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Entry to Postmodernism

Postmodern Architecture?
In finishing my thesis, I was actually forced to learn about a thing that I had no previous experience in it. This irritating subject –but finally, I love to study it– is called Postmodernism. What is this? It sounds so cool (yeah indeed).

To define this term, I tried to read books, articles from academic journals as well as online articles. However, to my surprise, I really got no satisfying answer of what postmodernism is. It is not a simple matter to define this. It is not like defining two pluses two equals four. It is not like defining US’s current president is Barrack Obama. All literatures that I read, when it comes to definition, give ambivalent and unsatisfying definition as examples I gave to you. But at least, I want to share to you about this term with my own perspective, in a simple way.

Postmodernism surely stems from the word ‘post’ and ‘modernism’. Thus it means, ‘after modernism’ or ‘after modern’. What is then modern? Modern is not old-fashioned, that is the definition that I perceived as a layman. But bearing the status as a student, I should have provided a more satisfying definition, shouldn’t I?

Well, modernism surely stems from modern. When I cite ‘modern’ what it comes to my mind is an era. So, when did actually modern era start? Some said, it was started long long ago since the industrial revolution took place. The changing ways of producing and manufacturing goods, manual to mechanical. led to a modern era, different from traditional era. Goods were no longer produced manually from a communal work. Goods were produced by machine. Thus, modern era related closely to capitalism. It is in this era when mass culture started to emerge. Goods were produced massively. They were said to have no artistic value since they were produced by machine and once again, there were copies of product. Thus, a distinction between high art and pop art emerged. Modern era leads to modernism –spirit, thoughts, and abstract entity. So when I said about modernism, our minds will directly link to abstract conception of values existing in modern era.

So, the world witnessed various changing. Wars came after wars. New world dominant power emerged. Technology developed. And this led to revolution in every aspect of life. Culture surely changed. When culture of a society changed, surely all aspects of live changed. It is all due to the concept of culture that is cut across various aspects. As the world turned into 1980s, two greatest nations on the earth US and Soviet engaged in Cold War. This war surprisingly led to enhancement of technology. Both countries try to hack one and another in ways that people at that time could not even imagine to begin with. War indeed leads to suffering, but war can also enhance the creativity to make a revolution if not evolution of a country. Thus, computer was invented. The invention of computer definitely changed how people interacted,

A computer based society enhanced with global network, as a product of war technological enhancement, altered tremendously how people perceived information and knowledge. Thus, western society came into a state of being in the ‘crisis’ of knowledge. A crisis? Lead by revolutionary in communication skill? How come?

For long, western society was governed by the so-called meta-narratives or grand narratives as you wish to call it. What is this? Meta-narratives is ideology that becomes the basic for ,may be not only Western society but also human in general, to legitimate something. What is legitimation then? It is an act of declaring something to be right. Say, stealing is a bad thing. We perceive this something to be a wrong thing to do. Thus, religion is included to be one of meta-narratives. What are other meta-narratives? Marxism, liberalism, modernism and other ideology that tries to make a universal truth is called meta-narratives. They all try to pursue a universal claim of truth. For example, Marxism that tries to promote capitalism is the cause for all sufferings and inequalities in industrial society. They seek for a universal truth by stating capitalism as the ‘bad guy’. Thus, it is another characteristic of meta-narratives i.e. in searching a universal truth, there should be exclusion. There should be something declared as wrong. Thus, the concept of right and wrong is very clear.

This way of perceiving thing dominated Western society in pre World War II era. But after that, meta-narratives declined. They were no longer recognized as the sole entity to see the world. And this is due to the rise of communication technology.

Well, I guess my writing about postmodernism is going to be continued in my next post due to there are many things to consider. So, it is the very first part of postmodernism. It will be continued by some postmodernist thinkers and their definition of what postmodernism is. 


  1. Postmodernism is not as simple as an historical period, it is not simply an era after 'modern', many people are often perplexed by the name. It is rather a though against the idea of universal mechanism (mostly brought by science in modern era). Postmodernist believes that there is no real world, there is no real mechanism. We can not totally understand this world because our understanding is dependent upon interpretation about this world. Too, our knowledge is not objective as it is driven by many things (including media in modern times). One thing to know that such though has existed far before modern times.

  2. if i may give the common term for "universal mechanism" ... it is called grand narrative or meta narrative ...

    I also didn't simplify my understanding of postmodernism to a historical period after modernism. I only illustrated when postmodernism term actually appeared because I agree with you in the extent of complexity about postmodernism.

    FYI, when we were in US, Fitri and I had arguments about postmodernism with Prof. Len hahaha :D

  3. Hahaha...that's great, and you know the well-known 'no one knows everything about anything' which was usually preached by prof. Len is, I think, a postmodern thought. what do you think?

  4. Nah !! that's the point where we had the arguments. Do you remember when he explained about all of that modernity stuffs?? In my opinion, what he explained was not about modernity but postmodernity. Then, after class, Fitri and I discussed it with him, why he called it as modernity instead of postmodernity.

    And do you know how he answered? He said "postmodernism is preeeeeeet (with his style) hahaha"

    He is one of supporters of scholars who consider postmodernism as silly things. But still he appreciated my thoughts, that''s what I like about that.

    I think it is because his background is Religious Studies. One of elements that is challenged by postmodernism is religion. Postmo argues that in contemporary media saturated society, religion as one example of grand narrative looses its function. I think this is the part where he called as silly :).


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