The Emancipatory Potential of Postmodernism: A Contemporary Re-Examination




Chen, David

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Over the last decades, there has been a massive decline of the influence of Marxism and a soaring popularity of Foucault and postmodernism within the intellectual community of the Western postmodern society. Simultaneously, there has been an augmented interest in cultural and political matters and diminished concern on economic issues. In congruence, from the literature review, I found that people’s political and economic rights in reality have moved toward the same direction as they did in the theoretical world – that there is an expansion in their political rights and a contraction in their economic rights (or gains). This suggests a triadic interrelationship among trending popularity of Marxism and postmodernism, shifted concerns from economic issues to cultural and political matters, and the alteration of people’s actual economic and political rights. The prevalence of the postmodern agenda of human emancipation in contemporary society, which has shifted the attention from the economic realm such as wealth redistribution to the cultural and political realms such as identity and recognition, is highly contentious. On one aspect, it is liberating in terms of promoting people’s political rights, but on the other, it is restraining in respect of disregarding people’s economic rights (or gains). As a result, my thesis concludes that the emancipatory project of postmodernism is deficient and attempts to explore feasible alternatives to the postmodern theory and its notion of emancipation.



postmodernity, postmodernism, Enlightenment, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, human emancipation, political rights, economic rights