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The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Theory and History of Literature #10)

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  3,369 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
This book explores science and technology, makes connections between these epistemic, cultural, and political trends, and develops profound insights into the nature of our post-modernity. Many definitions of postmodernism focus on its nature as the aftermath of the modern industrial age when technology developed. This book extends that analysis to postmodernism by looking ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 21st 1984 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published March 1979)
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Glenn Russell
Mar 25, 2016 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

Believe Anything by artist Barbara Kruger

Language games along with technology coloring knowledge and coding messages, anyone? Welcome to The Postmodern Condition by French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998). In the spirit of freshness and as a way of providing what I hope is a unique angle on the philosopher’s abstract theory, below are quotes from the text along with my observations incorporating what I judge to be a near-perfect literary example of Lyotard’s presentation of postmode
Oct 03, 2015 James rated it it was amazing
The Post-Modern Condition is a stunning theoretical performance. In a few short chapters the book evolves into hydra of eviscerating diagnosis and analysis, ending with a few words of modest advice on how we might redirect our energies and avoid the crude performative logic of productivity and power.

So what’s the book about? In a word: knowledge. Lyotard’s basic claim is that knowledge has lost its contextual ballast, its solid referential format. What we have now is best characterized by Wittge
Dec 22, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
Well before Big Data there were ominous whispers. That is how I recall this book's bark at my door: fear tinged with the excitement of change Sometime between the collapse of the Wall and the Towers, I was forever fearful of a mis-step. The world was tumultuous and I lacked all grace. I was late to the Theory party. I was blind drunk on my Nietzsche, sort of mumbled through the grotesque parts of Foucault (though it was his biographies that have resonated) with Derrida and the Rhizome Twins (D a ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Hadrian rated it it was ok
A short expository piece about the meaning of postmodernism.

In short, there is no single Grand Narrative about human history anymore. Not religion, not the Enlightenment, not Marxism, not tradition, nothing. Everybody has their own individual Narratives and none of these necessarily dominate.

The reasoning behind this is apparently based on Wittgenstein's later work of language games, except taken under much more specific circumstances, where a single minor variation of a meaning or usage can co
Barnaby Thieme
Nov 27, 2013 Barnaby Thieme rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I can't help but think the main reason this book remains in currency is because it is widely regarded as the locus classicus for a definition and analysis of the term "postmodernism," which Lyotard did not invent. Nor, in my mind, did he add much to European culture's self-understanding of the broad cultural tendencies amalgamated under that porous banner.

Lyotard loosely defines postmodernism as a suspicion of meta-narratives, arguing that ideas can no longer be afforded legitimacy purely by re
May 09, 2016 Panos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
ΟΚ, ομολογώ πως επανειλημμένα μου έκαψε τον εγκέφαλο, ωστόσο υπάρχουν ορισμένα χωρία που είναι κατανοητά. Σίγουρα πρόκειται για έργο αναφοράς και δεν υπάρχει μελέτη για το μεταμοντέρνο που να μην αναφέρεται στο παρόν βιβλίο. Παραμένει όμως, κατά τη γνώμη μου, πολύ δυσνόητο.
Esteban del Mal
Dec 16, 2009 Esteban del Mal rated it it was ok
"The needs of the most underprivileged should not be used as a system regulator as a matter of principle: since the means of satisfying them is already known, their actual satisfaction will not improve the system's performance, but only increase its expenditures. The only counterindication is that not satisfying them can destabilize the whole. It is against the nature of force to be ruled by weakness. But it is in its nature to induce new requests meant to lead to a redefinition of the norms of ...more
Mar 07, 2014 sologdin rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
author proclaims the end of liberalism and Marxism because Wittgenstein. Or Nazis. Or Something.
Steven Peterson
Jan 01, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
This work, by Jean Francois Lyotard, is one of the signature works of postmodern theory. Say what you will of this perspective, this book is necessary reading in understanding the subject. This is not an easy work; however, those who persevere will be rewarded with interesting insights, whether or not one agree with postmodern thinking.

Lyotard defines Postmodern thought in contrast to modernism. Modernism, he claims, is ". . .any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse
Sep 13, 2009 John rated it really liked it
Lyotard spends the far majority of the main work describing society's move away from the two modern metanarratives: speculation and emancipation, representing the twin desires of knowing the unknown and knowing justice. The modern, scientific world has drawn on one or another of these two narratives in an attempt to legitimize its knowledge of the world, only to find that it cannot do so within itself. In other words, the modern world has been so concerned with creating a tight, logical totality ...more
Its main saving grace is its brevity. For the parts that discuss science, I found myself perpetually asking "really?" While certain, small insights seem wise, I found the concept of the "decline of the grand narrative," which stands at the centerpiece of the work, to be a total pretention. Indeed, Lyotard considered the work a failure, yet it still stands as his most famous work stateside. Eh, fuck this book.
Eric Hines
Sep 26, 2009 Eric Hines rated it it was ok
Shelves: culture, society
cultural theory
Feb 09, 2008 gokce rated it liked it
Shelves: spring-2008
The Postmodern Condition is about the dominance of scientific knowledge over that of narrative, and the related death of meta-narratives. The performativity principle underlined by late capitalism plays a crucial role in the subordination of the narrative form simply because narration is not instrumental in creating capital. Lyotard argues that narration seeks to consume the past and generate a way of forgetting, while on the other hand, scientific knowledge focuses on the prevalent shortages of ...more
Cid Medeiros
May 31, 2015 Cid Medeiros rated it it was amazing
O autor traça o caminho da crise de legitimação epistemológica do saber e da Ciência por meio das transformações mercantilistas a ocorrer no atual momento —convencionado como pós-moderno. As metanarrativas (relatos oriundos da modernidade que legitimaram o saber e a política até o pós-guerra, como, por exemplo, o saber como emancipador do ser/cidadão e propulsor da liberdade humana) não são mais capazes de sustentar a motivação sócio-econômica vigente, a qual se configura pela performance de me ...more
Postmodernism, What now?

After the fall of the grand narratives, and the establishment of chaos as the philosophical reference to 'small truths,’ how can we succeed to find something accurate enough to last a long long time?

For Lyotard, the age of the ‘universal’ the ‘one-transcending-truth’ ‘I-understood-it-all’ fell down to let us swaying on unstable grounds. So what now? Will we rebuild once again our way to truth, a universal truth even? Or will we stay busy with local truths?
Feb 22, 2014 Valerie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essai, philosophie
Là où ce livre est impressionnant, c'est qu'à partir de la fin des années soixante dix, il apporte une vision de la société "télématique" et informatisée qui s'est confirmée et est absolument juste. L'opus est court mais riche de beaucoup de théories du vingtième siècle, en particulier celles de la science et de la communication qu'il faudrait mieux maitriser pour en tirer tout le jus. Mais justement parce qu'il ouvre toutes ces perspectives de connaissances manquantes tout en rendant très clair ...more
Maxwell Foley
May 31, 2016 Maxwell Foley rated it it was ok
I read this book because it was recommended to me in the context of trying to understand the philosophy of postmodernism. Now, I think I have in fact understood this philosophy myself - essentially it is a willingness to work with multiple shifting methods of understanding reality, rather than demanding a single unchanging framework in which to view our world. However, it seemed like I should read the actual writings of those who established this philosophy, in order to make sure my understandin ...more
Jul 01, 2016 Annie rated it liked it
Lyotard presents a fine observation on the language-games of society and its recent transformations, but it is difficult to say that his observations amount to a convincing argument, especially when his examples are drawn from difficult studies like the advanced fields of science and technology, of which he is not an expert. His defense is his disclaimer that he had "less than limited" knowledge of the sciences and that the text was almost a parody of books he hadn't read and studies he hadn't m ...more
Jacob Aitken
Lest some misunderstand Lyotard's thesis, this book is a *report* on knowledge, not a defense (or critique) of postmodernism. Written 40 years ago, Lyotard predicted the effects of "internet epistemology" and how it relates to society.

He is famous for his defining postmodernism as "incredulity towards metanarratives." His incredulity is not primarily based towards the Christian narrative (though I doubt he was a Christian) but towards the modern technocratic scientific elitism. He notes that any
Derek Brown
Jul 25, 2016 Derek Brown rated it really liked it
"By the end of the Discourse on Method, Descartes is already asking for laboratory funds. A new problem appears: devices that optimize the performance of the human body for the purpose of producing proof require additional expenditures. No money, no proof-and that means no verification of statements and no truth. The games of scientific language become the games of the rich, in which whoever is wealthiest has the best chance of being right. An equation between wealth, efficiency, and truth is th ...more
Aaron Cerda
Nov 14, 2014 Aaron Cerda rated it really liked it
In this book, Lyotard makes what has come to be the most accurate definition of postmodernism: "an incredulity toward meta-narrative" The post modern condition is not, at its heart, a belief that there are no absolutes (I'm still not sure who first defined it as such) but rather, a deeply ingrained inability to believe that there is a larger story, a metanarrative, in life. If we are just the result of random unguided forces then life is meaningless (in the ultimate sense) and there is no big pi ...more
Okay. Pretty heavy.


p. 24 - On scientific rationalism - "as long as I can produce proof, it is permissible to think that reality is the way I say it is."

p. 25 - "Scientific knowledge requires that one language game, denotation, be retained and all others excluded."

p. 26 - "A statement of science gains no validity from the fact of being reported."

-"It is therefore impossible to judge the existence or validity of narrative knowledge on the basis of scientific knowledge and vice versa: the rel
There are a few traits in Lyotard's theory that I cannot agree with, but either way it is a relevant reading to understand the post-modern world, specially when we associate it to Fredric Jameson's writing.
Dr. A
Oct 17, 2014 Dr. A rated it really liked it
Read this and reviews of other classics in Western Philosophy on the History page of (a thinkPhilosophy Production).

A foundational work in postmodern theory, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge offers Jean-François Lyotard’s analysis of the transformation of science and the arts through the technological advances heralding the era of postmodernism. It thoroughly answers a very important question — how is knowledge produced under the current social,
Prescient but often tedious.
Orkhan Bayramov
Aug 07, 2015 Orkhan Bayramov rated it did not like it
The fundamental concept of the book is self-refuting. Lyotard poses that the age of modernity is the end of grand metanarratives. This end gives rise to the beginning of the new age, modernity. Deciphered from the fancy words and complicated riddle-sentences, the book in fact has no original idea to build upon. Habermas' criticism of the book I consider decisive: what Lyotard presupposes, that all metanarratives are false, is itself a metanarrative. No wonder he called this book the worst he eve ...more
Aug 23, 2011 Phillip rated it it was amazing
I was debating between giving this 4 or 5 stars, but I decided to be generous (after all, it isn't like my rating matters in the larger scheme of things). The reason I was tempted to knock it down to 4 stars is that portions of the book are so focused on science that I simply got nothing out of them. I find the broad generalities of science interesting, its discursive methods and world view(s), but I don't know almost anything about specific scientists' work or what it means in context and so on ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural-study
While Fredric Jameson employs a Marxist approach to postmodernism, arguing that it is a reflection on the cultural level of transformations within capitalism, Jean-Francois Lyotard views the notion of capital as “totalizing,” and emphasizes instead the differentiation and discontinuity of postmodernism. Thus, he deploys a variety of approaches to the reading of postmodernism, and the interdisciplinary eclecticism of the approaches he deploys could be understood as reflecting his statement that p ...more
Pierre E. Loignon
May 17, 2012 Pierre E. Loignon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophie
Évidemment, ce livre vous décevra si vous y chercher une affirmation politico-philosophique, idéologique, ou encore, moderne, de la postmodernité.
Dans la mesure où l’Occident trouve l’une de ses affirmations civilisationnelles la plus pleine et entière dans le concept de « modernité », la « postmodernité » correspond en effet à une prise de conscience de son déclin.
L’état morbide de l’affirmation de modernité actuelle en Occident, subsistant par force d’inertie, se révèle effectivement comme dét
Reasonably accessible, as French philosophy/critical theory goes. The Translator’s Foreword is also really helpful in setting out the basic argument before you start, or to refresh your memory.

Lyotard’s basic premise is that in this postmodern & postindustrial age, knowledge is a commodity and a source of power- perhaps the most important tool of control. He looks at how this has happened and will play out in a number of ways, ranging from examining the ‘language games’ of social discourse (
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Jean-François Lyotard ( 10 August 1924– 21 April 1998) was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He is well-known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition.

He was born in 1924 in Versailles, France to Jean-Pierre Lyotard, a sales representative, and Madeleine Cavalli. He went to primary school at the Pari
More about Jean-François Lyotard...

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“Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.” 23 likes
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