Thursday, 24 April 2008

Subjectivity and Subject Positions, Part 5.

It is often thought that subjects are destroyed by postmodernism. The death of the author proclaimed by Barthes was thought to kill the subject. The focus of post-modernism on discourse and the idea that people and the way they view the world are a product of the societies which create them, has led to a disappearance of the individual from much post-modernist writing. This has been particularly problematic for feminists such as Susan Bordo, for who ‘subjectivity is the essence of personhood’; a personhood that has been traditionally denied to women (seen in the refusal to recognise them as full human beings). Yet, in fact, there is a place for the subject in post-modern thought. The subject is created through self-reflexivity, that is how people negotiate the gap between their experience and the discourse that informs that experience. In this sense, the individual or subject is both a product of her society and her experience. As a result, everybody is unique, although they share the same framework for interpreting meaning and as such are a product of their culture.

Individuals, while unique, are limited in their ability to act as historical agents within post-modern thought. First, as they are constrained from imagining the full possibilities of existence due to their reliance on discourse to interpret their experiences and second, as even if they have a revelation or insight that the current discourse is wrong or needs to change, there is no guarantee that everyone will immediately agree. Re-education takes time and changing discourse can be slow. But to be fair to post-modernism, Marxism conceives of individuals as agents of change in much the same way.

And thus ends a week of postmodernist blogging.

1 comment:

Winter said...

Thank you for writing these posts.

I really enjoy reading critical theory and find post-structuralist approaches very useful both in my work and in helping me understand my life experience.

Your posts have helped me situate it better in relation to feminism too.