Jameson, Frederic, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

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Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991. Six chapters are rpts. of earlier published essays, including the title essay from New Left Review. Reprints "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" essay "without significant modifications" (XV), and, unfortunately, without significant revision for clarity. Postmodernism on the whole, expands on the ideas of cognitive mapping FJ developed in his "Cultural Logic" essay (q.v. above), and usefully identifies much of modern Theory, including postmodern attacks on "totalizing," as a recent incarnation of nominalism. (Nominalism goes back to the late ancient world, but became important for secular philosophy in the 11th c. CE when Roscellinus denied "the reality of all universals," accepting as real only "physical particulars." This idea was revived by William of Occam in the early 14th c. and by Logical Positivism in the 20th. Contrary to colloquial usage, accepting the reality of universals, abstractions is philosophical realism [1]. Neither term in the philosophical sense will be found in Postmodernism's index.) According to I. Csicsery-Ronay, Postmodernism "tries to balance the postmodern demand for de-totalizing accounts with Jameson's own modernist commitment to totalizing description. The compromise is in the form of a constellation of cultural manifestations that are linked by the underlying economic determination of late capitalism . . . but whose relations to the social-economic formation are incredibly complex" (I.C-R. 406). The first note of the book regrets "the absence from this book of a chapter on cyberpunk, henceforth, for many of us, the supreme literary expression if not of postmodernism, then of late capitalism itself" ([419]). Rev. I. Csicsery-Ronay, SFS #58, 19.3 (Nov. 1992): 403-410; the review is cited separately under the reviewer's name, under Literary Criticism.

Topics in Postmodernism useful for study of the human/machine interface include: Ernest Mandel on the stages of capitalism and the technology of production of machines by machines (35-36); "representations of some immense communicational and computer network" in what might be called "'high-tech paranoia'" literature as "a distorted figuration of . . . the "world system of present-day multinational capitalism," with technological conspiracy theories as "a degraded attempt . . . to think the impossible totality of the contemporary world system" (37-38); "machine time," TV's "'total flow,'" and video as arguable "the art form par excellence of late capitalism (75-78.); Paul DeMan as "an eighteenth-century mechanical materialist"—i.e., in that tradition—and maybe J-J. Rousseau as well (246-47); "an orgy of language and representation" in cyberpunk writing determined by "the thrill of international business and the peculiar opulence of the yuppie life world" for a kind of mental libido (321); and some comments on MAD MAX 2: ROAD WARRIOR, THE TERMINATOR, and BLADE RUNNER—with a casual insult to A BOY AND HIS DOG and Glenn and Rhonda—as representations not of the future breakdown of high technology "but its conquest in the first place"—i.e., we think, the high-tech conquest of people under late capitalism (384-85).