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The Foundations of

Social Research
Michael Crotty
Chapter Nine
The Foundations of Social
 Postmodernism, the most slippery of
academic terms
 Post as in after, logical succession or
time succession?
 Postmodernism does not displace
modernism just as postpositivism
does not displace positivism. They
coexist and share many of the same
The Foundations of Social
 What is modernism/modernization or
 Patterns of social life linked to
 Process of social change initiated by
The Foundations of Social
 What is the modern world?
 Rational

 Instrumental reason

 Control and manipulation of nature

 Certainty and precision of science

and technology
 Modernity as the child of the
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 Modernism evinces great faith in the
ability of reason to discover absolute
forms of knowledge.
 Science and scientific method are the
paramount ways in which validity and a
universally recognizable reality is
 Modernism is the path to emancipation,
delivering us from the fetters of ignorance
 Modernity=progress
The Foundations of Social
 Modernity, out of the enlightenment,
also posited an autonomous
individual self that is self-reliant and
very much in control.
 Postmodernity is a thoroughgoing
rejection of what modernism stands
for and an overturning of the
foundations on which it rests.
The Foundations of Social
 Where modernism purports to base
itself on generalised, indubitable
truths about the way things really
are, postmodernism abandons the
entire epistemological basis for any
such claims to truth.
 Postmodernism commits itself to
ambiguity, relativity, fragmentation,
particularity, and discontinuity.
The Foundations of Social
 Postmodernism delights in play,
irony, pastiche, excess—even ‘mess.’
 Engages in the radical decentering of
the subject, privileging nonidentity
(or the dispersal of identity) over any
stable self-conception.
The Foundations of Social
 But to simply place postmodernity and
postmodern thought in an exclusive
time/space framework is not very
‘postmodern’ of us. Its claims were stated
before they were consciously postmodern
 Crotty posits alternative definition of
modernity as well, stating that modernity,
in art and literature is not merely
identified with industrialization but is a
response to it.
The Foundations of Social
 In art and literature we can see that
Modernity concerns a particular set of
cultural or aesthetic styles associated with
the artistic movement which originated
around the turn of the century
 Modern art is notably ambiguous, which
neither embraced nor rejected modernity,
its acceptance is made with full awareness
of the many anomalies it holds.
The Foundations of Social
 Weber, great modern thinker
 Modernity is the disenchantment of the
world. What does that mean?
 Benjamin and Adorno committed to
anatomizing modernity on its own terms
rather than lamenting the past or rejecting
modernity all together
 Weber, Benjamin and Adorno typify the
struggle of modernity, far from retreating
from the bourgeois world it finds itself
inhabiting, it mounts a challenge from
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 Modern art, for example, challenged previously
existing aesthetic realism’s assumptions that
aesthetic value came from some sort of
correspondence between artistic representation
on the one hand, and reality on the other.
 Picasso, the Eiffel tower, James, what did they
do? See 189, bottom
 What is ostranenie? What does it have to do with
poetry and modernity?
 So modernism in art and literature is a spirited,
ambiguous response to modernity, rather than a
movement identified with modernity itself.
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 Postmodernism v. postmodernity
 Postmodernity is a distinct historical stage
in societal development.
 Postmodernism, like modernism, is a
response to a qualitatively new society “a
profound mutation in recent thought and
 Besides being a response to the
postmodern world, postmodernism arises
out of and in reaction to modernism.
The Foundations of Social
 Postmodernism denotes a whole set of
contemporary literary and cultural
movements which self-consciously define
themselves in opposition to earlier, equally
self-consciously modernist cultural
 Postmodernism as moment in time
 Postmodernism as postmodernity v.
postmodernism as cultural response
 Postmodernism as cultural response and
postmodernism as theory.
The Foundations of Social
 If modernism is taken to be Posnock’s
ferment of experimental activity erupting
within modernity but in reaction against its
abstraction, rationalization and
instrumentality, what is postmodernism?
 What is left to it that is not found in
modernism itself?
 Its as if postmodernism was the necessary
outcome of modernist style inquiry…
 Lets look at 192, 193, starting with
quotation at bottom of 192
The Foundations of Social
 Consequences of postmodernity
 The very setting prevents us from
launching ourselves into challenging,
subversive innovations with anything like a
messianic vision for the future or any hope
of redeeming the situation.
 Postmodernism has the distinction of
simultaneously feeling very freeing and
very crippling all at once.
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 Where to go with theory and
research in postmodernity
 Post-structuralism, born out of the
reaction to French structuralism and
borrowed in the US to develop a
theoretical understanding of the
postmodern condition.
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 Lyotard, sometimes called the father
of postmodern theory, defines
postmodernity in terms of
“incredulity towards metanarratives,”
and that postmodernity is a
“nonsentimental adieu (in other
words, good riddance) to the
traditional metaphysical longing for
totality, holism and presence.
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 Patty Lather defines postmodern as
the larger cultural shifts of a post-
industrial, post-colonial era and
poststructural as the working out of
those shifts within the arenas of
academic theory.
 Poststructuralism=a theorizing, a
corollary, a strain, a synonym of
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 Structuralism
 Relationships between language, reality and
consciousness are based in a system of signs
 Language is very deterministic in structuralism in
terms of social meaning
 Durkheim, Saussure (early semiotics, sign,
signifier, signified), Levi-Strauss, the linguistic
 Formal structure found in language thus becomes
the source of meaning for the structuralist.
 Paragraph 1, p. 199 top
The Foundations of Social
 Milner’s five characteristics of
 Positivism
 Anti-historicism
 Demystification
 Theoreticism
 Anti-humanism
 Structuralists whose work straddles the
border between structuralism and post-
structuralism: Barthes, Althusser, Foucault
The Foundations of Social
 Barthes and mythologies/semiotics
 Foucault and epistemes/discursive
formations i.e., capitalism, family, prison,
gender, ,knowledge itself.
 Althusser, reading Marx as a structuralist
theory i.e., economics, politics, ideology,
as instances of society, are all presented
as structures
 So how can structuralism be both
positivist and subjectivist at the same
time? See p. 201, bottom.
The Foundations of
Social Research
 FriedrichNietszche: his subterranean
impact on post-structuralism and
post-structural and structuralist
thinkers, Foucault and Derrida.
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 Post-structuralism retains structuralism’s
commitment to de Saussure’s view that the
meaning of words derives from their relationship
to one another and not from any postulated
relationship to non-linguistic reality.
 Language becomes situated within societal
relationships of power (Foucault) and within the
unconscious (Lacan)
 Where structuralism looks for decisive forms
shaping factors in structural forms discoverable
within society or the unconscious, in post-
structuralism, structures no longer offer the life
line they were once seen to be throwing to the
 The main difference is that poststructuralism
leaves positivism entirely behind and becomes
very anti-humanist.
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 Barthes and the text, Foucault and power,
Derrida and the sign
 Derrida and “everything is a text,”
“primacy of the written over the spoken,”
 Lacan and the imaginary, pre-oedipal faze,
speechless identity between mother and
child gives way to linguistic consciousness
that father provides. The symbolic order
is thus masculine
 Kristeva and intertextuality
The Foundations of Social
 Lyotard and grand narratives
 The postmodern world is at once, and
paradoxically, a world of massification and
a world of fragmentation. The mass
society obliterates time-honored
distinctions and without these distinctions
we have no sense of how the whole might
fit together. As Lyotard insists, there is no
metanarrative that can bring things
together for us.
The Foundations of Social
 Given the array of epistemological and
theoretical perspectives you have
encountered, where do you find yourself
on the epistemology continuum? Why,
how so? What kinds of research questions
and topics would you deal with and what
kind of methods would you utilize and

 Be prepared to answer this question on

the exam.