ABSTRACT

The Modern-day Dictionary of Received Ideas says of ‘postmodernism’: ‘This word has no meaning. Use it as often as possible.’1 With a few notable exceptions, cultural theorists have been following this advice. The term postmodernism has been used with astonishing frequency in a surprising variety of ways. Its popularity seems to derive from the way it can mean anything to anyone. However there is more to the proliferation of the term than this. It signifies participation in the debate about whether there has been a radical cultural transformation in the world, particularly within Western societies, and if so, whether this has been good or bad. To define the postmodern is not just to define a term. It is to characterize the present age and to assess how we should respond to it.