The Postmodern Condition: I. A World of Paradox, Contradiction and Change
In the postmodern camp there is neither the interest in the systematic building of theory, nor the interest in warfare between competing paradigms. Rather everything is pre-paradigmatic, i.e. there is an attempt to live and function without the scaffolding of paradigms of thought. One of the reasons for such a divestiture is seemingly the sheer impossibility of “knowing.” Tom Peters acknowledges that in the early 1980s he knew something about how organizations achieved excellence. By the late 1980s, he discovered that he was mistaken. Many of the excellent organizations of the early 1980s became troubled institutions by the late 1980s.
Other theorists and social observers have been similarly humbled by the extraordinary events of the 1980s and 1990s. They just haven’t been as forthcoming (or opportunistic) as Tom Peters. “Postmodernism at its deepest level,” notes Andreas Huyssen, “represents not just another crisis within the perpetual cycle of boom and bust, exhaustion and renewal, which has characterized the trajectory of modernist culture.” Rather, the postmodern condition “represents a new type of crisis of that modernist culture itself.” Many futurists (especially those who focus on the environment) similarly speak of a crisis-of-crises. This crisis-of-crises and the ambiguity, the paradoxes and the irony that accompany this era of grand questioning are founded in the interplay between globalization and localization and, even more fundamentally, in the interplay between order and chaos as we are beginning to understand these two states.
A Fragmented, Paradoxical Image: Globalization and Localization
According to the postmodernists, our world is becoming progressively more global, while it is also becoming progressively more segmented and differentiated. Though many of the postmodernist theorists spoke of this contradictory trend in our world at least ten to fifteen years ago, it is remarkable how contemporary this perspective seems to be, given the developments in Europe (and else where in the world) over the past decade. While European countries are moving toward a unified common market and community, we also see the movement (particularly in Eastern Europe) toward increased nationalism and factionalism among specific national, ethnic and racial groups.
Globalization is ‘Alive and Well’
From one perspective, globalism thrives. Corporate executives worldwide share values and language more common to them than to the nations they hail from. Western business culture is studied and emulated in the remotest of regions, playing out the value systems of the first world with great commercial success. And studies show that the world, by and large, likes the prospects of individual prosperity for which globalization seems to hold out hope.