Frederick James The Limites Of Post Modern Theory

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The impetus behind this paper has been the recent publication of Fredric Jameson's 1991 Welleck Lectures, The Seeds of Time.1 As these lectures were delivered a decade after Jameson's initial attempts to map the terrain of postmodernity it appeared to me to provide an occasion to reflect upon the current status of Jameson's highly influential and much criticised theory of postmodernism as the cultural logic of late capitalism. It also enables me to return to, what I consider to be, one of the most troubling aspects of Jameson's writing on postmodernism, that is to say, the "waning", to use Jameson's term, of the political imagination. As Jameson is probably the foremost Marxist theorist writing on postmodernism and one of the... View More »

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We must avoid, argued Jameson, adopting either of these essentially moralising positions, and rather develop a more fully historical and dialectical analysis of the situation. Whether we like it or not there was a perception that culturally something had changed, we may disagree on what that change entails but the perception itself has a reality that must be accounted for. To repudiate such a cultural change was simply facile, to thoughtlessly celebrate it was complacent and corrupt; what was required was an assessment of this `new cultural production within the working hypothesis of a general modification of culture itself within the social restructuration of late capitalism as a system'. It was this promise to historically situate postmodernism in relation to transformations in the capitalist system and the development of global multinational capital that, for many like myself who at once embraced aspects of postmodern theory whilst remaining critical of its often ambiguous political stance, was probably the single most significant aspect of Jameson's theory.

At the same time, however, the precise nature of the relationship between postmodernism as a cultural phenomenon and late capitalism as a system was left somewhat under-theorised and, for myself at least, this has remained one of the most troubling aspects of Jameson's theory of postmodernity. That is to say, Jameson's notion of postmodernism as a cultural dominant, or the cultural "logic" of late capitalism. Very briefly there are three broad uses of the term, postmodernism or postmodernity, to have ...

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