Books

Book review: Introducing Postmodernism

Having finally read Introducing Philosophy not so long ago, and having enjoyed it, I decided to try another of the three books in this series. I had picked up all three years ago when they were available free with The Guardian and then steadfastly not read them until something made me decide that this year was the year to go back and read some of the books I’d been putting off.

 

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Introducing Postmodernism

 

Well, as much as I enjoyed Introducing Philosophy, Introducing Postmodernism was awful. Maybe it’s postmodernism itself that’s awful but I suspect it’s this book. To be fair, the first third of the book discusses postmodernism in art; where it came from, how it evolved, how it fit in culturally in the US, Europe and Russia (although it’s supposed to be a global movement, apparently nowhere else in the world produces art). That was fine, it was well explained and fairly interesting. Knowing a little about the history was helpful.

The rest of the book was kind of a waste of time. I kept putting it down out of irritation with the nonsense printed within. I kept checking the publication date because so many of the ideas and explanations of them seemed horribly out of date – but it was originally published in 1995 and I had been guessing more like the late 70’s. This part of the book covered postmodernism in culture, in politics, in science and so on. It contradicted itself a lot and I came away with the idea that postmodernism isn’t actually a thing.

Terms are regularly introduced without definitions too, which given that this is supposed to be an introduction seems a bit daft. It came across as being written for someone who had already studied postmodernism and wanted to congratulate themselves for being so clever that an introductory text contained things they already understood. I couldn’t help wondering if the book itself was intended to be a postmodernist work.

Then there’s the subtitle, “A graphic guide to cutting-edge thinking.” Well, ok, it’s graphic in that it has lots of illustrations and is kind of laid out like a comic book. It’s not a guide because so much of it was impenetrable, self-contradictory guff. It’s not cutting edge because postmodernism has been around since around ~1921. It’s not thinking either. I recognise thinking when I see it and this is not it.

The thing that possibly annoyed me the most, though, was that the author could not bring himself to remain impartial. He had an opinion on everything and felt his job was to share it. It isn’t. When you’re introducing a subject you shouldn’t be telling people what to think about it, you should be giving them the information necessary to make up their own minds.

It’s the worst book I’ve read this year.

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