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Identity Crises: A Social Critique of Postmodernity

Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Identity Crises
    Book Description:

    Though the term “postmodern” looms large on our cultural landscape, rarely do we find a systematic and impartial discussion of the circumstances of its ascendance. Identity Crises offers just such an accounting. In this book, Robert G. Dunn situates the intellectual currency of “the postmodern” within the larger context of social and cultural change shaping the movement over the past several decades.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8876-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The postwar era in the West, especially the United States, has been witness to a complex series of intellectual, social, cultural, and political changes suggestive of major transformations, of epochal endings and beginnings, and of new perceptions and sensibilities widely characterized by the overworked term “postmodern.” Despite the troublesome ambiguities of the word, the daunting task of identifying and possibly reconciling inconsistent and contradictory usages of “postmodern” is less urgent than discerning the concept’s underlying thematics. While the term, its uses, and much of what it has come to represent have provoked a variety of responses, it is rare to...

  5. 1 Regrounding Theory The Social Relations of Identity and Difference
    (pp. 17-50)

    During the past twenty-five years the theme of identity has come to dominate a variety of theoretical and political discussions on the Left in the United States. Significantly, while usually presumed to be a phenomenon specific to the Left, the issue of identity has assumed a central role in popular forms of political struggle across the ideological spectrum, including the Right. This development is both suggestive of a sea change in the character of contemporary politics, and, relatedly, symptomatic of increased anxiety over the fate of personal, social, and cultural life in a society undergoing accelerating crisis and change. The...

  6. 2 Modernity and Postmodernity Transformations in Identity Formation
    (pp. 51-80)

    The turn to a theory and politics of difference following the critique of identity politics presupposed notions of a “postmodern” condition decentering and destabilizing identity. In fact, the long discussion of identity issues has come to be framed by a growing distinction between the modern and the postmodern, defined as opposing epistemological standpoints, successive historical periods in the development of the West, or divergent sociocultural conditions. This distinction marks an assortment of alleged changes in social, cultural, and intellectual life during the twentieth century, with implications for identity formation and modes of theorizing subjectivity. A sociohistorical account of identity and...

  7. 3 On the Transition from Modernity to Postmodernity Transformations in Culture
    (pp. 81-106)

    The defining moment of postmodernity is the emergence of fundamental changes in the scope and character ofculture,a development widely thematized in postmodern thought and the underlying foundation of the field of cultural studies. Directly linked to the commodity form, these changes not only transform but more importantlyproblematizeprocesses of identity formation. This can be seen in the ways that the commodity works to reduce culture to highly dispersed, market-based systems of semiotic exchange and their disunifying effects on the self.¹ The massive spread of signification through technologies such as television, film, video, and computers has given manufactured...

  8. 4 Explaining the Destabilization of Identity Postmodernization, Commodification, and the Leveling of Cultural Hierarchy
    (pp. 107-142)

    Historical changes in identity formation can be linked most directly to the rapid commodification of culture inherent in the growth and impact of the electronic media as objects of consumption. The cultural changes defining postmodernity more broadly, however, are embedded in an extensive set of developments in the larger economic and political arenas of society. Capitalist reorganization, the concentration of corporate mass media, a new globalization of capital and communications and information technologies, and the emergence of new kinds of politics and social movements underlie the demarcation and formation of a new and multilayered cultural terrain. What most distinguishes this...

  9. 5 Identity, Politics, and the Dual Logic of Postmodernity Fragmentation and Pluralization
    (pp. 143-174)

    Running through the disparate discourses of both postmodernism and postmodernity are recurring themes of the differentiation, dispersal, and decentering of cultural meaning and experience. The postmodern condition begins with the cultural density and heterogeneity resulting from structural transformations in the capitalist system of production and marketing, the impact of media technologies and aesthetics, and a massive expansion of private consumption. Writers like Harvey (1989) and Jameson (1983) have focused on the consequences of time-space compression accompanying cultural commodification and the processes of cultural fragmentation embedded in economic and technological development. These theorists along with Baudrillard (1981), Lash (1990), and others...

  10. 6 Redeeming the Subject Poststructuralism, Meadian Social Pragmatism, and the Turn to Intersubjectivity
    (pp. 175-220)

    Postmodern theory broadly defined sees the world as heterogeneous, composed of a vast plurality of interpretations in which knowledge and truth are contingent and therefore ultimately undecidable. In this world, identity is inherently decentered and fluid because constituted in unstable relations of difference. Read optimistically, this “worldview” evokes a sense of creative freedom, of seemingly infinite possibilities for the invention of new knowledges and identities. On a more negative reading, the postmodern stance involves an imposing relativization, a fragmented Nietzschean universe where, since everything is interpretation, knowledge easily defers to the rule of power. Whether regarded positively or negatively, postmodern...

  11. Conclusion Postmodernity and Its Theoretical Consequences
    (pp. 221-230)

    Theory refracts without necessarily speaking to or beyond the limits of its times. This seems especially true of the era of postmodernity. Popular varieties of postmodernism and poststructuralism exhibit strongly reifying attachments to the social and political contexts in which they arose and the broad cultural changes privileging discourse and notions of particularity and contingency in contemporary academic work. While appropriately preoccupied with questions of identity and difference, much contemporary theory not only neglects the structural and institutional aspects of these questions but lacks a critical perspective on social and cultural change.

    In a sense, the inadequacies of theory today...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 231-258)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-292)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)