richardthinks (richardthinks) wrote,

don't know much about relativism

In continuation of a discussion at Grognardia:

James said: 
I don't think there's any hiding the fact that I miss the days when the hobby had a stronger common culture... To the extent that such a common culture exists anymore, it comes from the ouroboros of D&D itself, a substitute for the books and authors that once formed the Common Tongue by which gamers conversed. I'm not sure such days can ever return -- the hobby is simply too diverse now -- but I long for it just the same.

FrDave said:
What you've noticed is actually a culture-wide phenomenon. Education in the Western world used to be about great books (including the Bible!). If you hadn't read these books, you weren't educated. Then two things happened — technology and post-modern relativity. Technology made information easily accessible and easy to produce. Relativity took this plethora of information and stated that it was all of equal value. Thus, it didn't matter what you read, as long as you read it. This forced our common culture to shift to TV and movies as source material. Thus, today a D&D rule book or module has as much value as anything written by REH, and the inspiration for todays games are movies and TV.

I said:
...I'd also caution against blaming postmodernism for anything: actual pomo thinking remains a very minor concern, and relativism had currency long, long before the "postmodern moment" (since 1968?); TV was bound to become respectable one day, merely because of its ubiquity (cf. advertising, comics); great books have suffered partly at the hands of the publishing boom after WW2. I don't want anyone to think I agree with economic determinism - I don't - but I agree even less with crediting French theory with real potential to move the world.

S'mon said:richard: "I'd also caution against blaming postmodernism for anything: actual pomo thinking remains a very minor concern"
Except that journalists and authors go to University, study English, are indoctrinated in PoMo, Frankfurt School Critique & Deconstructionism, then take that with them into the real world.
They may not be able to quote Derrida but they do 'know' that 'everything's relative'.
As an academic, I see how the stuff that starts here in the University eventually affects (infects) the wider culture in profound ways.

I say: My point, which I didn't make very well, is that a consciousness about 'everything being relative' has been in popular press at least since the 20s (with the popularisation of Einstein, and very likely before) as have anxieties about the same. I didn't want to say that pomo has had no effect, just that it's an easy and maybe misleading target for a wider cultural phenomenon. Broadly speaking, I tend toward "continuationism" (although it's a horrible word): whenever I see a claim for some cultural thing starting abruptly, I am suspicious. The argument here is that everyone used to read the same limited set of books, they no longer do, and the cause is postmodernism (for which no date is given). That strikes me as implausibly sweeping and unicausal. It smacks of an attitude about the role of the academy as social progenitor that I find a bit one-sided: I am inclined to wonder what the social conditions were that lead to the forming of postmodern theories - how much relativism was in the air.
I am, incidentally, likewise enormously bothered by the Marxist contention that capitalism is a specifically European phenomenon, which started either in the 16th or the 18th century (depending on who you read) - I think such a contention either requires a uselessly narrow definition of capitalism or makes unsustainable claims for some kind of "modern awakening" coincident with the "enlightenment." I don't necessarily think the two kinds of continuationism are interdependent, but I thought by laying the second one out there I could give you a succinct idea of the depth of my folly.

Further down the thread, Kaeosdad said: I don't think your adopted culture will ever die because it lives on in new forms.
hrm. That depends, I suppose, on what (irreducible essence or kernel) you recognise as your culture.


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