This started as a comment on Heesun Hwang
blog post ‘What is postmodernism?
’ but quickly became far too long, absurd and insubstantial, so I decided it would be better to add as a blog post:
I thought I might add another perspective to the question of the ‘postmodernist’ dilemma, one which has already been partially suggested by some here and elsewhere. It may appear to contradict my previous approach but on close examination I do not consider the two entirely incommensurable.
Perhaps we can see ‘postmodernism’ and ‘poststructuralism’ simply as tangential lines of structuralism. They are just more romanticised, complicated and imaginative. I believe the two systems of thought can be seen as taking the same premises and both are equally born of the same line of western philosophy. In order to develop the methods of ‘postmodern’ thinking, the structures, dichotomies and binary oppositions it deconstructs have been assumed to be in existence. The route of the ‘postmoderns’ has then been to, from this initial piece of predicate information; show them up as overly simplistic. One end of the binary opposition is shown to imply the other. The relation between the concepts has been shown to be more complicated than structuralist modes of thought would suggest. The actuality of reality is shown as more entangled than the theoretical binary distinctions would initially imply. Theory, in reflecting reality, becomes messier and more complex. The simplistic structure which was previously dominant in thought patterns is shown as a human fabrication which does not represent the true nature of reality.
What we are left with is a complex organisation of ideas, concepts and relationships. Objects flow in an irregular manner and intersect one another creating a grand and irregular web of reality found in a variety of spatiotemporal fluctuations. Reality and theory becomes fragmentary but interwoven and not incommensurable. The trails left by such flows become the subject of empirical study as we attempt to make sense of this mess of notions, objects and realities. The web of flows form machines. These machines, the capitalist machine, the nomadic machine interact and engage one another causing affective relationships. The affective flows also create bodies without organs, objects becoming affected and affecting. These bodies without organs engage with machines to create an even greater fragmentary web.
The objects, machines and bodies without organs constitute reality. They engage one another; they interact with and define each other. Flows operate in all directions in a nomadic, unformed and unstable manner creating and affecting singularities. This occurs in a destratified, decoded and deterrtoralized manner, rigid taxonomical structure is escaped and avoided. Stratification is resisted. Multiplicities become from such interactions. They exist on the basis of singularities destratified, irregular and nomadic. They themselves become unstable, irregular and fragmentary. The multiplicities become affective and are affected both in relation to themselves and singularities.
What we see here is a model of reality. It is not a simplistic one based upon dualities engaging simply with one another, but upon a messy web of affective relations. It is a structure of sorts, but not a structuralist one. It is not based upon the relation of x to y but of x affecting y and z and I etc; x’s engagement with y, z, I etc; y’s affective and nomadic position to z, x and I etc; z becoming x, y and I. It is not arborescent for the nature of existence is not. We make existence arborescent with simplistic structure imposed upon reality. The affective relations of entities, bodies without organs and machines could be seen as function just as the web they create could be seen as structure. However, if we impose a dualistic structure upon them, rather than a more complex one, the true meaning and nature of said structure and function is lost. The true relational and affective nature of reality is forced into an prison of dualistic strata.
This web of relations, this machine, flow or body without organs can be seen as structure provided it is a non arborescent, non-binary and non-linear one. It should hold no boundaries. The reason descriptions in terms of structure and function are avoided is because of the images they evoke and the thought patterns the traditional use produces. However provided we can grant a topological application of language I see no reason that such terminology cannot be employed for it does correctly signify the ‘postmodern’ position, provided we grant a little imagination and creativity. So long as we can break away from simplistic and rigid definitions; and provided it does not imply dualism. ‘Postmodern’ reality can be seen through the eyes of structure but not the eyes of a structuralist. If we allow language to define our thought rather than allowing our thoughts to define our use of language this cannot be achieved, but none the less it is not impossible. Furthermore this perspective, argument, position is not a semantic one; provided language is granted the status I suggest: as a plaything of the imagination rather than the owner of.
The position here is not simply that function and structure are to structuralism as affect and machines are to ‘postmodernism’; that would be a semantically meaningless point. Rather the idea being outlined is that both perspectives stem from the same vein of thought, both seek to paint a picture of reality and succeed in doing so.
The structuralist perceive A – B, it locks singularities into layers of redundancy. The unique and beautiful form, and non-form, of nature and reality is lost amid a sea of binary oppositions, functions and structures. Arborescent systems contain, constrict and simplify each occurrence and seek to parallel it to another. Each singularity must be explained in terms of its relation to another, its function within the strata, its position in the structure. A picture of the world is imposed upon reality, it becomes unnaturally ordered, its significance is lost, or at least reduced. Language and structure are allowed to define thought rather than thought running free. Complex, nomadic and rhizomic ideas and perceptions become meaningless or disregarded as merely aesthetic, arborescent, untrue or nonsensical. Structure grips reality and thought, constrains and imprisons it. It is forced into submission and acceptance.
The so called ‘postmodernist’ perceives reality as an entangled mess; a web of affective relations between singularities, multiplicities, bodies without organs, haecceities, spatial relations and temporalities. The flows and permeations engage and affect, interact and create, become and develop. Reality is fragmented, but not incommensurable; it is complex and beautiful. Thought and language do not shape reality they consist of it, become affected by it, flow within it and permeate the strata. A – B is abandoned, such a view would only distort the true nature of existence and reality, it would imprison thought and its subjects, crushing it into a totalised model. Truth is lost and individuation discovered.
The fragmentary perception of reality is as much a part of this affective web as any other entity; it holds its own individuality. Fragmentation becomes a totality, an individuality and a multiplicity, an oxymoron and an absurdity. The ‘postmodern’ perceives a structure but remains unable to explain its complexity; its beauty escapes double articulation and arborescent organisation. Function remains existent but inexplicable by any regime of signs. Only if the topological status of language is permitted in both the mind of the writer and the reader can explanations of reality be achieved. Simplistic structure is lost, the impossibility of expression becomes. ‘Postmodernists’ perceive structure and function but remain unable to explain its existence, or at least unwilling to confine it to such simplistic descriptions, the mode of thought is an arm of structuralism but an unwilling one.