Hence both progressive and conservative political views are found flailing in diagnosing the problems of the political, especially when facing the devaluation of all values in consumer culture. Lyotard produced an M. Lyotard came to Algeria at a propitious time: near start of the Algerian revolution that would ultimately liberate the country from France in , the colony had a revolutionary air that he inhaled in full. After his arrival, Lyotard immersed himself in the works of Marx while updating himself on the Algerian situation.

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Source : The Postmodern Condition publ. Manchester University Press, The First 5 Chapters of main body of work are reproduced here. Our working hypothesis is that the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age.

This transition has been under way since at least the end of the s, which for Europe marks the completion of reconstruction. The pace is faster or slower depending on the country, and within countries it varies according to the sector of activity: the general situation is one of temporal disjunction which makes sketching an overview difficult. A portion of the description would necessarily be conjectural. At any rate, we know that it is unwise to put too much faith in futurology.

Rather than painting a picture that would inevitably remain incomplete, I will take as my point of departure a single feature, one that immediately defines our object of study. Scientific knowledge is a kind of discourse. The facts speak for themselves and this list is not exhaustive. These technological transformations can be expected to have a considerable impact on knowledge.

Its two principal functions — research and the transmission of acquired learning-are already feeling the effect, or will in the future. With respect to the first function, genetics provides an example that is accessible to the layman: it owes its theoretical paradigm to cybernetics.

Many other examples could be cited. As for the second function, it is common knowledge that the miniaturisation and commercialisation of machines is already changing the way in which learning is acquired, classified, made available, and exploited. It is reasonable to suppose that the proliferation of information-processing machines is having, and will continue to have, as much of an effect on the circulation of learning as did advancements in human circulation transportation systems and later, in the circulation of sounds and visual images the media.

The nature of knowledge cannot survive unchanged within this context of general transformation. It can fit into the new channels, and become operational, only if learning is translated into quantities of information. Research on translating machines is already well advanced. The old principle that the acquisition of knowledge is indissociable from the training Bildung of minds, or even of individuals, is becoming obsolete and will become ever more so.

The relationships of the suppliers and users of knowledge to the knowledge they supply and use is now tending, and will increasingly tend, to assume the form already taken by the relationship of commodity producers and consumers to the commodities they produce and consume — that is, the form of value.

Knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorised in a new production: in both cases, the goal is exchange. It is widely accepted that knowledge has become the principle force of production over the last few decades, this has already had a noticeable effect on the composition of the work force of the most highly developed countries and constitutes the major bottleneck for the developing countries.

In the postindustrial and postmodern age, science will maintain and no doubt strengthen its preeminence in the arsenal of productive capacities of the nation-states. Indeed, this situation is one of the reasons leading to the conclusion that the gap between developed and developing countries will grow ever wider in the future. But this aspect of the problem should not be allowed to overshadow the other, which is complementary to it.

Knowledge in the form of an informational commodity indispensable to productive power is already, and will continue to be, a major — perhaps the major — stake in the worldwide competition for power. It is conceivable that the nation-states will one day fight for control of information, just as they battled in the past for control over territory, and afterwards for control of access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labor.

A new field is opened for industrial and commercial strategies on the one hand, and political and military strategies on the other. However, the perspective I have outlined above is not as simple as I have made it appear.

For the merchantilisation of knowledge is bound to affect the privilege the nation-states have enjoyed, and still enjoy, with respect to the production and distribution of learning. The notion that learning falls within the purview of the State, as the brain or mind of society, will become more and more outdated with the increasing strength of the opposing principle, according to which society exists and progresses only if the messages circulating within it are rich in information and easy to decode.

Already in the last few decades, economic powers have reached the point of imperilling the stability of the state through new forms of the circulation of capital that go by the generic name of multi-national corporations.

These new forms of circulation imply that investment decisions have, at least in part, passed beyond the control of the nation-states. Who will have access to them? Who will determine which channels or data are forbidden? The State? Or will the State simply be one user among others? Transformation in the nature of knowledge, then, could well have repercussions on the existing public powers, forcing them to reconsider their relations both de jure and de facto with the large corporations and, more generally, with civil society.

The reopening of the world market, a return to vigorous economic competition, the breakdown of the hegemony of American capitalism, the decline of the socialist alternative, a probable opening of the Chinese market these and many other factors are already, at the end of the s, preparing States for a serious reappraisal of the role they have been accustomed to playing since the s: that of, guiding, or even directing investments. If this were the case, communicational transparency would be similar to liberalism.

Liberalism does not preclude an organisation of the flow of money in which some channels are used in decision making while others are only good for the payment of debts. That is the working hypothesis defining the field within which I intend to consider the question of the status of knowledge. What is required of a working hypothesis is a fine capacity for discrimination.

The scenario of the computerisation of the most highly developed societies allows us to spotlight though with the risk of excessive magnification certain aspects of the transformation of knowledge and its effects on public power and civil institutions — effects it would be difficult to perceive from other points of view.

Our hypotheses, therefore, should not be accorded predictive value in relation to reality, but strategic value in relation to the question raised. Nevertheless, it has strong credibility, and in that sense our choice of this hypothesis is not arbitrary. It has been described extensively by the experts and is already guiding certain decisions by the governmental agencies and private firms most directly concerned, such as those managing the telecommunications industry.

To some extent, then, it is already a part of observable reality. This is as much as to say that the hypothesis is banal. But only to the extent that it fails to challenge the general paradigm of progress in science and technology, to which economic growth and the expansion of sociopolitical power seem to be natural complements.

That scientific and technical knowledge is cumulative is never questioned. At most, what is debated is the form that accumulation takes — some picture it as regular, continuous, and unanimous, others as periodic, discontinuous, and conflictual. But these truisms are fallacious. In the first place, scientific knowledge does not represent the totality of knowledge; it has always existed in addition to, and in competition and conflict with, another kind of knowledge, which I will call narrative in the interests of simplicity its characteristics will be described later.

The resulting demoralisation of researchers and teachers is far from negligible; it is well known that during the s, in all of the most highly developed societies, it reached such explosive dimensions among those preparing to practice these professions — the students — that there was noticeable decrease in productivity at laboratories and universities unable to protect themselves from its contamination. Expecting this, with hope or fear, to lead to a revolution as was then often the case is out of the question: it will not change the order of things in postindustrial society overnight.

But this doubt on the part of scientists must be taken into account as a major factor in evaluating the present and future status of scientific knowledge. I use the word in a broader sense than do contemporary German theorists in their discussions of the question of authority. Take any civil law as an example: it states that a given category of citizens must perform a specific kind of action. Legitimation is the process by which a legislator is authorised to promulgate such a law as a norm.

Now take the example of a scientific statement: it is subject to the rule that a statement must fulfil a given set of conditions in order to be accepted as scientific. The parallel may appear forced. But as we will see, it is not. The question of the legitimacy of science has been indissociably linked to that of the legitimation of the legislator since the time of Plato. From this point of view, the right to decide what is true is not independent of the right to decide what is just, even if the statements consigned to these two authorities differ in nature.

When we examine the current status of scientific knowledge at a time when science seems more completely subordinated to the prevailing powers than ever before and, along with the new technologies, is in danger of becoming a major stake in their conflicts — the question of double legitimation, far from receding into the background, necessarily comes to the fore.

For it appears in its most complete form, that of reversion, revealing that knowledge and power are simply two sides of the same question: who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided? In the computer age, the question of knowledge is now more than ever a question of government. The reader will already have noticed that in analysing this problem within the framework set forth I have favoured a certain procedure: emphasising facts of language and in particular their pragmatic aspect.

To help clarify what follows it would be useful to summarise, however briefly, what is meant here by the term pragmatic. Of course, the meaning of the utterance has to be understood, but that is a general condition of communication and does not aid us in distinguishing the different kinds of utterances or their specific effects.

The university is open because it has been declared open in the above-mentioned circumstances. That this is so is not subject to discussion or verification on the part of the addressee, who is immediately placed within the new context created by the utterance.

Actually, we could say it the other way around: the sender is dean or rector that is, he is invested with the authority to make this kind of statement — only insofar as he can directly affect both the referent, the university and the addressee the university staff in the manner I have indicated. They can be modulated as orders, commands, instructions, recommendations, requests, prayers, pleas, etc. Here, the sender is clearly placed in a position of authority, using the term broadly including the authority of a sinner over a god who claims to be merciful : that is, he expects the addressee to perform the action referred to.

The pragmatics of prescription entail concomitant changes in the posts of addressee and referent. Of a different order again is the efficiency of a question, a promise, a literary description, a narration, etc. I am summarising. Wittgenstein, taking up the study of language again from scratch, focuses his attention on the effects of different modes of discourse; he calls the various types of utterances he identifies along the way a few of which I have listed language games.

What he means by this term is that each of the various categories of utterance can be defined in terms of rules specifying their properties and the uses to which they can be put — in exactly the same way as the game of chess is defined by a set of rules determining the properties of each of the pieces, in other words, the proper way to move them.

It is useful to make the following three observations about language games. The first is that their rules do not carry within themselves their own legitimation, but are the object of a contract, explicit or not, between players which is not to say that the players invent the rules.

This last observation brings us to the first principle underlying our method as a whole: to speak is to fight, in the sense of playing, and speech acts fall within the domain of a general agonistics. This does not necessarily mean that one plays in order to win. A move can be made for the sheer pleasure of its invention: what else is involved in that labor of language harassment undertaken by popular speech and by literature?

Great joy is had in the endless invention of turns of phrase, of words and meanings, the process behind the evolution of language on the level of parole. But undoubtedly even this pleasure depends on a feeling of success won at the expense of an adversary — at least one adversary, and a formidable one: the accepted language, or connotation. If we wish to discuss knowledge in the most highly developed contemporary society, we must answer the preliminary question of what methodological representation to apply to that society.

Simplifying to the extreme, it is fair to say that in principle there have been, at least over the last half-century, two basic representational models for society: either society forms a functional whole, or it is divided in two. An illustration of the first model is suggested by Talcott Parsons at least the postwar Parsons and his school, and of the second, by the Marxist current all of its component schools, whatever differences they may have, accept both the principle of class struggle and dialectics as a duality operating within society.

This methodological split, which defines two major kinds of discourse on society, has been handed down from the nineteenth century. The idea that society forms an organic whole, in the absence of which it ceases to be a society and sociology ceases to have an object of study , dominated the minds of the founders of the French school. In the work of contemporary German theorists, systemtheorie is technocratic, even cynical, not to mention despairing: the harmony between the needs and hopes of individuals or groups and the functions guaranteed by the system is now only a secondary component of its functioning.

The true goal of the system, the reason it programs itself like a computer, is the optimisation of the global relationship between input and output, in other words, performativity. Whence its credibility: it has the means to become a reality, and that is all the proof it needs. This is the function of the principle of class struggle in theories of society based on the work of Marx.


Jean-François Lyotard

Done by a philosopher, this study belongs to a more customarily German genre of Zeitdiagnosen , diagnostic descriptions and interpretations of the present moment. It is striking that Lyotard dates the transition to the post-modern condition to the late s, which at first glance can be perceived as a period when modernity has acquired its recognizable, if dated, shape in developed economies. As Lyotard likens the development of information technology to that of transportation and media in terms of its expected effects on the acquisition, classification and exploitation of knowledge, the post-modern condition, thus, in his conception, is an epistemological change that accompanies transformations in social, cultural and economic semiotics that the emergence of information society imposes on corresponding exchanges. However, as post-capitalism is a condition that cannot necessarily be registered, as use and exchange values of tangible and intangible commodities have continued to circulate over recent centuries, albeit with ever growing velocity, the same may be stated about post-modernity as a concept that eludes reality, other than as a subject of philosophical discourse. In other words, Lyotard has been among the first scholars to conceptualize the post-industrial transformation of capitalism as an interminable transition from traditional capitalism to modern capitalism, as both the definition and foundations of the latter continue to undergo transformations. By the same token, the post-modern condition can be conceived of as a re-interpretation of tradition, the terms of its production and reproduction.


Jean François Lyotard

Lyotard introduced the term 'postmodernism', which was previously only used by art critics, into philosophy and social sciences, with the following observation: "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives". Lyotard criticizes metanarratives such as reductionism and teleological notions of human history such as those of the Enlightenment and Marxism , arguing that they have become untenable because of technological progress in the areas of communication , mass media and computer science. Techniques such as artificial intelligence and machine translation show a shift to linguistic and symbolic production as central elements of the postindustrial economy and the related postmodern culture, which had risen at the end of the s after the reconstruction of western Europe. The result is a plurality of language-games a term coined by Ludwig Wittgenstein [1] : 67 , of different types of argument.


Cornelius Castoriadis — Frenchphilosopher, author of more than 25 books on diverse topics, including aesthetics especially the Avant-garde , ethics, justice, and political theory, but undoubtedly best known for his work on postmodernism, La Condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savoir , translated as The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Led by its founder Cornelius Castoriadis, Socialism ou Barbarie sought to critique Marxism from within, arguing that it was more important to hold to the revolutionary spirit of Marx's ideas than the exact letter of his writings. In this period, Lyotard also actively campaigned against France's involvement in Algeria. Although he parted with the group in , Lyotard remained in solidarity with the Left until the failure as he saw it of the events of May '68 led him to break with Marxism altogether. Perhaps Lyotard's most provocative idea is that these little narratives should be thought of as highly specific and completely incommensurable language games a term he borrows from Wittgenstein.

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