The following passage surprised me, not only because it has neoliberals in place of postmodernists, but also because it describes everything I see as a consequence of so-called "Postmodernism" (or whatever name you give it: post-structuralism, deconstructionism, moral relativism...): destruction of meaning, praise of fragmentation, anti-intellectualism...

Neoliberals are part of a long, intellectual, (or anti-intellectual) tradition which seeks to deny the importance of meaning and even destroy its relevance. Why would anyone want to do that? Because, as history shows, destroying meaning is the key to gaining, at least temporarily, power and control, whether it be over other human beings or natural processes in general. For example, in his brilliant book on the history of debt, David Graeber reveals how different forms of slavery succeed by displacing people from their meaning-rich contexts. As well as the application of brute force, people are rendered powerless through being dislocated, fragmented, and thus, disoriented. Those held in slavery have often survived by eventually creating new systems of meaning, often through embracing religion of some form as a way of transcending the power of their oppressors.

What are the relations between Postmodernism and Neoliberalism?

  • may be worth noting that fragmentation is a feature of modern life and literature. – user28117 Aug 17 '17 at 6:45
  • too chatty, but have you considered the idea that "post modernist" is what happens to someone when they've been cheated out of something better? Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Good night! * At the end of the last Sex Pistols concert, Winterland Theater, San Francisco, California (14 January 1978)[ – user28117 Aug 17 '17 at 10:59
  • You posit that in this paragraph "neoliberals" actually means "postmodernists", and then ask why this is so? </snark> – mart Aug 17 '17 at 12:29
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    Zamora's take on Foucault is the only direct relationship I know of, and it's had a pretty mixed reception. – Canyon Aug 17 '17 at 14:53

Maybe I'm the wrong person to answer your question because my gounding in philosophy is not that great, maybe I'm the right one because I likely share some of your political outlook ...

One of the posits of postmodernist thought is, I believe, that nothing has meaning per se, meaning is always assigned, negotiated etc. And so meaning can be destroyed. And this was always so, postmodernists and their forerunners are just the ones pointing this out instead of making up complicated metaphysic systems to safe a concept of meaning.

So neoliberals are just recent thinkers in a long line who tried to restructure society by, among other things, destroying systems of meaning and belonging - or solidarity! - that get in their way. As mentioned in the paragraph, this destruction of meaning was practiced millenia before Nietzsche wrote the first text that inspired Focault that inspired Deleuze or whomever.

One could also point out that certain systems of belonging, e.g. the specific nationalism of the Nazis to take the least controversial example, should be destroyed.

You could also ask what "meaning" in the context given above is supposed to mean (no pun intended), if it's not the meaning we give to things in a given moment, shaped by our experiences and thus pretty malleable.

  • Nice answer. But since postmodernism tries to destroy every big meaning (e.g. religion, science...), we end up in a dispute between those who have the infrastructure (the powerful) against those who haven't (the people). Guess who will be victorious? That's why destroying Nazis' nationalism don't actually balance things out. – Rodrigo Aug 17 '17 at 13:19
  • I think "postmodernism tries to destroy every big meaning" is at best inaccurate - what exactly is there to destroy, what does destruction of meaning actually mean? Sorry I can't put it much more clear than this or my lase paragraph! – mart Aug 17 '17 at 13:27
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    ... this walking cliche of a postmodernist you've ahs as a teacher does not bring us closer to what Graeber means with meaning in your quote above. If it can be destroyed, what is it in the first place? – mart Aug 17 '17 at 14:07
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    I've also tried to answer your other question philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/45429/3391 btw, dunno if helpful. – mart Aug 17 '17 at 14:10
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    ... and this is pretty far removed from your question about neolieralism which I tried to answer. – mart Aug 17 '17 at 14:27

To the degree it proceeds along the same trajectory at all, Neoliberalism here is a step far before Postmodernism. It is the embodiment of Enlightenment thinking in a wish to make more and more dependent upon less and less so that we are all 'free' from one another and from the harsher demands of our reality. It is primarily an economic theory that reduces everything to market forces and freedom. In that, it has a lot more to do with Existentialism than Postmodernism.

As 'The Genealogy of Morals' or Marxism points out, this war of the powerful constantly undermining the previous means of being powerful has been going on forever. And it is wholly unrelated to the ultimate loss of the modernist dream to its own logic.

Neoliberalism is totally consonant with late modernism -- taking science and individuality as the center of the universe and rendering it cold, sterile, independent and unattached to any deeper meaning. This attempt to make the universe rational and efficient is the ascending direction of the 'modernism' that Postmodernism questions. It is part of what Postmodernism actually resists, by emphasizing context and admitting the relevance of the aspects of reality that we cannot know.

Displacing someone from their cultural embedding as a strategy for power, by controverting their religion with science and displacing their cultural institutions with your own, or with your own rational constructions, does not assume a respectful and constructive relativism. It assumes that relativism is wrong and that dedication to institutions that are not entirely modern and rational is primitive and wasteful. It seeks to leverage that 'waste' for 'good', without realizing that 'good' is selfishly defined and is itself something wasteful of what is embodied in traditions themselves over time.

  • You're ignoring that real dialogue is able to settle controversies, as long as neither side is fundamentalist. But since monotheism is essentially fundamentalist, it makes most Westerners believe that "real dialogue" is utterly impossible, like posited by postmodern religion. – Rodrigo Aug 21 '17 at 5:48
  • This says nothing about the power of 'real dialog' one way or the other. So you are putting words in my mouth. I am sick of this. I do not find that what you consider dialog takes place in good faith, and I am uninterested in continuing to accept your polemic. – user9166 Aug 21 '17 at 19:33

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