Post-postmodernism witnesses the re-birth of utopia after its own death, after its subjection to postmodernism's severe scepticism, relativism and its anti-utopian consciousness. The subject here is the resurrection of utopia after the death of utopia, no longer as a social project with claims to transforming the world, but as a new intensity of life experience and a broader horizon for the individual. Trans-utopianism, trans-pathos are projections of the same "lyrical" need, which transcended its own negation in postmodernism....
In its critique of Modernity and all its accompanying categories, such as "subject" and "object," "individuality" and "reality," "author" and "history," postmodernism does indeed begin with a quasi-medieval, trans-personal and anonymous perception of the world, even if it not centered on God or the absolute but instead projected onto "alterity" as a measure of independently interactive factors. From this perspective, the principle of individuality is merely an illusory effect of impersonal mechanisms, which act in and on us: language, the unconscious, molecular, genetic, social and economic structures. The absolute is but an illusion of semiotic practices, a stylistic ploy, a projection of strivings for power that emanate from any discursive act and which begin with the inarticulate mumblings of the child demanding its mother's breast. The postmodern critique dethrones the absolute and the individual as two Western myths, formulated in the Middle Ages and Modernity respectively. In keeping with this, there is a debunking both of the masks of individuality (authorship, originality, innovativeness) and of the absolute (the transcendental, truth, reality).
At this stage it is easy to suspend the contradictions and traumas that defined the Modernist consciousness. A kind of medieval anonymity begins to dominate, but without the medieval faith in the absolute: instead there is some sort of game, but one in which the will of the players is unclear; all that is clear is the infinity of the toys of the game - signs, quotations, informational codes. According to Michel Foucault, postmodern writing "has merely transposed the empirical characteristics of an author to a transcendental anonymity. The extremely visible signs of the author's empirical activity are effaced to allow the play, in parallel or opposition, of religious and critical modes of characterization ...[T]he author has disappeared; God and man died a common death." If Modernism is a mixture of the agony of dying and the euphoria of hope, then postmodernism is the poetics of a successfully completed death and the play of posthumous masks (necropoetics). The tragedy of the division between the individual and the absolute, between the individual and society, and between consciousness and reality, becomes as impossible as the avant-garde utopia and ecstasy of overcoming that division. What kind of alienation is possible for a theory (postmodern) that does not accept anything as one's "own" and "originary"? There is nothing left to become alienated from. The cause of tragedy has thus disappeared, just as has the possibility of utopia. Quotationality instead of self-expression, simulation instead of truth, the play with signs instead of the reflection of reality, difference instead of contradiction: such is the post-individual, post-tragic, post-utopian world, fascinated by its own secondariness, its propensity to bring everything to completion, to use everything as material for the ultimate and infinite game.
Mikhail Epstein | The Place of Postmodernism in Postmodernity | excerpt