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Postmodernism on World - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 48
World/historiography/Postmodernism/Bennett: A metanarrative is an overarching theory about the way the world operates, a story about the fundamental character of the natural-social universe. As such, it functions as a frame of reference for judging other theories of more limited scope and aspiration. It may be experienced as a religious truth or as a metaphysical imaginary with a contingent heuristic value, or as occupying one of many positions between these two poles. Metanarratives are used within political theory to help legitimate a theory’s claims about authority, the state, citizenship, freedom, rights, etc. For example, Hobbes uses a metanarrative of a world of natural bodies in perpetual motion and a distant, Jobian God to ground his notions of sovereignty, contract, political speech, and civil peace.
[Some postmodern theorists] affirm[] the psychological utility and ethical power of an ontological imaginary. These theorists, like Hobbes, link their political claims to speculative claims about nature, matter, or being. But their metaphysical views are presented as an onto-story whose persuasiveness is always at issue and ‘can never be fully disentangled from an interpretation of present historical circumstances’ (White, 2000(1): 10–11).
Nietzsche is often the inspiration behind the onto-stories affirmed within postmodern theory, in terms of both content and style. He offers a vision of the way the world is. But he also insists that, like all metaphysical orientations, it is a ‘conjecture’ he is not able to prove (...)(2).
Deleuze: The Deleuzean story of a world of protean forces shares Nietzsche’s emphasis on open-ended dynamism and flow, as does Lyotard’s ‘A postmodern fable’, a sci-fitale of humans preparing to escape the earth as the sun is about to burn out.
Lyotard: Also like Nietzsche, Lyotard describes a world without the promise of a final or eschatological achievement. If to be modern, says Lyotard, is to long to re-establish a ‘full and whole relation with the law of the Other … as this … was in the beginning’, then to be postmodern is to try to cure thought and action of this eschatological desiring (1997(3): 96–7).
Gaus I 49
Humans: Postmodern theorizing repositions the human in relation to the non-human entities and forces with which it shares the world. Its metaphysics of immanence displaces humans from the centre of the universe. We are viewed instead as a particularly complex and reflexive formation, differing from other forms in significant degree but not in kind.


1. White, Stephen K. (2000) Affirmation in Political Theory: The Strengths of Weak Ontology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
2. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1987) The Will to Power. New York: Random House.
3. Lyotard, Jean-François (1997) Postmodern Fables, trans. Georges van den Abbeele. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Jane Bennett, 2004. „Postmodern Approaches to Political Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Postmodernism
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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