PRINT April 2003


Were the ’80s the postmodern decade? The word abounded. Buildings and clothes were designed in its name. Philosophers angrily disputed its significance; critical battle lines were drawn. Great period chars were plotted like Chinese menus. But two decades after the excitement, what does po-mo look like today?

Consider the critical trajectories of Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard. Both were prominent figures, quite different from one another, though each had a background in the Marxist criticism of the '30s. Writing from California, Jameson imagined the whole new era was summed up in the alienating “disorientation” one felt in hotels like John Portman's Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. Lost in its lobby, without any “cognitive map,” Jameson found an allegory of a supposedly late phase in capitalism (coming before what?), which explained the kind of space to which French theory had

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