your Mongol mutilator? These sound sensible and intelligent if you are not careful, but on their own they are vacuous. The latter in particular is an accurate assessment of almost any statement about almost anything. It is trivially true and hence meaningless, unless you then go into the details and correct the alleged oversimplifications.

These phrases often get used as a way for the speaker to make themselves look clever and perceptive, unlike the crassly overconfident person they are responding to. The postmodernists or deconstructionists seem to be pulling the next-level version of this trick by pointing out that people make simplifications, which is obviously true, and that these often relate to power structures in society, which is also obviously true, but if they are not offering any improvements then so what?

TJR Yes, I understand that method. I am a bit old school Socratic Method. I am always willing to expand my knowledge, but I have found this method generally either: irritates; enrages;confuses; ends the conversation. Somewhat frustrating, I must admit. It seems to work best in printed form where the author is recounting a Socratic session that the reader has not personally witnessed, leaving the writer free to edit, change and flat-out lie about what his invariably moronic opponent said during his part of the alleged conversation.

But nothing works out very well in actual conversation. Indeed the Socratic method is poorly understood. By some. But words, in the Platonic context in particular, are concrete, strategically placed to function as the carrier of a particular meaning. Is there ever a positive outcome? What I mean is what postmodernists say something that sounds convoluted yet seems to be making some kind of general direction of an argument. Then the person who wants to argue against the point tries to frame the postmodernist analysis in more concrete language.

Then the postmodernist insists that such is not his position and restates his position again in convoluted language. Can a set of bizarre and unfalsifiable statements illuminate any kind of truth? Can they even form a kind of criticsm to a claim to truth? It sounds like Taylor is suggesting ignorance is or was bliss. Yet the more a belief is shared the greater danger it will be hollowed-out by people subscribing outwardly to it but inwardly doubting it.

Peer pressure can masquerade as consensus and solidarity,. I believe at heart they are utopians who want us to live in a perfect society. They see the rest of us living in the society that is blocking their perfect world from being born, and they do what they see needs to be done: begin demolishing our messy society to make way for their ideal. It is very satisfying for intellectuals to point out everything that is wrong, and be freed of the responsibility to provide solutions.

To this goal are postmodernists dedicated. The fact that the only way they see a universal human nature as narrow and one-dimensional, instead of a vast, complex, varied and variable in its universality is mind-boggling. Indeed, they even mock realists as if we accept the status quo rather than reject tyranny to achieve their preferences.

Gus B. BTW…the power we have earned, is the power we have actually earned. And give the table another wipe, sweets. What makes you think, poorly demonstrated sarcasm can be used interchangeably with a plausible counterargument? Gus Bovona congratulations, for providing a perfect example of what the author was describing. Nice job! The wise philosopher tells the child that wetness is merely what happens when an object is brought into contact with water. The child wonders why this is considered profound.

Or bake his bread with dry flour. Or eat food without drinking. Or raise a plant with dry soil. The child is designed to find relationship and meaning in the world and does so. This is called learning and it is most strange that some folks want to try to undermine it. So sorry, Gus.

Which is the product of their own personal life history, especially the first 2 or 3 years of their life. And their cultural conditioning too. Both are very powerful forces pattern and control every aspect of ones body-mind-complex. Neither of these two powerful formative patterns can be undone by any kind of contrary philosophical word games, however seemingly sophisticated. During the period of the European Renaissance, there was a profound struggle to come to terms with the notion that the nature of the universe was not as it had previously been presumed to be.

The old view had the Earth at the center of everything. In the period of the European Renaissance, people had to come to terms with the notion, based on physical perceptual observation, that the Earth, along with the other planets of our solar system revolves around the Sun. The old view did not rightly represent the Truth of our situation, but neither does the new view. Is anyone familiar with the unique understanding of the nature of Reality communicated by Franklin Merrel-Wolff.

He is seldom, if ever, mentioned or referred to in any of the usual philosophical chit-chat. Which is why the enlightenment attempt to suggest that government should be limited and that individuals should be as free as society can bear and treat everyone equally under a clear set of laws that regulate behavior so we can plan for the future. But I have looked him up and he is not completely sui generis.

He is yet another western thinker with intuitions of monism, metaphysical idealism consciousness as ontologically primary , and nondualism, who has found something in common with eastern philosophy Hinduism, Buddhism. I would say that the clash of philosophies we have — scientific materialism, postmodernism, spirituality — is not really new.

I would think that every literate civilization has sophists, skeptics, and relativists. And Merrell-Wolff, from what I can see, does not have what it would take, to displace scientific materialism and atomism as the ruling metaphysics of the everyday world. Against the powers of calculus, quantum mechanics, the computer, molecular biology, neuroscience, what does he offer?

The assertion that, beyond the world of appearances arrayed in space and time, lies Being itself, and that Being is timeless consciousness. A typology of some altered states of consciousness. But none of them has a coherent system of thought which can absorb and subsume the concrete results of the natural sciences.

These philosophies that revolve around consciousness exist as a counterpoint to the naturalistic narrative. You can live a daily life governed by economics and made possible by applied electromagnetic theory, and then use the knowledge of yourself as a self separate from all that, as the basis of an alternative worldview in which everything is consciousness, and the material world of money and electricity is just a low-level manifestation… But no-one has a non-materialistic system of explanation with a rigor and success comparable to the sciences.

You may find e. The postmodernist only points the withering gaze of scepticism at those things opposed to her own implicit beliefs. Nihilism results from also pointing that gaze inward and undermining ones own beliefs. One is left with nothing. Foucault, Derrida, and the rest of the PoMo crowd….

You always got the impression that they were looking at the audience with a smirk and knowing wink whilst expounding their doctrines. And the misunderstanding that they are nihilists is what characterizes postmodern thinking if I may use this oxymoron. He recognised it in himself. He also recognised that any interpretation was itself capable of a fresh interpretation which would relativise it. Thus any deconstruction would itself be capable of being deconstructed and relativised.

And neither Nietzsche nor Heidegger were naive enough to believe that after all the dirty work of deconstruction was done, what would remain intact would be a quasi Christian world view fit for the mind of a not very bright Sunday school teacher! What in fact many post modernists seem to believe in in practice is the existence of a meta narrative their own which is beyond radical critique. So, for example, the physical sciences might be revealed as an element of patriarchy — but patriarchy theory itself is beyond critique.

It just is! Yes, just so. The deconstructionist should not even open her mouth, since the first word that might come out of it is already a social construction that comes from an oppressive power structure called language. Nihilists, and sarcasts, are deep down always idealists, abhorred by the aberations even if small they experience in real life and society.


Schopenhauer was a good example. Would I be correct in concluding that in a world of postmodernists, everyone is a poser? The question left open though is whether this is a consciously adopted cynical strategy. Rather I think we are seeing a manifestation of something more naive — the belief that while scepticism applies to the beliefs of others — it does not apply to the beliefs that I implicitly hold.

This naivety sometimes seems to go further, towards a belief that once the job of deconstruction is over what will remain are — the views I implicitly hold. There may be some exceptions, but hidden behind most post modernists is someone who dogmatically believes in their own rightness. Nietzsche saw the nihilism in Christianity being transformed and fulfilled in the modern world Postmodernism, despite it claiming Nietzsche as a kind of intellectual godfather, is the fulfillment of nihilism.

With that in mind, I would actually go further than Watts by saying that a value judgement not only implies the endorsement of a normative standard, a value judgment actually requires the endorsement of a normative standard. Thus, to subscribe to the postmodernist view is to be caught on the horns of a dilemma. A little self-reflection would go a long way for these guys. Someone has their philosophy hat on today. But really, do you think the average deconstructionist just lacks self-reflection? Well, maybe.

I always felt that it was bad faith all the way to bottom with these guys. As to the question of do I think the average deconstructionist just lacks self-reflection. Negotiating reality and nature is a horrendous task in the best of times and the most expedient way to obtain a somewhat desirable behavior in this case a healthy mistrust of snakes has only an infinitesimal chance to be also the correct approach to a problem. In this case, for example, it could easily invite violence and worse towards the non-venomous kind, and so forth. Where you hit is not always where it cracks, and utility cannot be measured in isolation from all related consequences.

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Come on in, Sir. Objections are always welcomed. Good man. Another way to understand my usage of the term would be to ask: What is more likely to produce a desired outcome; which in this case would be the well-being of a child?

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Which claim would be more useful or effective or profitable? I argue that in this case, all else being equal, a lie falsehood would have greater benefit, would be more profitable, more useful than the truth. Moreover, what you seem to be describing is something closer to a heuristic; which while both useful and expedient, is nonetheless inherently flawed. Therefore, a heuristic does me no good, because as I said, the kid has to bat a thousand. In short, the expediency of a choice is of no importance. The only thing that matters is its usefulness.

Which choice will be more effective at producing the result I want? Having hopefully made clear the distinction between an expedient choice and a useful choice, I do want to address the following claim:. That seems like an undesired consequence to me. The point is, no choice happens within a vacuum. In many instances, this one included, not making a choice is still a choice, and more importantly, a choice that is likely to be accompanied by undesired consequences.

Every choice has unintended consequences and many times at least some of those are undesirable. Is having less than perfect information a nonstarter now, when making life choices? This seems an unreasonable standard. I would counter that truth always gives power and that that is the metric of something being true: it gives me predictive agency over the subject of the truth-claim.

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If power is the ability to exert agency over objects, then truth being power is not only obvious, it is desirable. Now, the one who has truth must therefore have power, but it might be the case that that power is used in an evil way, but it does not follow. The pomos also presume without demonstration that all power is used in evil ways ignoring for the moment your above observation that even this presumes we know what evil is.

But we observe that power is often used in beneficient ways. The building of the Brooklyn Bridge was an exercise in power, but was it evil? Greetings, Sir! So, I want to ask you a question regarding the passage above. If it is the case that truth gives you predictive agency over the subject of a truth-claim, could it ever be the case that an untruth gives you greater predictive agency over the subject?

In other words, can a lie or falsehood ever have more utility than a valid or truthful statement?

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Mind, with people, who do not respond correctly to truth as would inanimate nature , we see lies having huge utility. Hitler was perhaps the most famously effective liar, with Trump trying hard, but finishing second — quantity is no substitute for quality. This is my point exactly! To understand what I mean by a useful fiction, take for example, a parent who tells their year-old child that all snakes are poisonous, rather than the actual truth, i.

Yes, as usual simple formulas fail. The article merely demonstrates that postmodern logic ends in a kind of meaningless nothingness which has no relation to how humans actually exist. The author appears to be applying skepticism to skepticism which, as you suggest, involves a kind of new assertion of power. The question is what is the nature of this power?

What is the author affirming — if only implicitly? Nobody — postmodernists, the author, you, me — lives by skepticism. If anyone has an example of a postmodern critique of non-western societies, or non-western people, I would love to hear it. Philosophy has been mucking around in dry definitional haggling and umpteen varieties of pointing out that functional discourse coalesces around power for decades now. These questions have been sliced and diced ad infinitum and mainly serve the reproduction and expansion of humanities and social sciences departments.

Postmodernism considered as an academic variant of trolling? Or — since postmodernism predates the internet — trolling as postmodernism for the masses? I am going to refer to this position as the No-Position Position. Secondly, alogosia is asserted: true normative theories of objective rationality are not available; whatever we take to be the canons of rationality are constructed, so could have been constructed differently, and that although there may be some ways in which they could not be constructed, among those ways in which they can be constructed there are no better or worse ways of constructing them.

The upshot of this pair, the foxybit, is that the postmodernist can use normative notions of rationality whilst evading accountability to rational standards. Postmodernists play the games without accepting it rules — a brilliantly winning strategy at the scale of a single interaction, but an utterly losing strategy when scaled to a life philosophy.

Its nihilism, rebranded. Postmodernism is deconstruction for the sake of deconstruction.

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Deconstruction in and of itself is not bad, it is an effective debate strategy. However when deconstruction drifts into nihilism it becomes juvenile and puerile. They seem to find the truth between a full and empty belly often enough. It never occurred to me that a concept should be discarded because it does not represent perfect truth. Hermeuetics is an interesting term here. Postmodernist arguments to deconstruct the current world are a distant and tangential outgrowth of medieval efforts to reconcile seeming contradictions in the Bible or contradictions between how different scholars interpreted the Bible.

Back then there was a sort of practice of discourse, re-reading and critical readings on how to make the same Bible say different things to different kings and theologians. It has also been said that the current purpose of academic humanities is to act as a set of scholars whose lives are not closely interwoven into the rest of the economic system so that those scholars can provide a criticism of society that is difficult to see by the actors that operate within it.

In a sense, the scholars are not supposed to be beholden to the mores and biases of the common man. Whether postmoderninsts are aware of it or not, they do seem to carry on with a lot of disdain for the common man of the western world. Whether or not they state it, they seem to carry a bias that this common man is a self important racist who believes in and works to uphold his unearned power.

I might even call it harmless for some coterie of academics to talk in postmodern discourse circles at each other, but the problem arises in the fact that they do hold power. About a quarter of Americans graduate college these days, meaning that their minds are left to be molded by these people during their formative years.

And then those molded minds go out into the real world where they must pursue some real actions. A person with a policy job cannot just sit and revel in overcomplicated musings that make no final point. The policy administrator must do something, and then postmodern analysis starts to take the form of concrete meaning, and those are often the actionable form of the disdain held for the common man held by those academics.

And then we end up with policies such as disparate impact guidelines, which hold that different rates of loan approvals or suspensions between races must be evidence of structural racism. Such policies are rooted in the idea that society can be deconstructed and reconstructed through the dynamics of power. There is no real nature that power and language cannot supercede.

Good article — thank you. The funny thing about pomo is that it in itself is a grand narrative proposing a ultimative truth about reality, that all is a social construct and have relative value. The pomo activist also show the same type of sentiment as the hardcore Evangelist — so sure that they have the winning narrative. Seeing through that helps to deconstruct their aperspectival madness. Postmodernism, or as some describe it, Critical Theory, is actually incredibly useful. I submit that this idea is the only possible way of understanding Postmodernism itself; Critical Theory is really only properly applied to Critical Theory.

This claim is itself an attempt to seize power. And of course that attempt is itself greedy and grasping. Postmodernists are not put on the defensive enough.

Relationship to modernism

Any postmodern critique should be immediately, stridently hoisted with its own petard. Well, who told you that? What group got together and decided that it is socially constructed? Who are you trying to impress by saying this? What an appallingly bigoted thing to say. How dare you? If you believe that truth always has an ultimate foundation, that God or many gods or some spiritual force exists that grounds truth and morality in some ultimate frame of reference, than post-modernism seems like cynical deconstructionism.

What is Postmodernism?

I personally no longer believe there is an ultimate foundation for truth. It is the dumbest part of non post-modernists that they think humans are utterly lost if God, gods, etc. Some of it is done horribly, with ill intent and that is a problem. But if we live in a world where there is no ultimate foundation for truth, i. God, gods, etc. Postmodernists reject the idea that there is such a thing as objective truth. If that is so, they should also reject their own theory, given that it cannot according to their theory be objectively true.

A postmodernist is someone who believes the only objective truth is that there is no objective truth. Bringing the fight on post-modern culture and philosophy is long overdue and we owe a debt of gratitude to those like Jordan Peterson and the author of this excellent essay for unmasking and denouncing it. My own interpretation of it is far less charitable. I believe that a desire for power should not be confused with a desire to destroy.

These people have been indoctrinated since a very young age to hate the free-market and free thought liberal democracies, and while it may and usually is very true that they are vague or not even concerned with replacing it with a coherent worldview, they are strongly united in a desire to destroy liberalism. Needless to say, that makes them either conscious or willfully blind allies of the extreme left, and there is no practical utility in trying to discern who is who. Marxists and post-modernists are at the very least symbiotes united by a desire to overpower and destroy the world we inhabit and cherish.

I never drew the conclusion from pomo theory that since truth is constructed, therefore we should stop making truth claims. I think Post Modernism leads in a circle back to writing narrative histories. From Foucault and company we learn how treacherous and ideologically dependent are claims that a narrative is truth. But narratives — organized data — are the only way to engage with other human beings.

So after reading Foucault we recommence to write narratives, but with a greater sense of humility about the tenuousness of our claims. Voila, we return to normal social engagement. I share the frustration with pomo mechanics who only want to tear down narratives, never replace them. Good piece. The author is entirely right. Self-contradictory, and as the author states, hypocritical. This is a perfect example of misunderstanding post modernism and attacking some made up straw man that feels more comfortable to argue against.

Just like between any humans there are arguments and debates about taste in music, food, attraction, etc. Think for a moment how little agreement there is even among proponents of absolute truth on a variety of current moral topics: is the death penalty ok? If believers in absolute Truth disagree deeply and have for hundreds of years about what things are absolutely True, that leaves proponents of absolute Truth with no clear absolute Truth to believe in. How is that any different that post modernism? And if you want to argue that absolute Truth is clear, please enlighten us.

Write the post telling us what is absolutely True that we all should know and hold to. This very good essay and many of the comments below have left me as puzzled as ever about postmodernism. Truth in a Cartesian? There is I think a direct line between them and post-modernism: Hume in his assertion that we never REALLY know, and Kant in his assertion that all we know if filtered through our cognition, which id very probably imperfect; at least, all we can see is the phenomenal world, and seeing the noumenal world behind it — he assumes there is one — is simply impossible.

But Hume insists we still consider evidence, and that most of our inferences can be trusted most of the time, and unless you have a good reason to change your mind about whether snow is cold, you may as well carry on believing — knowing — that it is. So while he would agree that there are no meta-narratives, he would disagree that there is nothing reasonably reliable from an epistemic point of view — his skepticism is always mitigated. Sometimes I think post-modernism should stop at asserting anything beyond that philosophically, and that we should see it culturally…we live in a time in which many meta-narratives have slipped from view and even become unacceptable in a number of ways —ethically, epistemologically, even metaphysically we are still confronted with meta-narratives vying for our acceptance — globalism, nationalism, etc..

As an undergrad I used to run into the odd person who claimed to be a nihilist — it was a fashionable pose. The same is sometimes true of the PoMo crowd. Snow is still cold. Like the author, I also did Grad. The problem is that it is a denial of reality. What we see today are the political implications of nihilism. Nihilism is the affirmation of Nothing, which means a denial of the necessity of form, hierarchy, order etc.

If no claim to Truth can be validated then all claims to Truth require equal recognition. Behind the veil of discriminations and hierarchies that we call reality we are all Equal. And if all ideas are equal, then the idea that All Ideas are Equal must be the most Equal of all. There is so much bad info and critiquing here, it feels hard to take seriously. I get there are some ridiculous post modernists who have said some pretty stupid things. Ridiculous absolutists? Arguing against absurd straw men is what happens on every other bad web forum that makes the conversations pointless.

I really hope for better on Quillette. Maybe some folks here see his writings as examples of Nihilism, no truth, no meaning and purpose in life and everything bad with modern thinking. Much of his work addresses questions of truth, meaning, purpose and how we can think about them given what we know. The main problem from the absolutist side that ironically goes mostly undiscussed in the article and comments is that all people pick and choose what to believe and what they decide is absolute Truth. There is no direct revelation from a divine source giving out clear and unambiguous Truth that can be scientifically verified.

So I stopped jumping and now try to do the best I can with what I have. Rickoxo, you seem to be analysing post-modernism from a modernist Enlightment perspective. You imply that post-modernism does not entail the belief than truth is always merely a social construct. I suspect that many, but not all, post-modernists would disagree with you on that point.

Yes there are examples of postmodernism being used as a weapon and debate strategy with no goal or commitment on the other end to stand for anything. Imagine for a second we all discovered that the Matrix i. Imagine for a second that we discovered this was going on. For most of human history, the majority of humans have believed that supernatural forces ruled the universe and influenced our lives.

Most of the social and cultural traditions we have as humans are based in varying ways on those premises. Completely letting go of absolute beliefs and learning to swim without any footing is a crazy endeavor. It took humans thousands of years to get us to this point and many of the narratives and absolute Truths humans hold to are clearly bogus, self-serving and illusory. What we really need is people who are able to construct something.

The incoherence of pomo essays comes from that possibly legitimate goal, but it makes pomo appropriate more as a fictional critique than something materially useful to change. At its base, the new postmodernists have no knowledge of communication and related research which concludes that human beings, in order to process vast amounts of information, must arrange it by categories — something Foucault actually discusses in the Order of Things.

Pomo could do well exploring the most idiosyncratic categories and pointing out their disconnect from reality. Instead, it celebrates them, as if no organizing principles were desirable. This is a performative contradiction. Watts has reached a conclusion very similar to that of American philosophy professor in his book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault.

Post-modernism is difficult to analyse because there is no widely accepted understanding of what it means. It is possible to agree with some claims of post-modernism while rejecting some of its other claims. For example, Rickoxo in the above post impliedly agrees with the post-modernism claim that many of our beliefs are not scientifically verifiable and arose from power relationships within society. I too agree with that claim, but I reject many of the other claims of post-modernism.

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I think this is right on the money, and before people argue this is some problem unique to post modernism, do all Christians agree on what Christianity means? Do all conservatives agree on what conservatism is? Europe and the US's putative postwar golden age was over. I say "putative" because I was brought up in the Black Country. In the 60s. We were entering dire straits. Consider British car design. Yes, the Mini had been the jaunty expression of the reportedly swinging 60s ethos, but its 70s successor the Maxi was a tomb on wheels. And British Leyland's later cars, the Allegro and Marina , could only be understood as sick jokes perpetrated on patriotic British motorists by social deviants whose corpses would be bulldozed into the foundations of Spaghetti Junction in any rational polity.

This recession and the one led to the collapse of the previous Fordist model of integrated industrial production think: a million Charlie Chaplins tightening a million wheel nuts on a million identical cars in a factory the size of Kansas for ever. Instead, short-term contracts proliferated, work was outsourced from Walsall to Warsaw and still further east. These terms are, like deconstructionism and post-structuralism, if not synonymous with postmodernism, then synchronous with it.

God, I love this stuff: it would have got me tenure at some poly in the late 70s. He writes: "[L]ike many others I felt [modernism] had both strayed from its idealistic origins and become codified, strict, puritanical and dogmatic … Besides, as lovely as it is, postmodern furniture is cruelly uncomfortable. If postmodernism meant anything is allowed, then I was all for it.

The buildings often didn't get much more beautiful or the furniture more comfortable, but at least we weren't handed a rulebook. He inhaled deeply, breathed out, narrowed his eyes and said: " Bah, ouais ," and started writing there and then his ground-breaking book The Postmodern Condition. Probably none of this happened, but who can resist sending up a man who has girls' dancewear for a surname?

Lyotard argued that the intellectual foundations of western thought as built by Kant, Hegel, Marx, though probably not De Botton, were teetering. Western societies since the Enlightenment had, he argued, been informed by "grand narratives" that were no longer convincing stories of human progress. He, like lots of other soixante-huitards , was disappointed by the failure of one of those grand narratives, Marxism, to deliver paradise.

He glanced narrowly too across the Channel and, seeing Thatcher's policies soon to be echoed by Reagan of economic deregulation, selfish enterprise culture and the denial of society, thought that political progress — as he and like-minded beret-wearers had comprehended it since — might well be over. Henceforth, he and the likes of Foucault thought, localised political interventions — feminism, environmentalism, identity politics — would replace mass progressive movements. And then, bored by his thoughts, Lyotard put his hands back up his girlfriend's jumper, like the French stereotype we've imagined him to be.

In , literary theorist Fredric Jameson wrote his essay Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, arguing that art had been colonised by commerce. Modernist art think: Van Gogh transforming personal misery into beauty sought to redeem the world, he suggested.

Postmodern art think: Jenny Holzer putting an electronic billboard over New York's Times Square reading, "Protect me from what I want" in was made by artists stuck in a world they could scarcely change. Jameson also wrote about "the waning of affect" that he claimed characterised postmodern subjectivity.

Artists don't cut off their ears these days, more's the pity. The billboard image bore the headline Made in Heaven and depicted him having sex with his porn star wife, La Cicciolina. But Koons was hardly in the throes of passion: his affect seemed to have waned to nothing as his blank gaze met ours. Koons's properly ironic po-mo statement about the work was that it would initiate spectators into the "realm of the Sacred Heart of Jesus".

Koons had created a Baudrillardian system of simulacra of sexual passion, religious ecstasy, semiotic overload and voguish kitsch, while suggesting that to the blank-eyed stiff who has it all, nothing, not even Viagra, will get him going any more. Such is the postmodern male condition. Boo hoo, am I right? Francis Fukuyama published The End of History, writing: "What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the cold war, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such … That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

He was, you may have noticed, wrong in all leading particulars, but no matter: his thinking fitted into the prevailing postmodern mood. The iPod was born and digital culture — which is neither synchronous nor synonymous with postmodern culture but kind of related — had its ur-fetish object. Digital technology accelerated and enabled individuals to manipulate every aspect of the media environment.

In the digital world, you the consumer could do what cultural producers had hitherto done: you could be your own DJ, photographer, film-maker. Better, you could do what the Man said you shouldn't: sample, pastiche, cut and paste others' work, riff on the results and pass it off as your own. It went out to his "homies in Bruges", but that's not important now. What is important for our purposes is that it pastiched Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life, itself a parodic quotation of a tune from the musical Annie.