The term, Postmodernism refers to the cultural and ideological configuration that is taken to have replaced or be replacing Modernity. New movements in architecture and the arts as well as social theories indicate a change from modernity to postmodernity.
Frederic Jameson, an American Marxist social theorist and the author of the book, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, draws the attentions to the differences in culture between the modern and postmodern periods. In order to explain his arguments, Jameson is specially interested in the fields of architecture, art and other cultural forms. He places the heaviest emphasis on architecture. In his article, Jameson's basic argument is that postmodernism is a dominant cultural form and that is indicative of late capitalism.
Jameson's article begins with the comparison of Van Gogh's painting to Warhol's. Jameson contrasts Van Gogh's painting with Warhol's "Diamond Dust Shoes," He refers to the former as the symptom of a typical "modernist" work and the latter as a prime example of a "postmodernist" one. His main assertion here is that cultures and production has experienced important changes and these changes must be accounted by even more significant changes in history . He focuses on these changes on the individual level in postmodern society and his main concern was the cultural expressions and aesthetics that is associated with the different systems of production.
Jameson suggests that postmodernism is differed from other cultural forms by its emphasis on fragmentation. He specially emphasizes on the term, fragmentation. For Jameson, the fragmentation of the subject replaces the alienation of the subject which characterized modernism. Postmodernism always deals with surface, not substance. There is no center, rather everything tends to be decentralized in postmodernism. Postmodernist works are often characterized by a lack of depth. According to Jameson, individuals are no longer anomic and anxious, because there is nothing from which an individual could cut his or her ties. The liberation from the anxiety that characterized anomie may also mean a liberation from other kind of feeling as well. For him, this is not to say that the cultural products of the postmodernism are devoid of feelings, but rather such feelings are now free-floating and impersonal.
Jameson defines the late capitalist age as a distinct period, which focuses on commodification and the recycling of old images and commodities. Jameson provides an example of Warhol's work, (Diamonds Dust Shoes) as well as Warhol himself. Jameson refers to this cultural recycling as historicism (the random cannibalization of all styles of the past.) It is an increasing primacy of the 'neo'(new) and a world was transformed into sheer images of itself. the actual organic tie of history to past events is being lost.
All of these cultural forms in art and architecture are indicative of postmodernism, late capitalism, or what Jameson calls present-day multinational capitalism. Jameson claims that there has been a radical shift in our surrounding material world and the ways, in which it works. He refers to an architectural example, a postmodern building Symbolic of the multinational world space which people function in daily. Jameson suggests that the human subjects who occupy this new space have not kept pace with the evolution which produced it. There has been a mutation in the object, yet we do not possesses the perceptual equipment to match this new hyperspace. Therein lies the source of our fragmentation as individuals.
Jameson also suggests that this latest mutation in space, postmodern hyperspace, (he provides the Bonaventura hotel as an example) has finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world. This is the symbol and analogue of our inability at present to map the great global multinational and decentered communicational network in which people find themselves caught as individual subjects. He continues, we now live in a world where our daily life, our experiences, our cultural languages are dominated by categories of space rather than by categories of time, which was dominant in past eras. For Jameson, late capitalism aspires to a total space and a vastness of scale.
Jameson's argument in this article is that postmodernism is a dominant cultural form, not simply a style, and Jameson considers this dominant cultural form (postmodernism) as a sign of late capitalism. In explaining postmodernism as a dominant cultural form, he is specially concerned with the field of architecture, art and other cultural forms. Yet, as far as I have seen in this article, Jameson seems to emphases much more on the field of art and architecture than on social and political aspects of postmodernism. For example, he does not explicitly give much attention or interest to social theories such as poststructuralism, which is highly associated with postmodernism. Secondly, although the term, "Late-Capitalism" implies multinational capitalism, media-capitalism, the modern world system and postindustrial society, in the article he only talks about multinational capitalism and he neither explicitly touches nor sufficiently explains the terms like; modern world system and postindustrial society.
I would also like to commend on Jameson's style of writing, in the article, he produces sentences that sometimes can run more than half a page, I think this makes the article a little bit harder to read. Nevertheless, Jameson's article is worth to read since it stands as one of the best written books on postmodernism, besides it also offers detailed analyses of postmodernism and late capitalist age.
In conclusion, by his article -The cultural logic of late capitalism"- Jameson tries to argue that all of the characteristics of contemporary art, architecture and cultural forms reflect the structure of late capitalism as well as contemporary society - (i.e. domination by multinational corporations, the decline of national sovereignty). Moreover he argues that postmodernity is a part of the cultural logic of late capitalism and this is what brings about cultural fragmentation. Although, in this article, social, political and other aspects of postmodernism have not been emphasized as much as art, architecture, and cultural aspects of postmodern age have been, this article clearly explains the connection and relation between postmodernism as dominant cultural form and late capitalist age.