A Post-Modernist critique of Post-Modernism

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One may argue that in the analysis of individual or collective experience and behavior, there has been a marked shift in how an analyst might view the situational context. For fields such as economics and history which have long been accepted as areas that did not constitute the entirety of human experience since the origin of civilizations and were not seen as universal features of all social existence there have been attempts to map out the origins of said disciplines and as a result, specify their nature and alleged limits. A slight reliance on historicity allows for the imposition of specific perspectives that color the lens of analysis in a manner that allows for the construction of “concepts.”

In order to make sense of the world one is required to impose meaning upon the phenomena within it, the process of imposing meaning influenced by situational context upon observable phenomena is essentially how the creation of concepts or conceptualization works. 

Multiple disciplines in the recent past have found themselves having their core ideas and concepts reworked as a result of the rise of different lenses of analysis. The impact of post-modernism, feminism, and post-colonialism on ideas and beliefs within these disciplines is one that cannot be ignored.

For example, the impact of feminist theory on peace research and on our conceptualizations of peace has not only greatly changed understandings of peace through the introduction of an entirely new variable but has also triggered an effective evolution of concepts within the field of Peace Studies itself. 

The impact of post-colonialism on the field of economics has led to similar developments.

However, one must keep in mind that the evolution of thought in a specific field does not necessarily imply the negation of pre-existing concepts. One must as W.B. Gallie suggested, view the existence of concepts themselves as “contested.” 

When one views the idea of a conceptual reality as contested one is more open to allowing for the evolution of thought systems.

Political theory falls short in this sphere unlike economics, history, or even art for that matter.

While different lenses of analysis exist, the results of said analysis stand as separate pillars of different perspectives of political theory rather than a collectivized evolution in dominant discourse. 

This lack of collective discourse is exactly why it can be inferred that the imposition of perspectives in the analysis of political theory has largely been an exercise in futility as it led to the birth of post-modernism.

While one may claim that the existence of multiple strands of thought implies the accommodative nature of political theory, this creation of epistemological relativity (largely a post-modernist construction) wrongly leads to the assumption that the idea of objective truth is largely non-existent. 

However through a base analysis of reality, one may understand that the idea of objective truth does exist, just not in the sense that the post-modernists believe it does in their criticism of objective truths.

While the analysis of phenomena through the lenses of contextual and situational perspective results in the creation of often differing and wildly separate theories explaining the same situation, there must be an attempt to categorize these ideas by order of empirical verifiability. Political theory (especially the post-modernist kind) fails to do this. 

A brick is a brick but a brick is also a phone. Both these ideas are validated through the negation of the idea of an objective reality but by analyzing the empirical verifiability of these statements one of the statements is wholly true while the other is wholly false. 

In order to verify said statements however in a manner that isn’t marred by post-modernism one must revert to the Hegelian ideas of dialectics.

The final statement is a result of the first two opposing statements (a brick is a brick, a brick is a phone, and the brick cannot be used to make calls hence it is a phone). While the example is greatly simplistic in nature it serves as a base for us to understand the fact that objective realities do exist and it takes the application of a subjective perspective in order to validate said objective reality.

The idea of the ‘subjective’ must not trump the idea of the ‘verifiable’. This is one of the greatest problems in political theory itself.

The existence of perspectives in conceptualization results in the validation of differing perspectives that can often be empirically quantified through a synthesis of them. 

However, this proposal itself is somewhat flawed due to two reasons

  1. The criticism of the existence of differing perspectives in political theory as they attempt to impose an idea of objectivism in their explanation of situational developments is post-modernist in itself. The only line of discourse that can criticize post-modernism is post-modernism. Furthermore, the criticism that the existence of multiple strands of thought results in the creation of a broken reality that is unverifiable relies on empiricism more than it should. Empirical evidence does not necessarily imply realistic evidence.
  2. By attempting to quantify or empirically verify the existence of realities and then categorize them according to their verifiability, this proposal forcefully takes upon itself an incredibly teleological understanding of occurrences that shape perspectives that in turn influence political theory. By attempting to classify perspectives based on their end result as opposed to the circumstances that influence them, there is a failure to account for the situational and circumstantial context resulting in a very one-dimensional view of concepts.

This one-dimensional view results in a flawed understanding of political behavior that is meant to be explained by political theory.

Thus in conclusion, one cannot accurately say whether the fact that political theory allows for the existence of multiple perspectives to explain political situations is wholly wrong or wholly right without arriving at several criticisms of both lines of discourse.

Therefore, in an attempt to criticize post-modernism, one ends up realizing that they in fact have become post-modernists themselves.


1. RATHORE, L. S. (1976). THE NATURE OF POLITICAL THEORY. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 37(2), 40–58. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41854729

2. Seth, S. (2001). A Critique of Disciplinary Reason: The Limits of Political Theory. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 26(1), 73–92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40645004

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