The Postmodern Condition - (Cherie)
Name: Lyotard, Jean-François
Translator: Bennington, Geoff and Brian Massumi
Title: The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
Pub. Date: 1979
Keywords: Postmodernism; Science; Knowledge; Legitimation; Anti-Marxism, Capitalism; Social Reproduction
Hypothesis: "that the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age" (1999: 3).
School/Discourse: Postmodernism, Commercialism, Scientific theory, Academic Studies
Lyotard's analysis is an interpretation of the status and development of knowledge, science and technology in today’s modern societies.
The Postmodern Condition describes the state of knowledge and the problem of its legitimatization. Lyotard states that the two main principal functions of knowledge are research and the transmission of learning. He demonstrates that this utopian path is inoperative in today’s economy of progress and market production.
Lyotard attempts to place the transformation of knowledge within the context of the crisis of the narrative, making note of the Enlightenment metanarratives concerning meaning and truth. It is a representation in line with what Foucault had described as an “archaeology" in The Order of Things, which sought to discover the relations between the origin of knowledge and how it is represented today. Lyotard states, “a collectivity that takes narrative as its key form of competence has no need to remember its past”(22, 1979).
This search for origins is lost within a collective demand of productivity tied to what he terms as language games. The Charlemagne’s and Alexander’s of the past are no longer recognizable since the order is of importance or better put, the ideal society is complete. There is the individual that makes the society, but the great hero is the society and not the individual. Foucault‘s succession of "progress" or lack there of is the deterioration of Lyotard’s metanarrative. The support for that lies deep within the subconscious of society’s past. Even the leading sciences and technologies are based in language games or theories of linguistics, cybernetics, informatics, computer languages, and mathematics. These are rules that have flexed beyond the status of need or truth. They base themselves in rules subject to the prescriptive auspices of those who control that knowledge. Lyotard negatively presents a modern view that it is irrelevant. One cannot excavate a hidden truth, since this will not add to the collective society; it would elevate the individual to the status of hero.
Knowledge is for production’s sake and not for the sake of learning itself. It has become homogenized and isolated within the Keynesian model of productivity (45, 1979). He acknowledges that the source interpreted through language has already become the principal force of production. It has changed the composition of the workforce in developed countries remaining hidden under the tag of “primitive” (those who remain hidden from technological advance). The commercialization of knowledge and its new forms of media are on the rise, creating problems between the nation-state and the information. He argues that it will continually widen the gap between the so-called developed society and the Third world. They will remain as an other, invisible to the advances of knowledge and language games that continually “progress” the nation-state. Ultimately, the nihilistic “grand narratives of the nineteenth century,” are placed in a positivist’s frame of knowledge of today (38, 1979). The control of the senses, the holder of the image is unknown, and is placed in position of power. Lyotard’s idealistic sense of free data is an unfortunate consequence of looking for what is/was lost and applying it to the unknown frontiers of exploration today.
Applications: All college discourse.
Other Works in Translation:
Phenomenology (Fr. 1954) (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991)
Discours, figure (Fr. 1971) (translation in progress? Harvard?)
Driftworks (NY: Semiotext(e), 1984) (partial translation of Derive et partir de Marx et Freud , 1973)
Libidinal Economy (Fr. 1974) (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1993)
Pacific Wall (Fr. 1975) (Venice, CA: Lapis, 1990)
Duchamp's Transformers (Fr. 1977) (Venice, CA: Lapis, 1990)
Just Gaming (w/Jean-Loup Thebaud) (Fr. 1979) (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota, 1985)
The Differend (Fr. 1982) (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota, 1988)
The Postmodern Explained (Fr. 1986) (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota, 1992)
Heidegger and "the jews" (Fr. 1988) (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota, 1990)
The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (Fr. 1988) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991)
Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event (NY: Columbia, 1988)
The Lyotard Reader (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989)
Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Fr. 1991) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994)
Toward the Postmodern (Atlantic Highlands,NJ: Humanities Press, 1993)
Political Writings (Minneapolis: U. Minnesota, 1993)