Obama's 'Postmodernism', Humanism and History

  • Michael A. Peters


Just when we all thought that debates about postmodernism had been consigned to the history of theory - to the 1980s culture wars - like a many-headed serpent it has raised its head once more. In spite of the fact that Jean-Frangois Lyotard (1984) had carefully explained that postmodernism is not modernism at its end but in its nascent and (constant) state, many commentators throughout the 1980s and after insisted on treating postmodernism in terms of a strict chronology. Remember? 'A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern, for postmodernism is not modernism at its end but in its nascent state, that is, at the moment it attempts to present the unpresentable, and this state is constant’ (Lyotard, 1984, p. 79). The postmodern for Lyotard, then, is a repetition of the modern as the ‘new’, and this means the ever-new demand for another repetition. Wilful misunderstanding, deliberate misreading has accompanied the postmodern debates from the outset. I am thinking in particular of Habermas' (1981) wildly polemical attack on French thinkers such as Foucault, Lyotard and Derrida, a position he was to reverse a couple of decades later (Peters, 1994).


Human Embryonic Stem Cell Stem Cell Research Critical Race Theory Waste Land American Dream 
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© Sense Publishers 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Peters
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of WaikatoNew Zealand

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