w-s critique of po-mo

Mon, 10 Mar 1997 15:02:30 -0600 (CST)


FR: Charles Reitz creitz@toto.net

Re: critique of po-mo

Postmodernism, critical theory and "Western Marxism" seem to find aesthetic
theory as the most critical theory of all.

This is grounded in their particular theorization of the phenomenon of
alienation as reification (as Verdinglichung per Lukacs in History and Class
Consciousess 1923? removed from the materialist analysis of Marx in Capital
and 1844 Manuscripts).

Reification is seen as a faulty projection of reality that views the world
in "dehumanized" terms, as consisting of real, external, and independently
existing objects, structures, and processes (i.e. materialistically,
historically, and dialectically interrelated).

They argue that these should instead be viewed as projections of the human
senses (body) and human imagination (psyche). Thus they "humanize" theory
that they otherwise reject as alienated, mechanical, objectivistic. World
systems theory in their estimation would have to give way to an "aesthetics
of history" per Wilhlem Dilthey, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Herbert Marcuse.
They castigate social science that seeks an analysis of social structure and
substitute methodological empathy and an aesthetic appreciation for the
tragic paradoxes and ambiguities of life. Insight is attained only through
the deconstructive and reconstructive power of critique grounded in the
aesthetic imagination.

I am a student of philosophy not world systems analysis as such, but I have
addressed the issue of reification in a paper "Liberating the Critical in
Critical Theory" accessible on the web at

I will enjoy looking up Michael Sullivan's citation to "Postmodernism: A
world System Explanation"

The idea the both w-s and po-mo share the "fundamental proposition that
Everything is Related to Everything" misses the point that the analytical
center of gravity for po-mo is the unthetherable human imagination, not the
political-economic systems that condition human freedom.