The Postmodernists: An Introduction


Young, Julian


Julian Young, a New Zealand philosopher, is W. R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Wake Forest University and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Auckland. His sixteen books have been translated into many languages. His Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography won the Association of American Publishers 2010 PROSE award for philosophy. Apart from postmodernism, his main interests are nineteenth- and twentieth-century German philosophy, the philosophy of art, religion, opera and tragedy, and the meaning of life.

What is postmodernism — postmodernism as philosophy — and what should we think of it? The first eight chapters of Julian Young’s new book examine the thought of key postmodernist philosophers: Lyotard, Deleuze, Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida, Vattimo, Rorty, and Judith Butler. In the final chapter, Young turns to the question of what makes them “postmodernists.” His conclusion is that postmodernism is best thought of as composed of two elements: “descriptive postmodernism” and “normative postmodernism.” Descriptive postmodernism is the sociological thesis that in the middle of the twentieth century a rupture occurred in Western society that was sufficiently radical to differentiate “modernity” and “postmodernity” into two different historical epochs. What defines our new epoch is, above all, the loss of “grand narratives” — or, as Nietzsche called it, “the death of God.” Normative postmodernism is the view that we should accept, even celebrate, our “postmodern condition.” With some exceptions, postmodernist philosophers subscribe to both the descriptive and the normative theses. Young argues that while descriptive postmodernism presents an essentially true account of our current cultural condition, that condition is a pathological development in the history of the West. Since postmodern philosophy welcomes the condition it, too, he concludes, is a pathological development. Grand narratives are something we need, so we should not celebrate their loss. Postmodernists, in Young’s assessment, use obscure and fuzzy language. Generally hailing from literary rather than philosophical backgrounds, their commentators are often even more obscurer and fuzzier. Writing as a philosopher, Young attempts to subject the postmodernists to philosophical standards of cogency and clarity.

Philosophy, Literature, Humanities, European Studies, Cultural Studies, Twentieth Century Literature, Postmodernism, Lyotard, Deleuze, Foucault, Baudrillard, Derida, Vattimo, Rorty, Judith Butler, Nietzsche
Release Date: 
May 15, 2024
9781680533002 Hardcover
Trim Size: 

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