The Trouble with Categories

I was at a conference this weekend in Chicago and had the chance to sit in on several sessions about varying aspects of postmodernism.  Most of the information was designed to facilitate communication between modern and postmodern worldviews.  I have to confess that I was left with more questions than answers.  The biggest question of all: are we really still operating in a postmodern world?

This is the trouble with categories.  While it’s nice to be able to store everything from philosophies to photographs in boxes, there are times when boxes need to be broken down and sent off for recycling. (I’d say “thrown away,” but my ecco-conscious kids would flip!)  Worldviews are particularly pernicious in their defiance of classification.  Can we really say that Gen X or even the Y’s, Millennials, O’s (or whatever you wish to call the generation of 30 and younger) are postmodern?  Postmodernism was characterized by Michel Foucault’s absolute need for hedonism.  All absolutes became subjective in the drive for pure pleasure.  Is that really the characteristic of the 35 and younger set?  I don’t think so.  These are the folks who tend to be global and activist in their thinking.  They are looking for an objective narrative that helps assure them of significance, while at the same time being broad enough to allow for the uniqueness that they see around themselves.  In other words, while not everything needs to be backed by positive proofs, some anchor of transcendence is called for. This isn’t postmodernism.  If anything, perhaps it is “post-postmodernism” (quite a cumbersome moniker).  
At the end of the day, it seems like we may be in danger of making a huge mistake in communication.  It seems we are attempting to exchange one outmoded vocabulary–modernism–for another–postmodernism.  Perhaps rather than trying to neatly categorize the up and coming generations, it would be better to listen to their conversations and communicate accordingly.  Sometimes the only category necessary for understanding and communication is “member of the human race.”

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