Postmodernism is a philosophy that is not easy to define. It is associated with the tendency of the society to reject or go against objective truth and the global view of certain cultural aspects. To fully understand this broad topic, we must first understand the term modernism. Modernism as a philosophy started with Enlightenment. Enlightenment was period when science and art greatly prospered. The scientific innovations that were developed during this Enlightenment period have been used as measure of standard under which today's developments are done.
Postmodernism therefore can be seen as moving away or a step away from modernism. As opposed to modernism, postmodernism broadens the truth from that which is only observed. It can be termed as a system which encompasses all aspects. In a postmodern view, no aspect is limited to one definition; numerous explanations are given for a phenomenon(1).
Fredrick Jameson analyses postmodernism broadly to include factors such as architectural designs, popular culture and theory. His is a movement geared towards cultural studies which replace conical literary studies. Jameson makes an effort to integrate current intellectual, socio-cultural and disorientation of space to the technological efforts of moving towards capitalism and globalization. Jameson considers presently put in place arrangements critically with much emphasis to a political system that practices cognitive mapping.
Jameson comes to a few comprehensive conclusions on his analysis of postmodernism. He mentions in his first conclusion that post modernism came about as a result of reactions against the already established features relating to high modernism. High modernism was a dominant feature which was manifested in foundations, universities, art galleries and even museums. This notion means that postmodern features will have the dominant effects that were observed by high modernisms.
He also looks key factors that separate most notably the erosion of older differentiation between high and popular culture which he terms as "effacement". This of cause is in conflict with an academic point of view which has all along wished to preserve the elite culture from the environment that does not provide complex learning skills. The erosion process, he says, has contributed to the kind of writing which is simply termed as 'theory.'
Postmodernism in Jameson's use is a 'periodizing concept' whose primary role is to integrate the immergence of modern social, cultural and economic features. All these features come about as a result of multinational capitalism that started after the Second World War(2).
A common term being used on the rise nowadays due to post- modernity is consumer culture. Many theorists whose stands were seen to criticize the mass culture are no longer held in high regard. Theorists such as Adorno and Marcuse are seen to look down upon mass culture showing little sympathy to pleasures of the popular classes. Critical theorists pose many questions about consumer culture in postmodernism such as; the discrimination between cultural norms, making of aesthetic judgments and their relationship with issues such as the ideal ways of life. Studying consumer culture under postmodernism brings about questions of relevance. What would be the meaning of consumer culture under disciplines such as social science or studies about culture, for example? Many theorists defend the study of consumer culture with issues brought about by capitalism and modernization. Different specialists interpret consumer culture in regard to the environment in which they are exposed to(3).
Postmodernism can be attributed with an increase in economic activities globally which has a direct influence to the social cultural relationships of people. Economic globalization has led to a total transformation of social structures bringing in social inequalities. Social inequalities have led to a rise in movements whose major aim is to counter globalization. The mass media, internet and trade between various economies have created what is now termed as a global culture. This is in the sense that cultures of different places have been integrated by globalization. Examples of commodities that promote a global culture include coca cola and McDonald's products.
Postmodernism and consumer culture were vied negatively by many critics as cultures that robbed the general society off its ethics in the 1920's. By 1990's many people now started to look at this relation ship positively due to increased research on the subject(4).
With increased modernization, consumption is seen as a reward of increased industrialization. Modern living is characterized by an increased access to new goods, style and fashion. Postmodernism has contributed to a consumer culture which involves a construction of an active lifestyle with increased mobility.
There are various examples of consumption brought about by postmodernism. New pattern of consumption have come up due to increased production in the global market as a direct result of globalization. Most areas of the economy such as architecture, general art, and fashion industry have been transformed as a result of postmodernism(5).
The architectural sector is one area that has received much transformation following postmodernism. Postmodern architecture became a movement in the late 1970s and influences most of today's architecture. This form of architecture brings in new innovations and inventions in terms of building designs as opposed to forms seen in modern architecture. Roofing designs have been transformed from the simple even angular designs to pent roofing styles. Modernists have accused postmodern architecture as being vulgar because it goes against old cultural designs. Postmodernists reject the building rules set by modernists and bring in style and aesthetics to building. Most consumers consider modern designs boring with some even considering the unpleasant. This type of structures combine ornamentation with the contemporary design something which modernists saw as uneconomical and only based on the functionality of buildings.
Postmodern architecture aims at correcting mistakes made by the modernists and also communicates through building designs. The use of sculptural forms and additional ornamentation help enhance the meanings of certain designs. Most consumers are going for post modern designs that in a way have helped boost their production in cases of business buildings. Examples of well known buildings with postmodern architecture are; the 'Sony building' New York, Piazza d'italia, the city hall building in Mississauga, Canada, san Antonio public library, Texas, just to name but a few. Jameson also gives an example of postmodern architecture by singling out the Bonaventure hotel in Los Angels. He describes the complex and artistic design of the hotel and how it has continued to attract visitors who marvel at its design.
The fashion industry has been greatly influenced by post modernity. Demand and consumption of commodities such as clothing materials and luxury goods is driven by the new market trends. The fashion industry for instance has moved from the contemporary designs which were mostly conservative to revealing and sexy styles in regard to clothing(6).
Increased globalization has led to fashion designers ability to integrate their designs with different cultures increasing their mass appeal. The market tries to explore clothing in regard to people's identity. Clothes in the postmodern world have become a medium that transfers ones identity. There is also increased promotion of fashion via the media which is termed as fashion journalism. Many magazines and television channels have dedicated their services to scrutinizing and criticizing the fashion industry. They include vogue magazine and various fashion channels on cable television. Post modern trends are the most popular in the fashion industry and demand higher prices in the capital market. In fashion commodities are usually in high demand and cost more compared to other contemporary designs(7). Consumers who are up to speed with the latest fashion trends go o greater lengths to acquire commodities that the industry portray as being more fashionable. Celebrities are used to promote most fashion designs that lead to increased sales as their fans aim to emulate their style. Popular designers in the fashion industry include Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Christian Dior, Armani etc.
Post-modernity has brought a boom in the automobile industry. Car manufactures have moved from the contemporary car designs to more luxurious designs. Luxury vehicles demand higher prices in markets and ironically have the highest demand. Manufacturers are embracing new artistic designs when making their cars. Modern cars have more complex engines that have led to them attaining high speeds in terms of their acceleration. These vehicles have improved performance, much precision in terms of design and come with a high status tag. Luxury vehicles include the Bugatti veyron, McLaren f1, Lamborghini etc which are very expensive but in high demand.
Art has greatly been transformed since the shift from modernity to postmodernity. It has been characterized by the loss of centeredness while much emphasis is put on diversity rather than rationality. The western culture in particular is being influenced by postmodernity in terms of art. Postmodern works usually employ different styles to generate complex meaning. There are art techniques such as Juxtaposing that use contradictory styles but convey messages full of meaning. Artists use collage, from juxtaposing, which helps artists use natural means to integrate incompatible source materials. Post modern artists diversify their styles such as eclecticism that encompasses various eras of history. Postmodern artists try in play a culture which has multiple styles to their audience. It aims at factors of multi-valence with a lot of stylistic diversity.
Postmodern art fuses high and low culture while modernists used mostly forms of art they considered low. Jameson asserts that postmodernists use tools such as pastiche and discontinuity in art making their works more meaningful. Artists such as Manet and Picasso employ these features more effectively in their works. Art works such as Dada, popularized by Marcel Duchamp, are great examples that have been criticized by modernists but have had tremendous success. Today, many artists have the liberty of expressing themselves in abstract art works. Many artists emulate pioneers of abstract art such as Jackson Pollock who viewed the process of making art to be as important as the finished product. Postmodernism has revolutionized art in a great way, giving rise to performance art throughout the world in theatres. Other forms of postmodern art include Pop art, Assemblage art and Fluxus(8).
The film industry has to a greater extent promoted postmodern art into a popular culture. Films are technological artifacts which in their production generate illusions of what they are not. Film makers have a lot of freedom that allow them to make motion picture of whatever themes they have in mind which is what art is all about. Postmodernism in film making has the ability to fuse the reality with fiction.
Advertisements have also taken their fair share of postmodern ideas and features today. The industry has employed the use of images which are surrealistic when advertising various products. Research has shown that the use of surrealistic images in adverts makes them more attractive and captures the attention of the targeted groups easily. Adverts that puzzle their audience have become more popular because audiences are engaged personally when they try to figure out meanings of certain images. This factor incites buyers therefore boosting sales. Critics such as Baudrillard argue that postmodernism leads to creation of a 'hyperreality'. He defines it as generation of models that appear to be real but lack reality(9). He thinks that these advertisements boost sales through stimulation of their audience which is sometimes misleading. Other researchers think that these advertisements deny consumers a chance to think independently.
Apart from describing postmodernity as a shift from modernity, it is still very hard to precisely define postmodernity. It is without a doubt that postmodernity has had a great effect on the present consumer culture. The formal features of postmodernity express the logic behind the present social systems. The shift from modernity to postmodernity has led to loss of some social cultures that communities practiced before but has also its positive effects. The consumer culture has been greatly transformed into one with better technological innovations with a shift from designs considered conservative by modernists. Consumers have benefited in many way including major improvements in arts, architecture, automobile industry (10).
Postmodernists still look at society as a unit that is not able to function in one way for a long period but something that keeps changing with time. Postmodernity as a factor of globalization show just how much the society can be diverse and progressive.
"Consequently, to speak of postmodernity is to suggest an epochal shift or break from modernity involving the emergence of a new social totality with its own distinct organizing principles".6 Postmodernists view society as something that can no longer be explained as functioning truly in one way for all time and being. Society diversified and expanded in the way that modernity, as characteristically progressive, had wanted it to, however, society had also proliferated its constituent spheres to such a point that it could no longer be understood as unified and explainable(11). Postmodernism thus sees itself as the recognition that one may not be able to explain society 'as it is in itself'. On these views society is not locatable, not found in singularity, rather it is everywhere constantly changing, and for this reason cannot be explained by the universalizing theories advanced by modernity.