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What Are Postmodern Politics?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Postmodern politics is, by definition, difficult to define and explain in a fully satisfying way. This is because one of the major conceits within postmodernism is that there is no universal “truth” and so no single definition can be used to act as the “truth.” Within this difficult political construct, however, certain ideas can be seen as emblematic of postmodern politics, such as the lack of truth and definite structure to things. This type of political outlook can be fairly nihilistic in nature, seeing the political climate as incurably corrupt, or more positive by espousing that positive change can occur through individual and group action.

The basic idea of postmodern politics is an extension of fundamental postmodern thought and philosophy into the political arena. Postmodernism typically describes a world view that is considered symptomatic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, though it may also be seen as an extension of many ideas proposed during the Enlightenment of the 1600s. Major ideas include the concept that no single “truth” can be established about anything, including good and evil, and that ideas should be deconstructed to find meaning.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

In postmodern politics, these ideas have extended into political discourse and so the idea of “truth” being subjective has become a major component within political dialogue. This can be seen in the phrases and language that politicians often use, which makes absolute meaning difficult to determine. Ambiguous language is a major aspect of postmodern politics and establishes the idea that the “truth” of a moment, idea, or statement lies in the perception of the listener rather than the intent of the speaker. Political arguments and comments are deconstructed by commentators and critics in an attempt to get at the “truth” of a statement or to determine the version of the “truth” that benefits their side.

These ideas within postmodern politics extend beyond speech, however, and actions in a postmodern worldview are seen as equally lacking in clear meaning or “truth.” A country attacking another country is not inherently “good” or “evil,” according to postmodern perspectives, but instead is morally ambiguous. For critics of postmodern politics, this is seen as one of the ultimate signs of decay and corruption within the moral and political world. As actions increasingly take on ambiguous causes and justifications, those who fear the potential of such politics see it as a decline into greater and greater loss of reason.

There are some people, however, who see postmodern politics as a potentially beneficial move within society. If there is no single “truth” that is acknowledged by all people, then those people are more likely to question the actions of their government. This, some claim, is one of the greatest strengths of such a political landscape, as people are able to create their own form of “truth” and choose actions and politics that support it. Such a change in political reality requires a great deal of effort from the citizens of a country, however, so this type of result is not always a realistic one.

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