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Postmodern Sociology and Subverting the Arts

QUESTION: Postmodern Sociology – Subverting the Arts


Dada, a nihilistic movement in the arts that attempted to demolish aesthetic standards in the years after World War I, is sometimes linked to the more radical elements of Postmodernism. Ward explains, “Dada, especially, is often seen as the original prototype of how art should go about the business of being radical...Dada employed a number of tactics to disrupt bourgeois fantasies about art. Most prominent of these methods was the use of ‘found’ materials not conventionally associated with fine art. They took materials from the gutter, images from mass culture, and styles of presentation from shop window displays. Most famous of all, Marcel Duchamp exhibited signed Readymades—a urinal, a bottle rack, a comb, etc.—and eventually got them called art (or anti-art).”1

Stephen Hicks elaborates further on the link between Dada and Postmodernism in Explaining Postmodernism: “Dada’s themes are about meaninglessness, but its works and manifestos are meaningful philosophical statements in the context in which they are presented. ‘Art is -----’ was, fittingly, the motto of the Dada movement. Duchamp’s urinal was the fitting symbol. Everything is waste to be flushed away.”2

Postmodern Sociology – Art and Nihilism
Over the past thirty years, a number of popular recording artists have expressed elements of Postmodern thought in their style of music and in their lyrics. This nihilistic philosophy is expressed in the 1977 song by British band Ian Dury and the Blockheads. The opening stanza reads, “Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are all my brain and body needs.” John Mayer’s 2003 release Any Given Thursday expresses the meaninglessness of life in the lyrics, “I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world. Just a lie you’ve got to rise above. I am invincible as long as I’m alive.” The group Third Eye Blind’s song “Horror Show,” featured on the Varsity Blues soundtrack (1999), says:
    When gravity presses down like a lie
    We want wild sex
    But we don’t wanna die
    Do you feel there’s nowhere to go
    We’re the bait in a horror show
    And we’re all alone in a horror show
    Yeah, we are all alone in a horror show.

Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Glenn Ward, Postmodernism (Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2003), 51.

2 Stephen R. C. Hicks, Exploring Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, (Tempe, AZ: Scholargy Publishing, 2004), 196.

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