Alberto Melucci, The Playing Self: Person and Meaning in the Planetary Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, £13.95 paperback, vii+177 pp. (ISBN 0-521-56482-4)
Charles Lemert, Postmodernism Is Not What You Think, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997, £15.99 paperback, xiv+185 pp. (ISBN 1-55786-286-9)
Chris Rojek and Bryan S. Turner (eds.), The Politics of Jean-François Lyotard, London: Routledge, 1998, £55.00, vii+168 pp. (ISBN 0-415-11724-0)
Barry Smart, Facing Modernity: Ambivalence, Reflexivity and Morality, London: Sage, 1998, £45.00 hardback (£14.99 paperback),
224 pp. (ISBN 0-7619-5520-8)
Postmodernism is routinely identified with political radicalism. From one angle, it is easy enough to see why this is so, for many of the leading theorists of postmodernity hail from that side of the political spectrum (such as Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Fredric Jameson). From another angle, though, it is much less obvious that postmodernism is itself a radical social and political concern. Indeed, the opposite might plausibly be argued. What has happened with the advent of so-called postmodern society is the collapse of modernist rationality, core community values, and ethical and moral foundations. The sociological message in this reading is that postmodernism, in fact, spells a repressive reorganisation of everyday life within the ideological structures of the global capitalist economy itself. Thus the advent of postmodernism – with its dazzling globalisation of social relations, its deconstruction of metaphysical foundations, its reifying of technology and its cult of consumer hedonism – fits hand in glove with the imperatives of a market logic in which everything goes but nothing much counts. Or so the story goes.