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Postmodernism on Social Movements - Dictionary of Arguments

Social movements/Postmodernism/West: modernity. What has been described as the 'mood
of postmodernity' , (...), involves scepticism about precisely (...) universal values and 'grand metanarratives' and an enthusiastic celebration of diversity and 'difference'. >Cf. >Social movements/Habermas, >Modernism/Touraine: Touraine and Habermas, with their commitment to
classically modern values like autonomy and rationality and variations on the Marxian schema of
critical theory, are both evidently theorists of modernity.
Postmodernism/West: What has been described as the 'mood‘ In this spirit, post-modernist theorists frequently refer to NSMs [New Social Movemets] as proof of the irreducible plurality of 'subject positions' and 'voices' characteristic of postmodern Western societies in the aftermath of the unifying (universalizing and 'essentializing') project of Marxism (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985(1); Lyotard, 1984)(2).
Diversity: However, although postmodernists are sceptical of any attempt to impose unifying or 'totalizing' theoretical constructions on the irreducible diversity of social life, a number of theorists nevertheless seek a more general understanding of NSMs as responses to the arrival of postmodernity. *
Capitalism/Postmodernism/Lash/Urry: (...) postmodernity is characterized in terms of social and economic developments that are already familiar from theorists of modernity. Characteristic in this respect is Lash and Urry's (1987)(3) theory of 'disorganized capitalism'. Their notion of disorga-
nized capitalism refers to a series of social and — the replacement of economic developments
'Fordism' by 'post-Fordism', the internationalization of production and finance, the relative decline
of manufacturing and rise of the service sector, and the related decline of the traditional working class and the rise of 'new middle classes'. Like other theorists of NSMs, Lash and Urry associate these developments with the shift from the organized class politics of industrialized societies to the new politics ofNSMs (1987(3): 311).
Culture: An important further consequence of these economic, social and political developments is the increasing importance of culture as a site of domination and resistance: 'domination through cultural forms takes on significance in disorganized capitalism which is comparable in importance to domination in the sphere of production itself' (1987(3): 14) >Culture/Lash/Urry.

*Some like Lyotard (1984), who understands the 'mood' of postmodernity as a feature of 'postindustrial' societies, effectively attempt to do both.


1. Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategv: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.
2. Lyotard, J. F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
3. Lash, Scott and John Urry (1987) The End of Organized Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.

West, David 2004. „New Social Movements“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-07-27
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