Saturday, 26 January 2013

Schizoanalytic Cartographies Part 3: Guattari on Postmodernity

This is part three of my series of blogs on Félix Guattari's Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Please click here for part one and two:
1 - Psychoanalysis and Religion
2 - Guattari on Enunciation

This extract includes some of Guattari's comments on postmodernity. Here he critiques the demise of social relations in a somewhat polemic fashion, but despite that this extract does highlight some of the themes associated with postmodernism - style over content, the decline of grand narratives, etc.:
A certain conception of progress and of modernity has gone bankrupt, compromising in its collapse collective confidence in the very idea of emancipatory social practice. In parallel, a sort of glaciation has taken over social relations: hierarchies and segregations have rigidified, poverty and unemployment tend to be accepted today as inevitable evils, the unions cling onto the last institutional branches conceded to them and are imprisoned in corporatists practices leading them to adopt conservative attitudes that are sometimes close to the of the reactionary milieus. The communist left is irremediably stuck in sclerosis and dogmatism, whilst socialist parties concerned to present themselves as reliable technocratic partners have given up any progressive questioning of existing structures. It is not surprising, after all that, if the ideologies that once claimed to serve as a guide to rebuilding society on a less unjust, less unequal basis have lost their credibility. (page 36)
Does it follow that we are henceforth condemned to stand around like idiots in the face of growth of the new order of cruelty and cynicism that is on the point of submerging the planet, with the firm intention, it seems, of staying? It is this regrettable conclusion that numerous intellectual and artistic milieus effectively seem to have reached, in particular those who invoke the fashion of postmodernism. (page 36)

Whether they are painters, architects or philosophers, the heroes of postmodernity share an assessment that the crises the artistic and social practices are experiencing today can no longer lead into anything other than irrevocable refusal of any collective projectuality of any scale. Let's tend our garden then and preferably in conformity with the habits and customs of our contemporaries. No waves. Just vogues, modulated on the markets of art and opinion by means of publicity campaigns and opinion polls. As for ordinary sociality, a new principle of 'sufficient communication' will have to provide for the maintenance of its equilibria and ephemeral consistency. If one thinks about it, how much distance has been travelled since the epoch in which one could read on the banners of French sociology: 'social facts are not things'! For the postmoderns, they are now nothing more than erratic clouds of floating discourse in a signifying ether! (page 39)

If you are interested in other philosophical discussions on postmodernity and culture, I would also recommend the following texts:

Jean-Françoise Lyotard The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
Fredric Jameson Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism


  1. I came to postmodernism via the divergent rays of architecture, for the built environment it was very controversal indeed and has lead to a general move in that world towards disatifaction with great projects. In the light of the triumph of banality I found it very hard not to be disheartened generally with creative groups and confusing narratives.

  2. Yes, I can imagine - especially in that field. Guattari eventually managed to find some interested projects happening in Brazil in the 80s (Molecular Revolution in Brazil).