Archive for the 'postmodernism' Category

The Falsehood of Multiple Modernities

"On White" by Wassily Kandinsky

Critiquing the concept of alternate modernities and its consequences toward understanding universalist theories, Žižek explains:

The significance of this critique reaches far beyond the case of modernity–it concerns the fundamental limitation of nominalist historicizing.  The recourse to multiplication (“there is not one modernity with a fixed essence, there are multiple modernities, each of them irreducible to others…”) is false not because it does not recognize a unique fixed “essence” of modernity, but because multiplication functions as the disavowal of the antagonism that inheres to the notion of modernity as such: the falsity of multiplication resides in the fact that it frees the universal notion of modernity of its antagonism, of the way it is embedded in the capitalist system, by relegating this aspect to just one of the historical subspecieis…

Jameson’s critique of the notion of alternate modernities thus provides a model of the properly dialectic relationship between the Universal and the Particular: the difference is not on the side of particular content (as the traditional differentia specifica), but on the side of the Universal.  The Universal is not the encompassing container of the particular content, the peaceful medium-background of the conflict of particularities…In other words, the Universal names the site of a Problem-Deadlock, of a burning Question, and the Particulars are the attempted but failed Answers to this Problem (34-35).


Žižek, Slavoj.  2009.  The Parallax View.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Badiou on the Master-Signifier

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Žižek (left) converses with Badiou.

Slavoj Žižek, in his book Violence, writes about Badiou’s views of the Master-Signifier and postmodernism:

Alain Badiou develops the notion of “atonal” worlds-monde atone-which lack the intervention of a Master-Signifier to impose meaningful order onto the confused multiplicity of reality…

A basic feature of our postmodern world is that it tries to dispense with this agency of the ordering Master-Signifier: the complexity of the world needs to be asserted unconditionally.  Every Master-Signifier meant to impose some order on it must be deconstructed, dispersed: “the modern apology for the ‘complexity’ of the world…is really nothing but a generalized desire for atony.”  Badiou’s excellent example of such an “atonal” world is the politically correct vision of sexuality as promoted by gender studies with its obsessive rejection of binary logic: the world is a nuanced world of multiple sexual practices which tolerates no decision, no instance of the Two, no evaluation, in the strong Nietzschean sense of the term. (Žižek, 34-35)


Žižek, Slavoj.  Violence.  New York: Picador, 2008.


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