Ten contributors reflect on the continuing relevance — or irrelevance — of postmodernism to the academy and the larger culture

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Jean-François Lyotard (Bracha L. Ettinger)

Justin E.H. Smith: All things come to an end, not least the coming-to-an-end of things. And so it had to be with the end of modernism, and the couple of decades of reflection and debate on what was to come next. For me, postmodernism is the copy of Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, which I bought in English translation in 1993. It’s sitting in a cardboard box, its pages slowly yellowing and its cover design receding into something recognizably vintage, in my old mother’s suburban California garage. I stowed it there when I moved to Paris, in 2013. And in the past six years I have seen only fossil traces of the old beast said to have roamed here in earlier times, eating up grand narratives and truth claims like they were nests full of unprotected eggs.

A few living fossils, coelacanth-like, survived from French philosophy’s âge d’or and could still fill lecture halls. But the survivors were mostly known for their non-representativity, in part because they loudly proclaimed it. Alain Badiou, for example, talked about the transcendental forms of love and beauty. Bruno Latour, not long after 2001, began regretting what his own brand of truth-wariness had done to stoke the “truther” conspiracy theories that had quickly spread to the villagers who worked his family’s vineyards, in Bourgogne.

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