In a culture that frequently opposes intellectualism, the concept of postmodernism is poorly understood – to society’s detriment – according to Griffith Business School academic Professor Bradley Bowden.
In his recently released book, Work, Wealth and Postmodernism, Professor Bowden explains that although postmodernism is connected to “Frankfurt School Marxists” such as Herbert Marcuse, Theodor W Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Jürgen Habermas – and despite its ubiquity across cultural and political institutions – it is far more than mere “cultural Marxism”, a label under which it is often dismissed by critics.
“Postmodernism is far removed from Marxism,” Professor Bowden said. “Unlike Marxists – who believed that societal outcomes are primarily determined by economics – postmodernists are philosophic idealists.
“They believe that every problem, every manifestation of inequality, can be overcome through consciousness and will.”
It is this fundamental misunderstanding that led Professor Bowden to write Work, Wealth and Postmodernism, he says, focusing primarily on two objectives.
“First, [I wanted] to explain the origins and central ideas of postmodernism to the educated lay-reader – most particularly those employed or studying within a business discipline – who feel bamboozled by its apparent complexities,” he said.
“In doing so, the book locates postmodernism within the Western intellectual heritage that its proponents so readily condemn, for we cannot either understand postmodernism, or counter it, unless we understand both its intellectual roots and those of our own ideas.”
The second goal of the book, Professor Bowden says, is “to locate a defence of modernity by revisiting our modern world’s intellectual premises” in order to better understand the perspectives being proffered by those who stand in opposition to traditional cultural and social philosophies.
“As postmodernism attacks the epistemological traditions of Western thought, we need to understand the ideas that are being attacked,” he said. “As postmodernism attacks the principles of the European Enlightenment, we need to understand those Enlightenment principles.
“As postmodernism denies the legitimacy of economics – and the progressive role of management – we need to be able to articulate a defence of the core premises of economic and management thought.
“Accordingly, this book is structured in three parts: Part 1 deals with the intellectual heritage of postmodernism, and more significantly, the wider Western intellectual tradition that can be traced back through the European Enlightenment to Plato, Aristotle and the ancient Greeks.
“Part 2 explores the origins and principles of postmodernism in language understandable to the lay-reader. Finally, in Part 3, we revisit the strengths and problems of our modern world, countering the false understandings perpetuated not only by postmodernists but also by Thomas Piketty in his Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century.”
Work, Wealth and Postmodernism, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is available now.
For more information about the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, see its website.