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Scholars on Postmodernism as Social Theory Essay

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Updated: Apr 29th, 2022

To start with, Wehmeier et al. (2006), he defines postmodernism as “a style and movement in art, architecture, and literature, etc. in the late 20th century that reacts against modern styles, for instance by mixing features from traditional and modern styles”(p 113). This means that postmodernism is an outcome of modernism.

Postmodernism as described by Hartman (1996), snubs the ideals of modernist thinking such as that of virility, individualism, rationality and is rather bound to radical social equality. He believes that everything is in the mind of the beholder and that anything perceived as a fact is just something that has been influenced by cultural beliefs — hence making it seem factual beyond any doubt.

The BBC (2009) explains this term as a theory that tries to disregard many of the beliefs that religious people consider to be of paramount importance. Moreso, it claims that societies are ever changing and that there is nothing like absolute values or truths. Consequently, this has led rendered the “religions” fragile. The universality of religions in postmodernism is rather nonexistent; this includes ethical laws.

Therefore the assumption of this ideology is that religion is wholly a man-made phenomenon. Postmodernism to a large extent tends to critique science in some interrelated arguments which are either epistemological or ideological. Wilce (2005), mentions that the human object subjectivity cannot be a science; this is according to the epistemological explanation.

In addition to this, the ideological argument claims that objectivity is a deception and that it is aimed at undermining the minority groups in all parts of the world and especially in the third world nations. It is important to know the roots of postmodernism which have been clearly illustrated by many scholars who find this ideology rather interesting.

Hartman (2006), for instance, traces its origin to the French-speaking community in the early 1960s and 1970s when structuralism and post-structuralism were taking root. Structuralism must have been the latter stage to modernism. Much later modernism paved the way for postmodernism.

The theory has been divided into two broad categories which are affirmative postmodernism and skeptical postmodernism. The latter claims that the theory only needs a few minor changes rather than be rejected altogether. Affirmative postmodernism, on the other hand, states that the scholars are allowed to critique the theory severely or reject it once and for all.

Some of the scholars who have gone the extra mile of critiquing this particular theory include Melford Spiro and Roy D’ Andrade among others. Postmodernism is a very important theory for various reasons. First and foremost, it has opened up people’s minds. This especially applies to the religious individuals or those subjected to spiritual beliefs they never wanted to part of.

The theory explains that the truth has been shaped by man in various circumstances and environments and then labeled name truth. Since there are things that have not been proven yet, say for instance the existence of heaven and hell, doesn’t this theory have a point? It also states the cultural setting of a people has led to the development of what people claim to be true. Unless the truth has been proven, then the truth does not exist.

Postmodernism as a very complicated theory has created jobs the world over. There are lecturers who are paid to teach this theory. Furthermore, there are researchers who earn good money just to research and clarify on this theory. Therefore it is true to say that it has contributed economically to the various individuals as well as interest groups.

It is a dynamic world. Therefore things change from time to time. Advancements have been made, and theories have been created to explain human achievements and so on. Therefore, postmodernism tends to explain exactly what is taking place in this day and age and as a matter of fact, it is a development of other theories such as modernism.

In other words, critics or not, documentation of human activity has to take place. Adjustments to the theory can still take place since it is still under development anyway. Many scholars have claimed that this theory is rather ambiguous; hence there are several criticisms about it. One of these criticisms is from Roy D’ Andrade who looks at the definition of subjectivity as well as objectivity.

While doing so, he observes the ethical nature of their respective models which according to him they appear to be wholly subjective. Since postmodernism tends to argue against any form of objectivity, Roy defends it by claiming that it is not degrading and neither is it unachievable He goes ahead to explain that, never has it been mentioned that science cannot be tested for objectivity’s sake, but that whatever science discovers, it can be proved or disproved (D’Andrade 1995, p. 404).

Murphy (2010) also comes up strongly mentioning that the postmodernists should not dare to disregard scientific methods. This is simply because it is going to be a study that concentrates on meanings rather than discovering the causes of humanity in mankind. In addition to this, he also claims that “knowledge is objective.” Which means that accuracy of a claim in knowledge is detatched from gender, culture as well as cause or motive.

McKinley (2000), another scholar strongly believes that this theory is a result of western imperialism. He goes ahead to mention that western society has not or does not want want to come into terms with reality. This reality he describes is the existence of diverse numerous individual cultures. This he adds, makes the postmodernists reluctant to accept the existence of these cultures (p.16).

Another criticism from an anonymous source is that postmodernism tends to concentrate more on unreasonable tendencies which it seems to acclaim. The perplexing fact is that it uses reason and other rational tools. A theory has to have its own stand beliefs and practices and abide by them. But this particular one seems to be on shaky ground since it is preaching what it does not do at all.

Christian religious leaders have objected this theory strongly. This is because all it stands for is a complete contrast of the christian beliefs. The loudest noisemakers so far are the Catholic leaders. They simply do not understand how theory can go ahead and proclaim that there is no God in heaven. Moreso, how can they claim that there is no heaven or hell.

This has raised a lot of debates on whether this theory is viable for modern society or not. In a nutshell, postmodernism is a complicated theory given that it is still being developed; we can only anticipate that its principles will be more well defined.


BBC. (2009). Religions: Postmodernism. [Online]. Available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/atheism/types/postmodernism.shtml [Accessed on May 29, 2011]

D’Andrade, R. (1995). Moral Models in Anthropology In Current Anthropology, 36(3), 399-407.

Hartman, P. V. (1996).What is “postmodernism?” [Online]. Available http://www.naciente.com/essay15.htm [Accessed on May 29, 2011]

McKinley, B. (2000). Postmodernism certainly is not science, but could it be Religion? CSAS Bulletin, 36(1), 16-18.

Murphy, D. (2009). Anthropological Theories: A guide by students for students. Availabel on http://anthropology.ua.edu/cultures/cultures.php [Accessed on Retrieved May 29, 2011]

Wehmeier, S., Mclntosh, C., &Turnbull,J. (Eds.).(2006). Oxford advanced learners Dictionary (7th ed).New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilce, J.M. (2005). Traditional laments and postmodern regrets. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 15(1), 60-71

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