What is postmodernism and how do postmodern thoughts impact various fields such as arts, religion, politics, business, and the media?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can help you with a partial answer to your question.  According to the enotes Study Guide on postmodernism:

What sets Postmodernism apart from its predecessor is the reaction of its practitioners to the rational, scientific, and historical aspects of the modern age. For postmodernists this took the guise of being self-conscious, experimental, and ironic. The postmodernist is concerned with imprecision and unreliability of language and with epistemology, the study of what knowledge is.

Postmodernists differ from modernists in their reaction to rational, scientific, and historical aspects of the modern age.  Postmodernists react to the age with concern for the imprecision and unreliability of language and of what knowledge is.  The art of postmodernists is self-conscious, experimental, and ironic.  I'll bullet this for you.  Postmondernism is concerned with:

  • the imprecision and unreliability of language
  • the imprecision and unreliability of knowledge

And the art of the postmondernist is:

  • self-conscious (highly artificial, draws attention to its artificiality)
  • experimental (in its form, style, etc.)
  • ironic (reflects the irony of an absurd world and of existence)

The Study Guide adds:

At the same time, Jacques Derrida presented his first paper, Of Grammatology (1967), outlining the principles of deconstruction. The early novels of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Alain Robbe-Grillet were published; Ishmael Reed was writing his poetry. The Marxist critics, Fredric Jameson and Terry Eagleton, who saw a major shift in the social and economic world as a part of the postmodern paradigm, were beginning their creative careers. As time progressed, more and more individuals added their voices to this list: Julia Kristeva, Susan Sontag, and, in popular culture, Madonna. (In her openly sexual music and music videos she broke down the limits of sexuality and femininity. Still, while some believe that her career is a setback for feminist movement; others believe that she opened the doors to a wider acceptance of female and human sexuality.)

There's an explanation of postmodernism and a few examples of postmodernists artists. 

Your question has numerous parts to it, so I'll stop there and let another editor pick up from where I leave off. 

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'll try to answer another part.  In terms of the media, the pervasiveness and the global nature of 24 hour news is part of the fragmentation which is another characteristic of postmodernism.  Fragmented, meaning decentralized: this is partly a description of the fragmented self where the postmodernist does not think of him/herself as one Main thing, but many things, sometimes even paradoxical.  To tie this into the media, where news is always on and all over the world, a sense of being stuck in one part of the world is not so stuck any more.  With so much, albeit indirect, access to other cultures, we're more integrated and therefore, less walled up in our own respective nations and selves. 

Todd Gitlin once described postmodernism as the need to be everything all at once.  As the previous poster noted, postmodernism rages against rational and scientific aspects.  Jean Lyotard, in The Postmodern Condition, talked about postmodernists "raging against metanarratives." A metanarrative is exactly what it sounds like a Big Story: examples being Christianity or any religion, Modernism, Technology, and any group of coherent ideas that supposes itself to be an ideal plan for society. 

So, summing this all up, for the postmodernist, there is no One Really Good Idea, no One Best Religion, no One Best Artform.  The postmodernist takes bits and pieces from all these "grand narratives" and meshes them all together: sometimes in art this is called "pastiche."  So, not only is the self fragmented but the stories, theories, religions are also fragmented, decentralized.  To be everthing everywhere all at once is, without strict adherence to One Main or One Oppressive idea is to be a postmodernist. And tying in to one of the previous poster's bullets, a self-conscious or self-reflexive postmodernist would make it known that he or she is, for example, a Buddhist Marxist Cubist Feminist Gun-loving Republican Vegetarian with ethnic roots in Liberia, England and Mauritania.  Everywhere and fragmented: a paradoxically futile and hopeful attempt to be a citizen of the world.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the implications of Postmodernism is that there is no longer a central source or origin of the narrative.  There are multiple variances and voices that can be heard.  Post modern thought helps change the landscape immensely.  In any forum where there is a desire to expand representative voices, one can see the impact of postmodern thought.  In asserting that there can be no central or driving force, the postmodern thinkers stressed the idea of being able to incorporate more voices and more narratives into the discourse.  This has impacted all setting of arts, religion, politics, and the media in multiple manners.