Preface and Acknowledgments
Tired of postmodernism already? The term seems to have lost whatever
meaning it once had when
MTV
launched-already several years ago-its
special program, "Postmodern
MTV."
Consider the introduction, in the
pages of
UJgue
(in early 1988), of the "postmodern ski jacket": What was
the "modern ski jacket"? Was there a "realist ski jacket"? Surely
this
dis-
solved the critical significance of the term for observers of contemporary
culture. Why, then, would I write another book about postmodernism?
And ifwe think
we
are tired of postmodernism, why then, especially, would
I write a book that dumps the concept-like so much First-World toxic
waste-onto Latin America?
Probably the criteria most often agreed upon for distinguishing be-
tween the modern and postmodern cultural sensibilities is their respective
attitudes toward mass culture. Modernism defined itself in opposition to
mass culture. Postmodernism embraces its forms and contents, incorpo-
rating them within new artifacts that blur the distinction between high
and low culture. If so, then only as modernists would we discard the term
postmodernism
solely on account ofits migration into seemingly banal mass
cultural arenas. By contrast, this very migration is sufficient cause for
postmodernists to continue critical discussion of the term. Many post-
modernists no longer believe in a pure modernist or avant-garde locus of
consciousness outside the range of mass culture. Yet such a space was a
precondition for the modernist rejection of mass culture. Therefore, post-
modernists conclude that although critical analysis of mass culture is still
possible, provided one attends to one's own enmeshment in the phenom-
ena, rejection from without is certainly not. We may attempt to forget or
ignore mass culture, but it will neither forget nor ignore us.
Of course we feel tempted to walk away from a term that has lent itself
so easily to commercial and imperialist abuse. But perhaps
because
the term
has come to occupy a central position-however nebulous or vague-in our
social and cultural vocabulary (unlike, by the way, so many of the more
specialized terms ofour profession), we should invest more energy in shap-
ing its meaning and function. This seems not only useful but also a matter
of strategic necessity, especially ifthe debate over postmodernity in culture
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