Dueling Paradigms: Modernist v. Postmodernist Thought


Dragan Milovanovic
Department of Criminal Justice
Northeastern Illinois University

(Revised version from Humanity and Society (19(1): 1-22, 1995; and revised in Dragan Milovanovic, Postmodern Criminology. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997)


In recent days, much has been said of a postmodernist analysis in the social sciences. Indeed, a number of comparisons occasionally arise in the literature between modernist and postmodernist analysis, usually as an introduction to some further study. Little, however, has appeared that takes as its primary goal a comparison of the two perspectives. Accordingly, this essay is more didactic and pedagogical in orientation. We have identified eight dimensions as a basis of comparison. Although presented as dichotomies, the differences often fall along a continuum; some tend toward further polarization, others become discontinuities, such as the differences between the centered and decentered subject, the privileging of disorder rather than order, the emphasis on Pathos rather than Logos, etc.

A considerable amount of literature from those who are committed to the modernist approach is of a defensive sort when confronted with the epistemological directions advocated by postmodernist analysis. The first tactic generally is to dismiss its claims as old wine in new bottles, followed by incorporating the postmodernist premises and concepts within the discourse of modernist thought. Much effort, then, is taken to undo the postmodernist’s concepts by way of a discursive reorientation, at the conclusion of which modernist thinkers hope to say, “There, I told you so! Old wine in new bottles!” This attempt fails, however, even though in some instances several modernist thinkers did in fact anticipate some aspects of the postmodern paradigm. It is necessary to recognize that postmodernist analysis is indeed premised on radically new concepts, and discursive redefinitions will not help further progressive thought in the social sciences. What we do have are dueling paradigms: the modernist versus the postmodernist.

Modernist thought had its origins in the Enlightenment period. This era was a celebration of the liberating potentials of the social sciences, the materialistic gains of capitalism, new forms of rational thought, due process safeguards, abstract rights applicable to all, and the individual it was a time of great optimism (Milovanovic, 1992a, 1994a; Dews, 1987; Sarup, 1989; Lyotard, 1984; Baker, 1993). Postmodernists are fundamentally opposed to modernist thought. Sensitized by the insights of some of the classic thinkers, ranging from Marx, to Weber, to Durkheim, Freud, and the critical thought of the Frankfurt School, postmodernist thought emerged with a new intensity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Let us wage a war on totality” states one of its key exponents (Lyotard, 1984: 82). Most of the key concepts of modernist thought were critically examined and found to be wanting. Entrenched bureaucratic powers, monopolies, the manipulative advertisement industry, dominant and totalizing discourses, and the ideology of the legal apparatus were seen as exerting repressive powers. In fact, the notion of the individual free, self-determining, reflective, and the center of activity was seen as an ideological construction, nowhere more apparent than in the notion of the juridic subject, the so-called reasonable man in law. Rather than the notion of the individual, the centered subject, the postmodernists were to advocate the notion of the decentered subject.

Postmodernist analysis had its roots in French thought, particularly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Here, with the continued disillusionment with conventional critical thought a transition from Hegelian to Nietzschean thought took place. Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault, Kristeva and many others were to emerge bearing the banner of postmodernist thinking. Feminists from the postmodern tradition were to become key thinkers. Such theorists as Irigaray, Moi, and Cixous were to apply much of this thought to gender construction. The central figure in developing alternative notions of the subject, the determining effects of discourse, and the nature of the symbolic order was Jacques Lacan. New-wave postmodernist thinkers are likely to draw from chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, catastrophe theory, quantum mechanics, and topology theory. Novel conceptions of space, time, causality, subjectivity, the role of discourse, desire, social structure, roles, social change, knowledge, and the nature of harm, justice, and the law were developed and continue to be developed in postmodernist thought. The call is for the abandonment of a center, privileged reference points, fixed subjects, first principles, and an origin (Sarup, 1989: 59).

This essay will outline the differences between the modernist and the postmodernist paradigm. As Thomas Kuhn said many years ago, paradigms tend to crystallize around key validity claims that become premises for scientific thought. “Normal science” tends to work out the implications of this general body of knowledge(s) through, for example, deductive logic. Occasionally, as in the case of postmodernist thought, a revolutionary new science with entirely new premises develops and becomes the body of knowledge from which new questions are asked and entirely new discoveries are made.

Modernist versus postmodernist thought

To clarify some of the more salient differences, we have selected eight dimensions for comparison. These dimensions include the nature of: (1) society and social structure, (2) social roles, (3) subjectivity/agency, (4) discourse, (5) knowledge, (6) space/time, (7) causality, and (8) social change. This essay will highlight the major differences that have emerged by the early 1990s. Accordingly, we will list the dimensions and comment briefly on each. We should add, whereas the modernist assumptions seem more descriptive, the postmodernist add a prescriptive dimension. Contrary to many modernist critics, postmodernism is not fatalistic, cynical, and nonvisionary; rather, what the new paradigm offers is a more intense critique of what is, and transformative visions of what could be.

1. Society and Social Structure

Key Concepts:

Modernist: equilibrium; homeostasis; tension reduction; order; homogeneity; consensus; stasis; normativity; foundationalism; logocentricism; totality; closure; transcendental signifiers; structural functionalism.

Postmodernist: far-from-equilibrium conditions; flux; change; chance; spontaneity; irony; orderly disorder; heterogeneity; diversity; intensity; paralogism; toleration for the incommensurable; dissipative structures; antifoundationalism; fragmentation; coupling; impossibility of formal closure; structural dislocations/undecidability; constitutive theory.


a. Modernist Thought. Much of the dominant literature of modernist thought can be traced to the work of structural functionalism or totalizing theory. Theorists such as Durkheim, Luhmann (1985) and Parson, stand out as exemplary. A good part of this literature rests on an underlying homeostatic, tension-reduction, or equilibrium model. Freud, for example, rests his views on some conception of tension-reduction as the operative force in social structural development. Perhaps we can trace much of this to Newtonian physics and its influence. The central question is one of order. It is seen as desirable without further explanation. In fact, some, such as Parsons, define deviance in terms of distance from some assumed acceptable standard of normativity.

Modernist thought is focused on totalizing theory the search for overencompassing theories of society and social development. Some discoverable foundation was said to exist. At the center, a logos was said to be at play; whether, for example, as in Weber’s forces of rationalization, Freud’s homeostasis, or as in Hegel’s Absolute Spirit. These logics slumbered in anticipation of their correct articulation. These were the transcendental signifiers that were discoverable.

Much of the often-mentioned consensus paradigm, too, can be placed within the modernist paradigm. Thus metanarratives are still replete with assumptions of homogeneity, desirability of consensus, order, etc.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought, although still emerging, and which initially found its basis in its critique of modernism, has found grounding in the insights of chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, catastrophe theory, quantum mechanics, emerging cosmological insights, topology theory, and Lacanian thought to name a few. Postmodernists begin their analysis with privileging disorder rather than order. Their starting point is paralogism: privileging instabilities (Lyotard, 1984). Accordingly, this model begins with far-from-equilibrium conditions as being the more “natural” state, and places a premium on flux, nonlinear change, chance, spontaneity, intensity, indeterminacy, irony, and orderly disorder. No permanent stable order is possible or even desirable. No center or foundation exists. Godel’s theorem (1962), describing the impossibility of formal closure, dictates that the search for an overall, all-encompassing totalizing theory is an illusory exercise. In fact, as we shall show below, since no precise center exists, or since no possibility exists for precisely specifying initial conditions, then, the process of iteration will produce disproportional and unanticipated effects.

“Dissipative structures” are offered as relatively stable societal structures that remain sensitive and responsive to their environment (Baker, 1993; see also Unger’s suggestion for the establishment of criticizable institutions, 1987; see also Leifer on organizational transformations, 1989). This concept implies both relative stability as well as continuous change (i.e., order and disorder). Contrary to structural functionalism and its privileging of homeostasis, postmodernists see the desirability of ongoing flux and continuous change captured by the notion of far-from-equilibrium conditions. It is within these conditions that dissipative structures flourish.

Accordingly, some have offered the notion of structural coupling and constitutive theory to explain the movement of information between structure and environment (Luhmann, 1992; Hunt, 1993; Jessop, 1990; Henry and Milovanovic, 1991, 1996). Implied is the coexistence of multiple sites of determinants whose unique historical articulations are never precisely predictable. Due to inherent uncertainties in initial conditions, iterative practices produce the unpredictable. Here, the focal concern is on tolerance and support for the incommensurable. Assumed is the existence of perpetual fragmentation, deconstruction, and reconstruction. Advocated is the facilitation of the emergence of marginalized, disenfranchised, disempowered, and other excluded voices. Noteworthy in the analysis of societal structure by way of postmodernist analysis is Unger’s work on an empowered democracy (1987), even if he didn’t explicitly state his affinity with postmodernist thought. In his offerings, orderly disorder should be privileged. During the 1960s and 1970s, the development of the conflict paradigm in the social sciences marked some movement toward the postmodernist approach, but the promise fell short.

Chaos theory is increasingly becoming a key element in postmodern analysis. The founding figures include Ilya Prigogine, Henri Poincare, Mitchell Feigenbaum, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Edward Lorenz (see the overview by Briggs and Peat, 1989; Gleick, 1987; Stewart, 1989). We find application of chaos theory to psychoanalysis (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987; Milovanovic, 1992a, 1993a); to literature (Serres, 1982a, 1982b; Hayles, 1990, 1991); to criminology (T.R.Young, 1991a; Pepinsky, 1991); to law (Brion, 1991; Milovanovic, 1993a); to psychology (Butz, 1991, 1992a, 1992b); to sociology (Young, 1991b, 1992; Baker, 1993); to business and management (Leifer, 1989); and to political science (Unger, 1987). Others such as Charles Sanders Peirce anticipated some dimensions of this approach (see especially his essay on the doctrine of chance and necessity, 1940: 157-73; and his notion of pure play or musement, 1934: 313-16).

Nietzschean and Lacanian thought, rather than Hegelian thought, are inspirational to postmodernist thinkers. Feminist postmodernists traced to the former have perhaps contributed the most important insights. Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Toril Moi, to a considerable extent, have borrowed ideas from them in their elaboration of given phallocentric social structures and their possible alternatives (a useful overview is found in Sellers, 1991; Grosz, 1990; for an application in law, see Cornell, 1991, 1993; Milovanovic, 1994a: Chapter 6, 1994b).

2. Roles

Key Concepts:

Modernist: role-taking; socialization; integration; centripetal; closure; static; dichotomies; system serving; primacy to the “me”; limit attractors; symphony orchestra player.

Postmodernist: role-making; role-jumbling; variability; centrifugal; openness; porous boundaries; testing boundaries; primacy to the dialectic between the “I-me”; privileging the “I”; strange attractors; torus; jazz player.


a. Modernist Thought. The modernist view tends to rely on a Parsonian construct of a role in which centripetal forces of society socialize the person into accepting the obligations and expectations that pertain to him/her. This, then, becomes the question of functional integration. Accordingly, roles tend to become dichotomized male/female, employer/employee, good guy/bad guy, etc. In the specified balance of the I-me that many social theorists advocate (Durkheim, Mead, etc.), great weight is placed on the dominance of the “me,” that part of the self that dresses itself up with the persona demanded by the situation, struts upon the stage, and plays its part with various degrees of success to various audiences. A person is relegated to role-taking. The operative metaphor we offer is a member of a symphony orchestra.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Roles are essentially unstable and are in a dialectical relationship between centrifugal and centripetal forces. And this is desirable. Whereas roles in the modernist view would be similar to what chaos theorists refer to as limit attractors (they tend toward stereotypical closure), roles in postmodernist analysis would be very much like torus or strange attractors. A strange attractor can appear as two butterfly wings where instances of behavior may occur in one (i.e., a person’s conduct is situated in the illegal underworld), and in the other (i.e., a person’s conduct is in the legitimate world). Where the two cross, maximal indeterminacy prevails. When instances of behavior are plotted in phase space (a diagrammatical depiction), what appears over time is some degree of global patterning (the distinct wings of the butterfly), but at any instance, that is at any specific location, variability and indeterminacy prevail (from quantum mechanics’ uncertainty principle, one cannot at the same time predict location and momentum). There exists, in other words, local indeterminacy but a relative global stability, an orderly disorder. A person’s fate is relegated to role-making (Young, 1994).

In George Herbert Mead’s framework, role-making would indicate the active contribution of the “I.” Unger’s notion of role-jumbling would be another example (1987). Harraway’s idea of a postmodernist identity would be another (1991). Others have advocated a simultaneous disidentification and identification with various discursive subject positions, a process by which reidentifications are produced (JanMohammed, 1993; McLaren, 1994a). “It is…a process of forming affiliations with other positions, of defining equivalences and constructing alliances” (JanMohammed, 1993: 111). In fact, Lacan’s view is that the person is decentered and is always subject to imaginary and symbolic play, and therefore a stable moi is illusory. Stability can only be maintained by the impositions of external forces (i.e., manipulative powers of political forces and the advertisement industry; the violence of a phallocentric symbolic order, etc.). For the postmodernist view, the call is to be a jazz player and poet.

3. Subjectivity/Agency

Key Concepts:

Modernist: centered; the individual; transparent; reflective; self-directing; whole; positivistic; the “oversocialized” conception; juridic subject; homo-duplex; homoeconomicus; homeostatic; passivity; the “good,” interpellated, spoken subject; transcendental self; cartesian; cogito, ergo sum; logos; rational man; conscious, autonomous being; desire centered on lack.

Postmodernist: decentered subject; polyvocal; polyvalent; parljtre; l’jtre parlant; pathos; subject-in-process; schema L and schema R; subject of desire; activity; subject of disidentification; assumption of one’s desire; effects of the unconscious; positive/productive desire; will to power.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought has privileged the idea of the individual, a person who is assumed to be conscious, whole, self-directing, reflective, unitary, and transparent. In its extreme we have what had been characterized in the 1960s by Dennis Wrong and picked up in the critical literature as the “oversocialized conception of man.” Other conceptions cling to a homo-duplex view in which human nature is said to be a balance of egoism and altruism. Here individual desires are said to be in need of synchronization with given sociopolitical systems. Alternatively, we have homoeconomicus. The Enlightenment period was one in which the individual or the centered subject was discovered. This conception of the transcendental self, the cartesian subject, has been incorporated in the legal sphere as the juridic subject, the reasonable man/woman in law. Nowhere better has it been expressed than in Cogito, ergo sum. Desire, for the modernists, is inscribed on the body; it is territorialized (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). As Foucault would point out, the desiring subject becomes a body of passivity and economic/political utility (1977). Desire must be tamed, captured within the coordinates of various dominant discourses. Here desire begins with a lack, the price it pays for its inauguration into the Symbolic Order, and the biography of the self is one in which repetition drives the organism in its attempt to fill the void (see also Dews, 1987: 132, 135). In the more passive form of adaptation, the person is driven toward homeostasis, tension-reduction, catharsis, etc. The subject is said to be interpellated into her/his discursive subject-positions necessitated by the imperatives of a smoothly functioning socioeconomic political order. Thus we have the interpellated (Althusser, 1971), spoken (Silverman, 1982) or the good subject (Pecheux, 1982). In the more active form of adaptation, expressions of alienation, despair, resistance and opposition produce the oppositional subject caught within the “discourse of the hysteric” (Lacan, 1991a; Milovanovic, 1993a).

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought has offered the idea of the decentered subject. The subject is more determined than determining, is less internally unified than a desiring subject caught within the constraints of various discourses and their structuring properties. Kristeva has referred to the person (Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991a: 387-9) as the subject-in-process; Lacan, l’jtre parlant or the parljtre (the speaking being, or the speaking); and much African-American feminist analysis in law, for example, has argued for the polyvocal, polyvalent nature of consciousness (Harris, 1991: 235-62; Matsuda, 1989; Williams, 1987, 1991; Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991a: 387-9). Perhaps the clearest exposition of the decentered subject has been provided by Lacan in his schema L (1977). This four-cornered schema proposes two diagonally intersecting axes: one represents an unconscious/symbolic axis, the other the imaginary axis. Here the subject is drawn over all four corners of this schema; s/he is simultaneously caught in the working of the symbolic and imaginary axes. The unconscious/symbolic axis has at one end of the pole the grammatical “I”; at the opposite end, the Other, the sphere of the unconscious structured like a language. The second axis, the imaginary axis, has at one end the imaginary construction of the self (moi); the opposite end that of the other, the entity through whom the self establishes itself as a coherent (be it illusory), whole being. Lacan’s more dynamic models of Schema L appear as the “graphs of desire” and Schema R (1977; see also Milovanovic’s expose, 1992a; on Schema R, see Milovanovic, 1994a).

The modernist’s view of the subject often centers on the idea that desire emerges from “lack,” and is predicated on the need for keeping desire in check its free-flowing expression being said to be inherently subversive or disruptive in ongoing social activity.

The postmodernists add that the desiring subject is imprisoned within restrictive discourses; at one extreme in discourses of the master, where subjects enact key master signifiers producing and reproducing the dominant order; at the other, in the discourses of the hysteric, where despairing subjects find no adequate signifiers with which to embody their desire (Lacan, 1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). Oppressive discursive structures interpellate subjects as supports of system needs (Althusser, 1971; see also Silverman’s analysis of the manipulative media effects, 1983). In either case hegemony is easily sustained.

Postmodernists offer both a more passive and a more active form of disruptions. In the more passive form, we have the notion of disruptive voices, such as in the notion of dilire, a disruptive language of the body (Lecercle, 1985, 1990); or in minor literatureand the rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986, 1987); or in the notion of noise or the parasite (Serres, 1982a: 65-70; Hayles, 1990: 197-208); or in the nonlinear discursive disruptions of the enthymeme that intrudes on any linear discursive constructions (Knoespel, 1985); or, finally, in Lacan’s notion of an alternative form of jouissance, a jouissance of the body, a view that initiated much debate over the desirability of an jcriture fjminine(Lacan, 1985: 145). In the more active form, postmodernists offer a dialogically based pedagogy whereby the cultural revolutionary or revolutionary subject enters a dialogical encounter with the oppressed in coproducing key master signifiers and replacement discourses that more accurately reflect the given repressive order (see Lacan’s discourse of the analyst in combination with the discourse of the hysteric, Milovanovic, 1993a; see also Freire, 1985; McLaren 1994a; Aronowitz and Giroux, 1985).

For postmodernists, desire can “be conceived as a forward movement, a flight towards an object which always eludes our grasp, the attempt, never successful but never frustrating, to reach the unattainable by exploring the paths of the possible” (Lecercle, 1985: 196). Here desire, contrary to merely responding to lack and being a negative, conservative force, is seen as equated with positive processes (Dews, 1987: 132, 135-6), a will to power, defined as “the principle of the synthesis of forces” (Deleuze, 1983: 50). Nietzsche, not Hegel, is the key figure. Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizomebrings out the nonlinear paths taken by desire seeking expression at each level of semiotic production (Milovanovic, 1992a: 125-33).

For postmodernists, desire is liberating, joyous, ironic, playful, and a positive force. Ultimately, the “hero” (or Nietzsche’s overman as opposed to the common man [woman]), must avow her/his desire and act in conformity with it (Lacan, 1992: 309, 319-21; Lacan, 1977: 275; Lee, 1990: 95-9, 168-70; Rajchman, 1991: 42-3). 4. Discourse

Key Concepts:

Modernist: instrumental; uniaccentual; global; neutral; dominant; master/university discourse; primacy to paradigm/syntagm; major literature; readerly text; production/reproduction; referential signifier and text; privileging of master signifiers and “natural” categories; privileging noun forms.

Postmodernist: multiaccentual; fractal signifiers; regime of signs; discourse of the hysteric/analyst; linguistic coordinate systems; discursive formations; borromean knots; capitonnage; symptoms; objet petit (a); primacy to the semiotic axes metaphor/metonymy, condensation/displacement; minor literature; writerly text; nonreferential text; hyperreal; cyberspace; verb forms. Commentary: a. Modernist Thought. The Modernist paradigm assumes that discourse is neutral; it is but an instrument for use to express rationally developed projects of an inherently centered subject. In fact, some transcendental signifiers exist at the center of social structure and phenomena that are discoverable. Assumed, most often, is an ongoing dominant discourse that is seen as adequate for providing the medium for expression, whether for dominant or subordinate groups.

The couplet, the signifier (the word), and the signified (that which it expresses) are said to stabilize and crystallize in conventional understandings (uniaccentuality). Signifiers are more often said to be referential: they point to something outside themselves, to some “concrete” reality (naturalism). Modernists are more likely to assume these natural categories rather than treating them as semiotically variable concepts (the Sapir-Whorf linguistic relativity principle anticipated many of the insights of postmodernist analysis). Modernist discourse celebrates the noun rather than the verb forms (Bohm, 1980). It is much more likely to make use of master signifiers such as prediction, falsification, replication, generalization, operationalization, objectivity, value freedom, etc.; these are “givens” in investigations (Young, 1994).

Modernists are more likely to focus on the most conscious level of semiotic production. Consciously constructed discourses are coordinated by two axes: the paradigmatic axis, which is a vertical structure, if you will, that provides word choices, a dictionary of sorts. The horizontal axis, the syntagmatic axis, stands for the grammatical and linear placement of signifiers. The two axes work together to produce meaning. Debates that do question the nature of dominant discourses often are centered on the differences between an oppressive master discourse versus an ostensibly liberating discourse of the university (on the nature of the four main discourses master, university, hysteric, and analyst, see Lacan, 1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a). The evolution of history, for the modernist thinker, is often seen as the progressive victory of the discourse of the university over the discourse of the master. Discursive production, in modernist thought, is much more likely to produce the readerly text (Barthes, 1974; Silverman, 1982) and major literature (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986). This text is a linear reading (or viewing) with the organizing principle of noncontradiction. Its goal is closure. Its effect is the production and reproduction of conventionality. Interpreters and viewers are encouraged to assume conventional discursive subject-positions and fill in the gaps by use of dominant symbolic forms. b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought does not assume a neutral discourse. There are many discourses reflective of local sites of production, each, in turn, existing with a potential for the embodiment of desire in signifiers and for the constructions of realities. The sign, composed of signifier and signified, finds its natural state as being in flux. The signified is multiaccentual, the site of diverse struggles (Volosinov, 1986). The paradigm-syntagm semiotic axis is only the most manifest level of semiotic production, the most conscious. Two other levels have been identified and work at the unconscious level: the condensation-displacement semiotic axis, and the metaphoric-metonymic semiotic axis (Milovanovic, 1992b, 1993b).

Desire, it is argued, begins at a deeper level of the psychic apparatus and undergoes embodiment for Freud, “figuration”; for Lacan, essentially “fantasy,” $ a by the contributory work (“overdetermination”) of these two axes they are the coordinating mechanisms which provide temporary anchorings to the floating signifiers found in the Other, the sphere of the unconscious , finally reaching the level of a particular historically rooted and stabilized discourse or linguistic coordinate system. It is here where final embodiment must be completed in the paradigm-syntagm semiotic axis (i.e., a particular word or utterance is vocalized). It was Freud who began this analysis with his investigation of dream work as the “royal road to the unconscious.” It was Lacan who added the metaphoric-metonymic semiotic axis. Much of the investigation of the effects of language by modernists is focused merely on the surface structure of paradigm-syntagm (in law, for example, see Greimas, 1990; Jackson, 1988; Landowski, 1991). Postmodernists identify the violence of language (Lecercle, 1985, 1990). Linguistic repression and alienation are the results of historically situated hegemonic discourses (see also the notion of the regime of signs of Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, and their notion of minor versus major literature 1986; see also Foucault’s notion of discursive formations and the epistemes 1973; Milovanovic’s notion of linguistic coordinate systems 1992a, 1992b; Pecheux’s notion of discursive formations, 1982).

Critically, as we have previously said (1992a), Lacan has offered four intersubjectively structured discourses (1991a; Bracher, 1988, 1993; Milovanovic, 1993a; Arrigo, 1993a, 1993b). Desire, it is argued, has various forms of embodiment in these structured discourses. Different discourses may, on the one hand, be manipulative and repressive in the expression of desire; and, on the other, offer greater possibilities of expression to these same desires.

Postmodernists would celebrate the writerly text (Barthes, 1974; Silverman, 1982). This text is seen as being more subversive than a readerly text. Encouraged in the viewer/interpreter is “an infinite play of signification; in it there can be no transcendental signified, only provisional ones which function in turn as signifiers” (Silverman, 1982: 246). For the writerly form, deconstruction of the text is celebrated with the purpose of uncovering hidden or repressed voices (consider feminist’s celebration of investigating “her/story” rather than history). This strategy, the postmodernists would say, is particularly important in a contemporary society characterized as producing the nonreferential and autonomous hyperreal (Baudrillard, 1981), and the new order of cyberspace (Gibson, 1984).

Similarly, Deleuze and Guattari (1986) have offered the idea of minor literature,which tends toward a deterritorialization, manifest in the carnivalesque genre or other forms expressive of dilire (Lecercle, 1985), such as in the writings of E.E.Cummings, Franz Kafka, and James Joyce. In this spirit, David Bohm (1980) has advocated the privileging and the further development of the verb over the noun form; this would allow us to transcend the limiting metaphysics and metanarratives embedded in subject-verbobject discursive forms (consider, too, Benjamin Whorf’s investigations of the Hopi language, 1956).

5. Knowledge

Key Concepts:

Modernist: global; dominant; discourse of the master and university; grand narrative; totalizing; binary (as in law); logos; education as liberating; Truth; privileging scientific knowledge; absolute postulates; axiomizability; deductive logic; banking education; closure.

Postmodernist: local; repressed voices; constitutive processes; metanarratives; power/knowledge; fragmented; contingent and provisional truths; Pathos; discourse of hysteric and analyst; knowledge for sale; education as ideology and functional; narrative knowledge; noise, the parasite; enthymemes; the rhizome; dilire; incompleteness; undecidability; dialogic pedagogy; abduction.


a. Modernist Thought. Enlightenment thought tended toward a totalizing Truth centered on an ostensibly discoverable logos. Driven by formal rational methods, one inevitably dominant and globalizing thought would result. Lyotard, for example, has explained how scientific knowledge has usurped narrative knowledge (1984; see also Sarup, 1989: 120-1; Hayles, 1990: 209-10; see also Habermas’ point concerning the establishment of new steering mechanisms based on power and money that fuel purposive rational action, 1987). Narrative knowledge, on the other hand, is based on myth, legend, tales, stories, etc., which provided the wherewithal of being in society (see also Habermas’ idea of communicative or symbolic communication, 1987). Whereas scientific knowledge tends toward closure, narrative knowledge embraces imaginary free play.

Lacan has provided the mechanism for the production of knowledge and the reconstitution of Truths in his analysis of the discourses of the master and university. For the former, knowledge and ideology are embedded in dominant discourse. Since this discourse is the one which is seen as relevant and since subjects must situate themselves within it, they too are subject to its interpellative effects (Althusser, 1971; Milovanovic, 1988a). Thus conventional knowledge is more likely to be reconstituted by way of the readerly text, major literature, or the discourse of the master and university. The search for Truth by the modernists was inevitably guided by the ideal of establishing Absolute Postulates from which all other “facts” can be explained by linear, deductive logic. Efficiency and competency in the educative process are geared toward a banking education whereby conventional master signifiers or their derivatives are stored to be capitalized (Freire, 1985).

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists, on the other hand, view knowledge as always fragmented, partial, and contingent (see also, Sarup, 1989; Dews, 1987; Lyotard, 1984). It always has multiple sites of production (Geertz, 1983). It is derived from a dialogic pedagogy where novel signifiers are coproduced in the process of critique and the development of a language of possibility (Freire, 1985). It is more likely to reflect Pathos, human suffering, than Logos. Since there are many truths and no over-encompassing Truth is possible (following Godel’s undecidability theorem, 1962), knowledge defies closure or being stored passively as in a banking education. In fact, following chaos’ idea of iteration, the unpredictable and unanticipated are likely to continuously appear.

Postmodernists celebrate local knowledge. Dominant and global knowledge always subverts voices that otherwise seek expression, either directly or indirectly; by the demand that all desire must be embodied within dominant concepts, signifiers, and linguistic coordinate systems, or by way of translation (intertextuality) from their more unique concrete form into abstract categories of law and bureaucracy. Postmodernists, however, view local knowledge(s) as not necessarily subsumable under one grand narrative or logic (Godel’s theorem).

Postmodernists view subjects within a social formation as thwarted in their attempts to be true to their desires. Even so, “space” does exist for possible articulation of desire. The destabilizing effects of noise, the parasite, the work of the rhizome, minor literatures, the nonlinear disruptions of enthymemes, and the subversive writerly text always threaten dominant forms of knowledge. Denied subjects may be oppositional, as in the discourse of the hysteric; or revolutionary, as in the discourse of the analyst/hysteric (Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). For postmodernists, knowledge is always both relational and positional (Kerruish, 1991). Accordingly, standpoints are always situated in social relations and within ideologies (p. 187). Power and knowledge are intricately connected and hierarchically arranged (see Dew’s useful discussion of Foucault, Nietzsche, Lyotard, 1987). To enter a discursive formation (legal, medical, scientific, political, etc.) is to enter the logic and rationality embedded within it (Foucault, 1973; Pitkin, 1971); thus, truth is discoursespecific.

Feminist postmodernist analysis has been poignant as to the explanation of the construction of the phallic Symbolic order, gender roles, and possible alternative knowledges (see especially Cornell, 1991, 1993; Brennan, 1993). Investigations on the contribution of the imaginary sphere and its possible impact on reconstructing myths have been illuminating (Arrigo, 1993b, 1993c). Constitutive theory has also offered the notion of replacement discourses (Henry and Milovanovic, 1991; Milovanovic, 1993a, 1993b). This new knowledge is based on contingent and provisional truths, subject to further reflection and historicity.

The notion of abduction offered by Charles S. Peirce is more accurately reflective of the postmodernist epistemology than deductive logic. Here, Absolute Postulates or major premises never achieve stability; rather, creative free play guides the formulation of tentative propositions. As Nancy Fraser and Linda Nicholson have said, postmodernist critique:

floats free of any universalist theoretical ground. No longer anchored philosophically, the very shape or character of social criticism changes; it becomes more pragmatic, ad hoc, contextual, and local…[t]here are no special tribunals set apart from the sites where inquiry is practiced, [but only] … the plural, local, and immanent (cited in Bartlett and Kennedy, 1991b: 388).

6. Space/Time

Key Concepts:

Modernist: three-dimensional space; integral; homogeneous; striated space; Newtonian mechanics; Euclidean geometry; Cartesian coordinates; quantitative; differential equations and continuities; reversibility of time.

Postmodernist: multidimensional; smooth; fractal; imaginary; quantum mechanics/relativity; implicate (enfolded) order; non-Euclidean geometry; holographic; topology theory; qualitative; twister space (imaginary); cyberspace; nonlinear; nonreversible time.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought rests on Newtonian mechanics. This classical view in physics rests on notions of absolute space and time. This in turn is connected with the existence of determinism within systems: if we know the positions, masses, and velocities of a particle at one time we can accurately determine their positions and velocities at all later times (Bohm, 1980: 121). Newtonian physics and Euclidean geometry, with its use of Cartesian coordinates, is the map or blueprint of space on which modernists construct the social world. It is what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as striated space (1987: 488): it consists of space with whole-number dimensions where constant direction can be describable and end-states predictable. Drawing from Descartes’ coordinate grid of an x-axis perpendicularly intersecting with a y-axis, a point could be located anywhere in two-dimensional space (similarly with 3-D space, with an added z-axis). Thus the equation, y = 3x, can be identified on this graph. At one stroke geometry and algebra are linked. And Newton refined this further with his calculus with its differential equations. Now a continuous change in one variable can be shown to produce a calculable change in the other. And just as time flows forward, it can flow backward in a predictable way: the romantic past, the “good old days,” can be re-created.

This model has been incorporated in the social sciences. A person’s life course, for example, could be plotted with precision if we could discover appropriate determinants. This is the basis of positivism. It is by a striated space (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987) that science progresses and by which desire can be territorialized on the body (1986) by a political economy. But striated space needs its discrete variables with whole-number dimensions.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Quantum mechanics, non-Euclidean geometry, string theory, twister space, topology theory, and chaos theory, to name a few of the most prominent approaches, have offered alternative conceptions. The question of a dimension and prediction becomes problematic. Nuclear physicists, for example, faced with trying to reconcile general relativity theory with quantum mechanics, have come up with infinities. By adding space dimensions to their equations, these begin to drop out of the equation. At 10-D in one model and 26D in another, they disappear (Peat, 1988; Kaku, 1994). The 3-D model we see is perhaps just an explicate order with the rest of the dimensions rolled up tightly (compactified). This compactified order is the enfolded or implicate order (Bohm, 1980), said to have its origins moments after the Big Bang.

Chaos theory has developed the idea of fractal dimensions. Rather than having whole dimensions we can refer to a space with 1= dimensions, 1 , etc. (A point has a dimension of zero, a line a dimension of one; a plane, two; a volume, three.) A coastline, for example, can have a fractal dimension between one and two. So, for example, contrary to the Boolean logic of doctrinal legal analysis, truths are always fractal in form. Deleuze and Guattari have developed the idea of a smooth space, which is continuous, not discrete. The notion of fractals is in accord with smooth space (1987), and, as we shall show below, fields. It is within smooth space that becoming occurs; but progress and conventional science is done in striated space (p. 486; see also Bergson, 1958; Serres, 1982a, 1982b).

Yet others, such as the noted mathematician Penrose, have constructed a view of space in terms of imaginary numbers, a twister space (Peat, 1988: Chapter 8; Penrose, 1989: 87-98). Chaos theorists, such as Mandelbrot, made use of complex numbers in the form of z = x + iy, where i is an imaginary number (the square root of -1). By further plotting z = z 2 + c and by taking the result and reiterating by the use of the same formula, they were to find enormously complex and esthetically appealing figures (see Penrose, 1989: 92-4). Yet others have relied on the hologram to indicate how inscriptions of phenomena are encoded and how they can be revealed with their multidimensional splendor (Bohm, 1980: 150; Pribram, 1977). Finally, we note the field of topology, the qualitative math which offers alternative ways of conceptualizing phenomena without the use of math. Here, in what is often called the “rubber math,” figures are twisted, pulled, and reshaped in various ways. Breaking and gluing are not legitimate operations. Breaking produces entirely new forms. Much current thinking in nuclear- and astrophysics relies on topology theory (Peat, 1988; Kaku, 1994).

Lacan has made use of topology to explain such things as the structure of the psychic apparatus by using borromean knots, Mobius bands, the torus, and projective geometry (the cross-cap) (see also Milovanovic, 1993b, 1994c; Granon-Lafont, 1985, 1990; Vappereau, 1988; for an introduction to topology theory, see Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen, 1952; Weeks, 1985; for non-Euclidean geometry, see Russell, 1956). In fact, in 4-D space the borromean knot of Lacan is no longer knotted. The cross-cap, which topologically portrays the working of schema R and how desire is embodied as a result of the effects of the Symbolic, Imaginary, and Real Orders, can also be presented in 3-D or 4-D space (Milovanovic, 1994c; Hilbert and Cohn-Vossen, 1952). It is not without effect when we move from 3-D to 4-D space (Rucker, 1984; Banchoff, 1990; for the contributions of nonEuclidean geometry and 4-D space on cubism in art, see Henderson, 1983). Much needs to be done in the analysis of the effects of these novel conceptions. Thus, for the postmodernists, several notions of space are currently being explored and incorporated in their analysis of the subject, discourse, causality, and society: multiple dimensional (Peat, 1988), fractal (Mandelbrot, 1983), holographic (Talbot, 1991; Bohm, 1980: Pribram, 1977), enfolded/implicate order (Bohm, 1980; Bohm and Peat, 1987), cyberspace (Gibson, 1984), hyperreal (Baudrillard, 1981), smooth space (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987), twister space (Penrose, 1989; see also Peat, 1988), and topological (Lacan, 1976, 1987a; Peat, 1988; Granon-Lafont, 1985, 1990; Vappereau, 1988; Milovanovic, 1993b, 1994c; Lem, 1984). T.R. Young has been succinct in indicating the relevance of these notions in that an alternative space is open for the development of conceptions of “human agency in ways not possible in those dynamics privileged by Newtonian physics, Aristotelian logic, Euclidean geometry and the linear causality they presume” (1992: 447). And there can be no return to the nostalgic “good old days”: time is irreversible; since initial conditions are undecidable, then, with the passage of time and iteration, there can be no return to some decidable state.

7. Causality

Key Concepts:

Modernist: linear; proportional effects; positivism; determinism; classical physics; I. Newton; “God does not play dice”; certainty; grand theorizing; predictability; future fixed by past; particle effects.

Postmodernist: nonlinear; disproportional effects; genealogy; rhizome; chance; contingency; quantum mechanics; uncertainty; iteration; catastrophe theory; paradoxical; discontinuities; singularities; field effects.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought rests on the determinism of Newtonian physics. It appears most often in the form of positivism. Modernist thought would assume that given some incremental increase in some identified cause or determinant, a proportional and linear increase in the effect will result. The basic unit of analysis is particles (i.e., assumed autonomous individuals, social “elements,” and discrete categories) and their contributory effects. The use of cartesian coordinates, whole-number dimensions, calculus, etc., in a few words, striated space, is what makes possible a highly predictive mathematics. Even Einstein refused to accept much of quantum mechanics that came after him, particularly the notion that God plays dice.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernists see things differently. Chaos theory, Godel’s theorem, and quantum mechanics stipulate that proportional effects do not necessarily follow some incremental increase of an input variable. Uncertainty, indeterminacy, and disproportional (nonlinear) effects are all underlying assumptions and worthy of inquiry in explaining an event (genealogy). In the extreme, a butterfly flapping its wings in East Asia produces a hurricane in Warren, Ohio. Key thinkers here are Edward Lorenz, Benoit Mandelbrot, and Stephen Smale (see the excellent overview by Gleick, 1987; Briggs and Peat, 1989). In fact, in the extreme, something can emerge out of nothing at points identified as singularities; this is the sphere of order arising out of disorder.

Two current approaches within chaos theory are making their impact: one, focused more on order that exists in an otherwise apparently disorderly state of affairs (Hayles, 1991: 12; see Feigenbaum, 1980; Shaw, 1981); the second, focused more on how, in fact, order arises out of chaotic systems order out of disorder or self-organization (Hayles, 1991: 12; 1990: 1-28; see also Prigogine and Stengers, 1984; Thom, 1975). A growing number of applications is taking place. See particularly Unger’s application in his prescription for an empowered democracy (1987).

The notion of iteration is a central concept of postmodernism. Simply, it means recomputing with answers obtained from some formula. Continuous feedback and iteration produces disproportional (not linear) effects. Derrida has applied it to how words obtain new meaning in new contexts (1976; see also Balkan, 1987); in law, for example, the “original intent” of the “founding fathers” undergoes modification over time and can not be reconstructed. The point being made is that because of minute initial uncertainties however small, consider Godel’s theorem , when iteration proceeds these are amplified, producing indeterminacies (Hayles, 1990: 183; Lyotard, 1984: 55). Thus, rather than celebrating global theory, chaos theorists and postmodernists look to local knowledges, where small changes can produce large effects (Hayles, 1990: 211). In other words, postmodernists see otherwise small contributions as having profound possibilities. Yes, one “small” person’s actions can make a difference! One person’s involvement in a demonstration, petition signature, act of civil disobedience, or “speaking up,” can, in the long run, have greater effects than anticipated. Causation can be attributed to field rather than particle effects (Bohm, 1980; Bohm and Peat, 1987). Borrowing from Bohm’s insights concerning the quantum potential and the enfolded order where all is interconnected, rather than focusing, as the modernists do, on particles, points and point events, all of which are narrowly spatiotemporally defined (analogously, consider the subject in traditional positivistic sciences: an object, located socioeconomically, who has engaged in some act at a particular time and place), the unit of analysis, for postmodernists, should be a field with its moments, duration, intensities, flows, displacements of libidinal energy. Moments, unlike point events, have fluctuating time-space coordinates that defy precise measurement (Bohm, 1980: 207). Within this field, heterogeneous intensities can affect movement, even if they are not immediately discernible or linear and/or local. Nonlinear and nonlocal factors, therefore, even at a distance, can have a noticeable effect (Bohm and Peat, 1987: 88-93, 182-3). Research awaits in drawing out the implications of moving from 3-D to 4-D space, i.e., what is knotted in the former becomes unknotted in the latter (Rucker, 1984; Kaku, 1994; consider Lacan’s borromean knot in 4-D space, as discussed in Milovanovic, 1993b).

In the postmodern view, certainties that do appear are often the creation of subjects: Nietzsche has shown, for example, how a subject in need of “horizons” finds semiotic fictions that produce the appearance of a centered subject; Peirce, anticipating chaos, has shown how free will is often created after the event as the “facts” are rearranged to fit a deterministic model and individual authorship (1923: 47); legal realists, in the early part of this century, have shown that what creates order in legal decision-making is not syllogistic reasoning and a formally rational legal systems, but ex post facto constructions; and so forth. For postmodernists, especially Nietzsche and Foucault, it is the “fear of the chaotic and the unclassifiable” (Dews, 1987: 186) that accounts for the order we attribute to nature.

8. Social Change

Key Concepts:

Modernist: evolutionary; Darwinian; rationalization; linear; Absolute Spirit; dialectical materialism; praxis; Hegel; reaction and negation; reversal of hierarchies; reduction of complexity; stable premises for action; history as progress; variation, selection, and transmission; oppositional subject; discourse of the hysteric.

Postmodernist: genealogy; transpraxis; standpoint epistemology(ies); Pure Play/musement; rhizome; disidentification; play of the imaginary; dialectics of struggle; affirmative action; deconstruction and reconstruction; proliferation of complexity; premises of action based on tolerability; overcoming panopticism; d_pens_, mimeses; multiplicities of resistance to power; assuming one’s desire; dialogism; conscientization, language of possibility; revolutionary subject; discourse of the hysteric/analyst.


a. Modernist Thought. Modernist thought often sees change in terms of evolutionary theory, in various versions of Darwinian dynamics, particularly in terms of some “invisible hand” at work, or some working out of a logic, as in the Absolute Spirit of Hegel, or in forces of rationalization as in Weber, or in dialectical materialism as in Marx. What often underlies these approaches is some linear conception of historical change. Perhaps praxis is the upper limit of modernist thought. In the most liberal modernist view, Hegel’s master-slave dialectic is a key parable of change. It is premised on reaction-negation dynamics. The slave (the oppressed) only creates value by a double negation. Nothing new is offered. The limits of an alternative vision remain tied to the initial logic of the major premise of the master-slave dialectic that falls on the side of the master. At best we have the oppositional subject who finds her/himself in the discourse of the hysteric, sometimes slipping into nihilistic and fatalist stances in neither case offering anything new; at worst, a subject that inadvertently recreates the dominant repressive order (hegemony). Modernist thought that often takes the form of evolutionary theory of change attempts to account for three phenomena: variation, selection, and transmission (Sinclair, 1992: 95; Luhmann, 1985: 249; see also Sinclair’s critique of evolutionary theory of law, 1987). Luhmann’s analysis is instructive. He tells us that the continuous differentiation of society tends to produce an excess of possibilities (1985: 237; see also Manning’s application to police bureaucracies and how diverse voices are channeled into “relevant” categories, 1988). Given this creation of excesses, law, Luhmann claims, functions to reduce complexity so that subjects may plan within certain discernible horizons which, in turn, produce predictability in social planning. Social change is therefore a linear affair with continuous adjustments of social institutions to continuous processes of differentiation.

b. Postmodernist Thought. Postmodernist thought focuses more on nonlinear conceptions of historical change, genealogical analysis, and transpraxis, a materialistically based politics that includes a language of critique and possibility (Freire, 1985; McLaren, 1994a; Aronowitz and Giroux, 1985). Postmodernists are in general agreement that, in studying historical change, much room must be made for the contributions of contingency, irony, the spontaneous, and the marginal. Nietzsche, once again, is the dominant thinker (1980; see also Love, 1986; Deleuze, 1983).

Nietzsche’s version of the master-slave dialectic is key for postmodernists. Here, rather than reaction-negation dynamics as in Hegel, an inherently conservative approach, Nietzsche’s position advocates active change. This includes deconstruction and reconstruction as inseparable elements. This has been captured by the idea of a transpraxis rather than a praxis (Henry and Milovanovic, 1991, 1993b; Milovanovic, 1993b).

Most prominent in recent days are feminist postmodernist theorists who have built on various versions of Lacanian psychoanalytic semiotics as well as those who have developed a standpoint theory aided especially by numerous productive critiques. Accordingly, Cornell has identified the contributions of the imaginary and the rethinking of the myth (1991, 1993; Cixous, 1986; Arrigo, 1993a); Cornell (1991: 147) and Grant (1993: 116) have noted that given ideologies “leave some critical space” or “slippage” (in this context Peirce’s notion of musement or pure play is also relevant [1934: 313-16]); Kristeva has focused on the idea that semiotic processes that are situated in the form of the readerly text of Barthes are faced with semiotic overflow at privileged moments specified as the subversive triad: “madness, holiness and poetry” (cited in Grosz, 1990: 153); Pecheux has focused on the notion of dis-identification (1982); Irigaray on mimeses(1985; see also Cornell’s commentary, 1991: 147-50); Lacan on the discourse of the analyst (1991a; see also Bracher, 1993); Milovanovic on the revolutionary subject (composite of the hysteric and analyst, 1993a) and on knot-breaking (1993b). Some current trends in postmodernist analysis draw out the implications for social change from Freire (1985), whose work lies between modernist and postmodernist analysis. The wherewithal of the revolutionary subject and social change may be fruitfully situated in the integration of Lacan’s work on the discourse of the hysteric/analyst with Freire’s notion of conscientization rooted in social struggles over signification. In this integration, structure and subjectivity, material conditions and ideology, the macro and the microsociological, critique and visions for change, undecidability and decidability, can be reconciled. The signifier can be rooted in the concrete, historical arena of struggles; it can attain provisional decidability and a contingent universality in producing utopian visions of what could be, and contribute, by way of a dialogic pedagogy, to the subject-in-process (generally, see, McLaren, 1994a; Ebert, 1991a; Zavarzadeh and Morton, 1990; Butler, 1992).

Postmodernists, too, are concerned with the possible negative and unintended effects of struggles against oppression and hierarchy. Reaction-negation dynamics may at times lead to what Nietzsche referred to as ressentiment as well as to new master discourses, forms of political correctness, exorcism (Milovanovic, 1991b), and dogma. Transpraxis, however, has as a central element the privileging of reflexivity of thought and the specification of contingent and provisional foundational political positions for social change (i.e., contingent universalities can become the basis for political alliances and agendas for change, McLaren, 1994a).

Among ethical principles that may come into play, for the postmodernists, perhaps Lacan’s idea of “assuming one’s desire” will become a key one. Faced with the passivity of the common man (woman), Lacan advocates that the hero is the one who does not betray her/his desire; meaning, s/he will act in conformity with it and not embrace the offerings of manipulative powers that offer an abundance of substitute materials, or what Lacan referred to as objets petit(a) (Lacan, 1992: 309, 319-21; Lacan, 1977: 275; Lee, 1990: 95-9, 168-70; Rajchman, 1991: 42-3). Here, the productive use of desire is advocated, not one based on lack, tension-reduction, and stasis. Thus a sociopolitical system that maximizes the opportunities for avowing one’s desire is a good one; conversely, hierarchical systems, whether under the name of capitalism or socialism, that systematically disavow subjects’ desire, are bad ones. Elsewhere, a postmodernist definition of crime/harm has been offered based on harm inflicted (Henry and Milovanovic, 1993a).

Postmodernists faced with the question of variation, selection, and transmission, opt for the development of the greatest variation, the most expansive form of retaining local sites of production, and the most optimal mechanisms for transmission. Accordingly, faced with an increasingly differentiating society with “excesses in possibilities,” and the modernist’s call for ways of reducing complexity the most extreme form being in pastiche (Jameson, 1984; Sarup, 1989: 133, 145), an imitation of dead styles as models for action , the central challenge of the postmodernist alternative is to create new cultural styles that privilege chance, spontaneity, irony, intensity, etc., while still providing some dissipative horizons within which the subject may situate her/himself.


This essay has presented some of the salient differences between modernist and postmodernist thought. Contrary to modernist critics, a new paradigm is upon us. And it is neither fatalistic nor nihilistic; nor is it without visions of what could be. We were especially concerned with the possibilities of a new transpraxis and the development of replacement discourses. It might be argued that the postmodernist paradigm may take on the form of a normal science and tend toward closure. But, unlike the modernist enterprise, there are intrinsic forces that militate against closure and stasis.


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