Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Fredric Jameson/ postmodernism - Part 2: the cultural dominant

part 1 - 2 - summary

Jameson's interpretative principles in "Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" hold that one cannot interpret art of any cultural text by appealing to the artist himself and by assuming creative freedom, and that certain preconditions, historical, political and economical ones have to be identified beforehand. In this he holds true to the Marxist tradition of "totality" (material and historical) as a principle source of explanation for all individual phenomenon. A given cultural product is always the product of temporal conditions, which have their own "cultural dominant" that although, as Jameson notes, is not deterministic or all-encompassing, it is still nevertheless unavoidable. This stance expressed in the concept of "cultural dominant" helps Jameson to soften the crude Hegelian and Marxist dialectics.

The current (1991) cultural dominant, Jameson says, is postmodernism. Jameson's arguments such as the rise of pastiche, the waning of affect, depthlessness and others expressed in "Postmodernism" all have to do with the current mechanisms of representation and experience in culture, and they all interact with the historical, economical, political and aesthetical form of postmodernism. In this Jameson is of course true to the Marxist tradition such as the thinking of Lukács in relating the historical totality with its different manifestations. After all, for Jameson, postmodernism is still in accord with the Marxist historical narrative.

Jameson's selection of examples, such as E.L.Doctorow's "Ragtime", Warhol's "Diamond Dust Shoes" or the Westin Bonaventure hotel all come from the American culture which is for Jameson the source of postmodernism.

It is hard to determine whether Jameson is a "fan" of postmodernism or not. There is of course of a tone of lamentation throughout "Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" but Jameson does not call for a negative stance towards postmodernism not does he wishes to undo its cultural dominance. It seems that for Jameson postmodernism, as an historical imperative, a product of the material dialectical history, and we just have to deal with it.

part 1 - 2 - summary

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