Postmodernism is hard to define, because it is a concept that appears in a wide variety of disciplines or areas of study, including art, architecture, music, film, literature, sociology, communications, fashion culture, and technology.
It's hard to locate postmodernism temporally or historically, because it's not clear exactly when postmodernism begins. Theories both of postmodernism and modernity have been based almost exclusively on studying capitalist societies in the West.
Postmodernism is a complicated term, one that has only emerged as an area of academic study since the mid-1980s. The best way to start thinking about postmodernism is by first thinking about modernism, the movement from which postmodernism grew.
Postmodernism, like modernism, follows most of these same ideas, rejecting boundaries between high and low forms of art, rejecting rigid genre distinctions, emphasizing pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness.
Postmodern art and thought favors reflexivity and self-consciousness, fragmentation and discontinuity, especially in narrative structures, ambiguity, simultaneity, and an emphasis on the destructured, decentered, dehumanized subject.
But, while postmodernism seems very much like modernism
in these ways, it differs from modernism in its attitude toward a lot of these trends.
Modernism tends to present a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history, but
presents that fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and mourned as a
loss. Many modernist works try to uphold the idea that works of art can provide the unity,
coherence, and meaning which has been lost in most of modern life; art will do what other
human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament the idea of
fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that. The world is
meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's just play with
The phase we're in now, is multinational or consumer capitalism, associated with nuclear and electronic technologies, and correlated with postmodernism.
Talking pomo: An analysis of the postmodern
movement by Steve Mizrach
HOW TO SPEAK AND WRITE POSTMODERN