Sociology Index

Jean-François Lyotard

Jean-François Lyotard (1924 – 1998) was a philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist. His interdisciplinary discourse spans epistemology, communication, human body, modern art, postmodern art, literature, critical theory, music, film, time, memory, space, and the relation between aesthetics and politics. Lyotard was a key personality in contemporary Continental philosophy and author of 26 books and many articles. He was a director of the International College of Philosophy which was founded by Jacques Derrida, François Châtelet, Jean-Pierre Faye and Dominique Lecourt.

"I would like to call a differend the case where the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes for that reason a victim. If the addressor, the addressee, and the sense of the testimony are neutralized, everything takes place as if there were no damages. A case of differend between two parties takes place when the regulation of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom." - Lyotard, Jean-François (1988). The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. University of Minnesota Press.

Jean-François Lyotard was a great promoter of modernist art. He saw postmodernism as a latent tendency within thought throughout time and not a narrowly limited historical period. He favoured the startling and perplexing works of the high modernist avant-garde. Lyotard has written extensively also on many contemporary artists of his choice: Valerio Adami, Daniel Buren, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Monory, Ruth Francken, Shusaku Arakawa, Bracha Ettinger, Sam Francis, Karel Appel, Barnett Newman, René Guiffrey, Gianfranco Baruchello [fr], and Albert Ayme as well as on earlier artists, notably Paul Cézanne and Paul Klee. - Lyotard, Jean-Francois (2009–2013). Writings on Contemporary Art and Artists. Leuven University Press.

In 1954, Jean-François Lyotard became a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie ("Socialism or Barbarism"), a French political organisation formed in 1948 around the inadequacy of the Trotskyist analysis to explain the new forms of domination in the Soviet Union. Socialisme ou Barbarie and the publication of the same name had an objective to conduct a critique of Marxism from within the left, including the dominance of bureaucrary within the French Communist Party and its adherence to the dictats of the Soviet Union.

Jean-François Lyotard played an active part in the May 1968 uprisings, but he distanced himself from revolutionary Marxism with his 1974 book Libidinal Economy. He distanced himself from Marxism because he felt that Marxism had a rigid structuralist approach and they were imposing "systematization of desires" through strong emphasis on industrial production as the ground culture.

Jean-François Lyotard's work is characterised by a persistent opposition to universals, métarécits (meta-narratives), and generality. He is fiercely critical of many of the "universalist" claims of the Enlightenment, and several of his works serve to undermine the fundamental principles that generate these broad claims. In his writings of the early 1970s, he rejects what he regards as theological underpinnings of both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud: "In Freud, it is judaical, critical sombre (forgetful of the political); in Marx it is catholic. he rejected Theodor W. Adorno's negative dialectics because he viewed them as seeking a "therapeutic resolution in the framework of a religion, here the religion of history." In Lyotard's "libidinal economics" he aimed at "discovering and describing different social modes of investment of libidinal intensities."

According to Jean-François Lyotard's 1979 The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, the impact of the postmodern condition was to provoke skepticism about universalizing theories. Lyotard argues that we have outgrown our needs for metanarratives due to the advancement of techniques and technologies since World War II. Little narratives have now become the appropriate way for explaining social transformations and political problems. Lyotard argues that this is the driving force behind postmodern science. As metanarratives fade, science suffers a loss of faith in its search for truth, and therefore must find other ways of legitimating its efforts.

Jean-François Lyotard argues that one day, in order for knowledge to be considered useful, it will have to be converted into computerized data. Years later, this led him into writing his book The Inhuman, published in 1988, in which he illustrates a world where technology has taken over.