Re: Of Postmodernism, Spins, and What The Hell (fwd)

Lois Shawver (
Sat, 1 Jun 1996 17:32:36 -0700 (PDT)


Interesting post. Thanks for engaging me with these issues:

On Sat, 1 Jun 1996, Robert Parks wrote:
> Lois... I'd like to get your views on "language games". What sources would
> you suggest for a classification/interpretation of language games. (I
> assume you are taking Wittgenstein as your starting point....?)

No one that I know has done a systematic analysis of "language games",
although I think one might view J.L. Austin's work (e.g., "How to Do Things
With Words" "A Plea for Excuses") as laying the ground work for such a
classification. Perhaps you might also like to read Lyotard's important
work, "The Postmodern Condition", which analyzes knowledge in terms of
language games.

I noticed, Bob, that you're a political scientist. Have you read Hanna
Pikin's "Wittgenstein and Justice: On the Significace of Ludwig
Wittgenstein for Social and Political Thought"?

I do have a little blurb on language games that I wrote for a handout in
a class I taught. If people would like for me to post that, I'd be happy to.

> If we follow Lois's suggestion that postmodernism be considered as a
> language game, then we might ask what normative conditions might be placed
> on the situations which allow dialogue/critique/deconstruction to produce
> knowledge.

Yes. Paradoxically, I think that social construction text, that is, text
that analyzes the hidden social forces that create social structures, is
often deconstructive and has the capacity to "create knowledge". When
Thomas Szasz, for example, deconstructed mental illness, this created
knowledge regarding the history of this concept, knowlege that we had not
noticed because it was marginalized by the dominant picture of what the
history of psychology was about.

> (And I would
> like to contest the idea that Marx's narrative is a "grand narrative" in
> the sense of excluding others.

Well, I think that Freudian theory need not be treated as a "grand
narrative". It is one when it becomes an authoritative source, however,
as it often is, or has been. Is that what you mean about Marxism? Maybe
you could tell us more what you have in mind here.

> Thus, it appears to me that Marx was in fact speaking from a
> post modern perspective of the conditions of empowerment.)

To my way of thinking, that depends. It becomes a grand narrative when
it becomes the truth that outweighs all else, when it provides the
guideline of what is good without a continuous fresh review of contingent

..Lois Shawver