Jean Francois Lyotard

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“Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?”
By Jean-François Lyotard, trans. Régis Durand.

NOTE: Written in 1982, as postscript to The Postmodern Condition (1979)

A Demand

This is a “period of slackening” in the “color of the times”.
“From every direction we are being urged to put an end to experimentation, in the arts and elsewhere”.
Bauhaus (1919-1933 Germany: Walter Gropius founded this movement of artists, writers, architects. Shut down by Hitler for being very radical, left-wing) shut down to stop “functionalism” but this implies stopping experimentation too.
People are looking for a language sans play, i.e. the language of the historian; looking to “restore a solid anchorage of language in the referent”.
Refers to opinion that “postmodernism with its games and fantasies, carries very little weight in front of political authority”, and that postmodernism is even less relevant now because fear of nuclear attack has caused totalitarian surveillance. Lyotard (L) then refers to Habermas’ (who is a Marxist) critique of the present age (and thus of post-modernity/post-modernism) in “Modernity: an Incomplete Project”.

Habermas (JH) believes neo-conservatism would thrive under the pretext of postmodernism.
Neo-conservatives allow any practice to continue, saying cultural logic applies; thus giving room to even conservative practices (those which are anti-Enlightenment).
L feels that, to say this will allow Stalinism to flourish (JH’s background) is a misreading of postmodernism.
JH believes the Enlightenment project has failed: now we are looking for narrow experts, communication is nil.
The Enlightenment project was that of Modernity, and everyone moving toward a common goal.
In Aesthetic Modernism there resistance to a ‘WE’. That there is no ‘WE’, no one World View; there is a breakdown of society - individuals have disparate experiences.
The “concrete individual” is presently (acc. to JH) experiencing “desublimated meaning” and

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