If consciousness was tainted with the telos of official Marxism, then where better to take refuge than in the unconscious. With Freud as the new Marx and Lacan his belated Engels, psychoanalysis was seized upon as a source of political and creative potency in works by Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Deleuze and Butler.
The affirmative role of insanity in Foucault’s studies opened the way towards a post-structuralist tearing up of core identities, ontological narratives, chronological progress and teleology
The decentring of the intellectual cosmos announced by Derrida marked an ‘end of history’ years in advance of Fukuyama’s economistic pronouncement. Instead of progress or divergence from an identified centre, Derrida introduced the notion of loose ‘play’. Decentring, madness and play was expressed as the positive process of inventive rhyzomic connection in the ‘schizophrenia’ explored by Deleuze and Guattari. Gender was open to decentring too, with Butler arguing that core sexual identifies were culturally constructed through repeated stylised acts.
It was Lyotard who announced the end of 'grand narratives' or metanarratives, which he considered the quintessential feature of modernity. He applied the art term 'postmodern' to the new philosophy. Even the structuralist Marxist Althusser was caught up in the times and found to have shunned the grand narrative in the ‘aleatory materialism’ of his late work.
© John Dunn.