506046Best, Steven, and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Turn Critical Perspectives. New York: Guilford Press, 1997.

The Authors

Steven Best


Associate Professor of Philosophy at UTEP, Dr. Steven Best is an award-winning and prolific writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist

Research Interests

Continental philosophy, applied ethics (animal rights, environmental ethics, bioethics), social and political philosophy, media theory and cultural studies, Marxism and critical theory, science and technology studies, security and terrorism studies/


Ph D – Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin[1]

Douglas Kellner

kellnerGeorge F. Kneller Philosophy of Education Chair

Division of Social Sciences & Comparative Education

Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA


Ph.D., Philosophy, Columbia University


One: The Time of the Posts

Two: Paths to the Postmodern: Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche

Three: From the Society of the Spectacle to the Realm of Simulation: Debord, Baudrillard, and Postmodernity

Four: Postmodernism in the Arts: Pastiche, Implosion, and the Popular

Five: Entropy, Chaos, and Organism in Postmodern Science

Between the Modern and the Postmodern: Paradigm Shifts in Theory and Politics


“In order for postmodern discourse to have substantive cognitive content, certain distinctions need to be made, and the family of terms of the postmodern must be distinguished from the discourses of the modern. In our previous book, Postmodern Theory, we distinguished between

  • Modernity and postmodernity as two different historical eras;
  • Between modernism and postmodernism as two conflicting aesthetic and cultural styles;
  • And between modern and postmodern theories as two competing theoretical discourses.”[2]

“There is no such thing as ‘postmodern theory’; rather, there are a diversity of postmodern theories…thus the nomenclature ‘postmodern’ is often a placeholder, or semiotic marker, for novel phenomena that deserve our critical attention.”[3]

Two Types of Postmodern Theory

One: extreme postmodern theory that sees a radical rupture between modernity and postmodernity.

Two: qualified and modest mode of postmodern discourse that sees the postmodern as merely a mutation of the modern.[4]

“Historical epochs do not rise and fall in neat pattens or at precise chronological moments. Perhaps our current era is parallel in some ways to the Renaissance, which constituted a long period of transition between the end of premodern societies and the emergence of modern ones. Such periods are characterized by unevenly developing multiple levels of change and the birth-pangs associated with the eruption of a new era. In fact, change between one era and another is always protracted, contradictory, and usually painful. But the vivid sense of ‘betweenness,’ or transition, requires that one grasp the connections with the past as well as the novelties of the present and future. Thus, it is important to capture both the continuities and discontinuities of the postmodern with the modern, in order to make sense of our current predicament.”[5]

Four Main thematic similarities of postmodern theories that break with distinct modern concepts and themes:

  1. Postmodernists reject unifying, totalizing, and universal schemes in favor of new emphases on difference, plurality, fragmentation and complexity.
  2. Postmodernists renounce closed structure, fixed meaning, and rigid order in favor of play, indeterminacy, incompleteness, uncertainty, ambiguity, contingency, and chaos.
  3. Postmodernists abandon naive realism and representational epistemology, as well as unmediated objectivity and truth, in favor of perspectivism, anti-foundationalism, hermeneutics, intertextuality, simulation, and relativism.
  4. An new emphasis is evident on deconstructing boundaries within and among different disciplines in the postmodern turn: i.e. border-crossing.

“If there is an Ariadne’s thread that winds through all postmodern developments, it is the linguistic turn that shattered realist assumptions about language, knowledge, and representation. The linguistic turn is an explicit realization that (1) the primary way human beings know and participate in their world is through language and (2) different linguistic maps bring different senses of reality and claims to truth. The linguistic turn, therefore, is the eruption into human consciousness of the perspectival, contextual, and contingent nature of all truth claims. Language does not re-present reality, rather it shapes and constructs it, refracting the light of the world through its unique phonetic and conceptual prisms. As discussed in philosophy by pragmatists such as Peirce, Dewey, and the later Wittgenstein, truth claims of any kind are embedded in distinct linguistic conventions and communities. As played out by philosophers of science (see Kuhn 1970; Hess, 1980), ‘truth’ exists relative to a community of scientific practitioners who create various procedures to guide research and judge epistemic validity. Since there are alternative scientific communities, there are also competing descriptions of truth and strategies of inquiry.”[6]

[1] http://academics.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=71778 (accessed September 7, 2013)

[2] {Best, 1997 #36@17}

[3] {Best, 1997 #36@22-23}

[4] {Best, 1997 #36@24-25}

[5] {Best, 1997 #36@31}

[6] {Best, 1997 #36@260}

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