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response to Fredric Jameson

response to Fredric Jameson

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Published by: ADM on Dec 29, 2009
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Postmodern Lit.
ADM
Burns
21 January 1994
Jameson Response
Note and describe three different moments where Jameson defines the postmodern.

Jameson uses the term “postmodernisms” (54) to describe the many ways of looking at this post­ modern cultural phenomenon. The one element these postmodernisms have in common, according to Jameson, is “the effacement in them of the older (essentially high­modernist) frontier between high culture and so­called mass or commercial culture, and the emergence of new kinds of texts infused with the forms, categories, and contents of that very Culture Industry so passionately denounced by all the ideologues of the modern...” This is an excellent observation, since it describes the state of flux Culture is currently in. Many critics believe postmodernism is merely a reaction to or transition from high modernism. “Effacement” of cultural snobbery is a good starting point for the postmodern enterprise.

Jameson soon goes on to boil down this effacement (and perspectives on this effacement) into a ideological gesture, positing that “every position on postmodernism in culture — whether apologia or stigmatization — is also at one and the same time, and necessarily, an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capital today” (55). This is to say that any attempt to define postmodernism is in itself a political move to define multinational capital. From this, the reader learns the very close connection between postmodernism and multinational capitalism. Indeed, Jameson conflates culture with capital when he writes that “aesthetic production today has become integrated into commodity production generally” (57). (In anticipation of the third question, I should also say that commodification is also clearly linked to a politicizing of culture, and the sneaky movement of politics into an aesthetic realm).

Another attribute Jameson associates with all the postmodernisms is “a new kind of flatness of depthlessness, an new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense” (60). Flatness is, he says, perhaps “the supreme formal feature” of postmodernism. Postmodernisms, therefore, are im­ age­based, image conscious cultural dominants. To paraphrase Jameson (60), it is no longer a question of content, but of image.

How does the City fit into these definitions? Technology?

Jameson suggests that technology, too, is flat. Many of the latest machines are “machines of re­ production rather than of production” (79). They manufacture duplicates of other products, they engage in a process of infinite copying. Inasmuch is this is related to an impersonal com­

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