Art History Unstuffed. Jean-François Lyotard: “The Postmodern Condition,” Part One

Jean-François Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge  (1979)

Part One, “The Metanarrative,” of a three-part series on Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge was posted on April 4, 2014. This series proposes to re-write and re-consider the entire book in relation to the 21st century. Written in 1979 upon the request of Quebec’s Conseil des Universités,  which asked the philosopher to examine the impact of the computer on education, this book was largely known for Lyotard’s very brief discussion of the “metanarrative,” which he declared to be “dead.” This first post discusses the metanarrative but links its death and the rise of the “little narratives” to the impact of digitized knowledge.

Lyotard considered that any form of control of knowledge was a form of violence and terror against intellectual freedom, using words, “violence” and “terror,” words that were strong and were laced with his past experiences with totalizing systems. For the current reader, these remarkable passages are early warnings of the fight to keep the Internet, a system that Lyotard did not live to see fully developed, free and open and accessible to it users on an equal basis.

Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette

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