Cultural cold wars

October 24, 1997

ARTHUR Marwick writes (THES, October 17) that "postmodernism" is based on the Marxist assumption that we live in the bad bourgeois society in which all knowledge is constructed to preserve bourgeois "hegemony". On what "source-based" cultural history is this assertion founded?

Marwick's quotation marks for the key term perhaps represent an attempt to privatise it.

Certainly, his notion of postmodernism bears almost no relation to the main theoretical sources of my yearly literary course "Studies in postmodernism" - Bauman, Connor, Derrida, Giddens, Hutcheon, Kung, Lyotard, MacIntyre, McLuhan, Moltmann, and Rorty.

And for obvious reasons, full-blooded Marxists tend to be resistant to the postmodernist undermining of "Gutenberg" meta-narratives in favour of dialogical "language games".

In fact, Marwick appears less interested in any "postmodern" discussion than in refighting the cold war on a cultural plain ("Marxism" versus "freedom").

There are surely more forward-looking enterprises for contemporary academics to engage in.

Let "our students" decide on that.

Dennis Brown Professor of modern literature University of Hertfordshire

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