Postmodernism and Religion
Postmodernism is a set of ideas, which became a study since the middle of the 1980s. It is difficult to outline the definition of postmodernism, because this notion appears in various disciplines and branches of study such as technology, fashion, art, communications, sociology, architecture, literature, music, and films. Furthermore, postmodernism does not have the clear timeframe. However, the features of postmodernism concern modernism, as it is the movement, from which postmodernism has developed. Thus, postmodernism, as well as modernism, bases on the similar ideas (Klages, n.d.). On the other hand, postmodernism differs from modernism in attitudes toward many issues To this extent, modernism fragmentary presents a vision of human subjectivity and history in tragic light. In contrast, postmodernism, does not declare but celebrates the ideas of fragmentation, provisionality, and incoherence. In terms of production and technologies, the definition of postmodernism sticks more to the history and sociology than to literature and art. Therefore, postmodernism is considered to define the system of social attitudes (Klages, n.d.).
In sociology, the shaping of the concept of postmodernism targets the theoretical generalization of the principle and special features of society in relation to the theories of modernity. In its turn, the concept of modernity has several dimensions. The timeline of the modernity as a concept and the phenomenon is rather long. Modernity as a term is the philological equivalent of the word "modern," which dates back to the V century BC. The distinctive feature of modern societies is their focus on the new in all aspects of social life while the traditional society strives to preserve the old patterns: both behavioral and spiritual artifacts. The observation of modern society served the basis for the theories of social progress. Historical boundaries of the modern epoch stretch to the present day. Primarily, philosophers and social scientists from various fields were ideologists and creators of the theory of modernity (Klages, n.d.). There are two certain senses of postmodernism such as the ontological interpretation, which assumes a special type of social reality or society, and methodological understanding, which defines a special style of social thinking that corresponds to the concept of postmodernism (Klages, n.d.).
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The postmodern movement in social thinking and sociology is presented as an epistemological design of intelligent efforts to create a mindset and methodology of the knowledge society on other dimensions, which are broader than the rationalist traditions. In sociology, postmodernism covers most of the directions and problems, primarily reconsidering the institutional/structuralist theories. While explaining similar transitions, the concept of cultural generating model created in the XIX- XX centuries is used as the category of social space. Time and causality adopted an interpretation of the models and tools for the construction of social reality, which used to be uncharacteristic for them earlier. However, the methodology of postmodernism has not been shaped. Furthermore, its linguistic tools are borrowed from different fields of knowledge and culture. Currently, various problems of postmodernism are discussed worldwide. One of the problems is the end of the belief in the supremacy of general scientific, rationalism, and single theory of social progress. Another problem is the replacement of the empirical theories of truth with the post-empiric ideas. Furthermore, the problem is the heightened attention to the phenomena of the unconsciousness in social activities and the growing role of easily constructed theories and concepts of pluralism. Besides, postmodernism touches upon the problems and theories of post-industrial and post-capitalist society, as well as the predictive possibilities of sociology. The informational nature of the post-modern society has replaced the technological essence of modernity. The main claim of postmodernism is considered a statement of non-rationalistic basis of social consensus and the desire to confirm the idea that society is not restricted to the rationalist ideas, which were applied by the creators of the modernist theories. Postmodernism is considered the exteriorization of that part of social experience. Unlike modernism, postmodernism concentrates on somewhat other directions in social evolution.
Jean-Francois Lyotard emphasized the destructiveness of postmodernism, because this direction tried to study things, which lacked in the scope of consensus. Therefore, it is a kind of ideology, which can be similar to the expanding social universe and overcoming isolation. Postmodernism pays great attention to the social communication, centralizing it in this type of thinking and emphasizing that the virtual reality determines the objective reality. Lyotard considered people who gave the definition to knowledge to be crucial in postmodern societies. Such decisions do not concern the old modern qualifications. Thus, it can be access to knowledge to the extent of the truth, which is considered the technical quality. Other decisions include goodness or justice as its ethical quality, or beauty as aesthetic quality. Lyotard supposed knowledge to reflect in the paradigm of a language game. Thus, the post-modern sociological paradigm generalizes a range of national, cultural, civilization, scientific, and humanitarian problems. Accordingly, subject, method, and objectives of sociology gain more distinctive shape, as acquiring non-rationalistic and illegitimate sphere of social sense gradually. Non-institutionalized activity becomes sufficient basis for the new social possibilities of human existence.
Jean Baudrillard claimed that there were no originals in postmodern society. Thus, an original painting or sculpture can have thousands of copies, but only the original will have the highest value. Another idea of Baudrillard concerns the notion of virtual reality, which is created by simulation that has no original. Evidently, the computer games such as the Sim City is a perfect example (Kellner, 2007).
The ideas of the famous French philosopher Michel Foucault have been applied successfully within the wide range of the Humanities, social sciences, and professional disciplines such as the management studies, health, and education. His ideas have always caused dramatically polarized responses. This way, the Foucaults ideas were both followed and rejected (OFarrell, 2006). First, Foucault rejected the objective truth and facts. He supposed that everything is true if someone believes in it. Furthermore, he claimed that no truth except power existed. In his opinion, people consider truth merely the product of struggles for power. Secondly, Foucault tried to destroy the existing systems of order, as he was an amoral nihilist and anarchist. He produced general apathy, despair, and political nihilism amongst those who read his works. Thirdly, Foucault together with other sociologists such as Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard is responsible for creating incomprehensible set of jargons, which have affected the clear English language in different academic disciplines woefully (OFarrell, 2006).
Furthermore, Foucault rejected the concrete reality to the extent of the so-called discourse. According to his wrong notion, reality is acquired merely by things as the consequence of social practices or the human attitude. On the contrary, Foucault firmly believed that an intractable physical reality existed, but the approaches to its description were various and not set according to their interaction and concentration.
Finally, postmodernism is interested in the problems of the order in knowledge. In modern societies, knowledge and science were equal and differed from the narrative. Thus, science was more preferable than narrative because it was extremely simple and irrational. However, knowledge had its own value as numerous people desired to become intelligent and educated (Milner, 2011). In postmodern society, knowledge gained functional characteristic as people learned information for not only the possessing of knowledge but also its practical application. Furthermore, knowledge in postmodern societies differs from modern knowledge, as it is widespread, accumulated, and systematized. In postmodern societies, digitized data are not considered knowledge, as they are not able to be translated into a recognizable and storable form by a computer.
The sociology of religion was established in the 19th century in close relation with such branches of knowledge as history, anthropology, and religious studies. The sociology of religion is the generalized knowledge about religious behavior of humans as a social action and types of religion as components of the social system. As a branch of sociology, religion is an empirical science, which is aimed at creation a theory that explains peoples beliefs and religious practices as a social phenomenon. The subjects of religion are religious groups and institutions, their formation, functions, and transformations, including the processes of decay and death that define religious behavior and the interaction of people within and between groups. The central focus of religion in sociology is the interaction between religion and society. It includes the impact of other forms of social behavior of people on their religious behavior, and it consequences for wider social groups and societies, to which they belong. Furthermore, it includes the degree of difference of the religious subsystem from other forms of social organization, its capabilities as a factor of social integration and disintegration, social changes and crisis management. The religion in sociology applies sociological approaches and examines the religious phenomenon from a specific point of view, namely, interpretations of religious issues through social notions. This approach is justified as far as religion is considered a social phenomenon, and to the extent that sociological explanation does not claim the only possible and a full explanation of religion.
Modern religion in sociology is a multi-level system of knowledge about the social beliefs and religious practices, which include a vast variety of empirical knowledge, their systematization and interpretation in numerous theories of special and private, and general sociological and meta-theoretical levels. It is a number of separate areas and scientific schools representing religion from different theoretical perspectives and conducting research in various directions and areas. Socio-religious approaches, which are common to different areas and schools, are determined by the fundamental methodological principles of scientific analysis of reality that is considered to be based on the empirical data and objective interpretation. For the sociologists, the religion provides accessible mean of monitoring human behavior in terms of peoples communication and actions. In other words, it gives the possibility to see, study, and change empirical issues; moreover, it provides data for further theoretical analysis and generalization, which are available for scrutiny and may be confirmed or disproved. It means that sociology of religion is not targeted at studying the object, which is subjectively directed by religious beliefs and behavior of the believer. It explains that issues concerning God, transcendent and supernatural beings are not covered in the scientific investigations of the sociologist. For the sociology as the science of religion, the fact of the existence of religion is not connected with the obligatory recognition of the truth of the original postulate of religious beliefs in the existence of God or gods. Primarily, the sociology of religion is not interested in religious beliefs, their truth, or falsity, but in their connection with the system of social institutions, statuses, and roles, the way of thinking and life of bigger or smaller social groups in different historically determined societies.
Within its development, sociology of religion has extended the area of its research gradually. Among the most important issues are religion and social order, integration and stability of the society; religion as a source of social change; types of religious communities and the typology of religious organizations, religious and social conflicts, evolution of religious institutions in society and their influence on social stratification, economic behavior, legitimization and sacralization of political power in the family and marriage relationships, the process of modernization and development of modern societies, including the modernization and secularization of the religious institution, the disintegration of the traditional religious worldview in the industrial and post-industrial societies, the development of religious individualism and pluralism, religious fundamentalism as a reaction to undermining the traditional foundations of life and standards of traditional religious practices.
Though Michel Foucalt was an atheist and was not interested in religion much, he developed his own vision of religion. He criticized religion in several ways concentrating on its repressive nature (Furseth & Repstad, 2006). The Foucalts criticism of religion was based primarily on the five interrelated factors. The first factor was the interdependence of religion and culture. Secondly, Foucalt claimed that religious discourse was placed and shaped within the process of acquiring knowledge and power. Third factor meant the debates about the realization of belief, as Foucalt considered religion to be always about sexuality and body. The fourth factor was based on the analysis of the power mechanisms, as religion ordered life through a set of forced rules and limitations. Finally, the last factor concerned the religious government of the self. Thus, Foucalt claimed that, in the practice of confession, the disclosure and renunciation interacted with each other that led to the formation of the self (Furseth & Repstad, 2006).
In conclusion, postmodernism is not considered a philosophical movement because it does not have a complex set of methodologies, presumptions, doctrines, and axioms, which are arguable and characterize the movement as a phenomenon. Postmodernism is more similar to a philosophical period as it unites various thinkers who expressed their divergent and contradictory points of view. Furthermore, postmodernism has nothing to do with the notion of postmodernity, as postmodernity is the period of human history since the end of the World War II. In its turn, postmodernism relates to the philosophical or art trends. Nevertheless, postmodernists also believed that the modern period is exhausted and decadent. Moreover, postmodernism is considered a critique of modernism. Primarily, postmodern thinkers united because all of them believed that the modern project has failed. Thus, most postmodern ideas were influenced by modernism in order to identify the reasons of its destruction, and analyze the possible consequences.
To the extent of postmodernism, Foucaults ideas primarily concerned the influence of surveillance, power, cultural ideals, and institutions on the human behavior and interior life. He claimed that science had created institutions, which had changed the human behavior extremely through the attempts to analyze the individual. Foucault outlined that societies decided what was to be considered normal, and individuals followed these prescriptions. People attempt to adapt to cultural standards, and usually treat those who do not follow this trend negatively. This includes poor people, people of other nationalities, the disabled, and mentally ill people. Foucault introduces a detailed analysis of this problem.
Jean Baudrillard was deeply concerned with the problem of superficial in the postmodern culture, as it was one of the most complicated and enigmatic traits. Baudrillard defined a notion of simulacrum as a copy without an original. Thus, simulation passes four periods: a real thing, a copy, a simulation that doubts the truth of original, and simulacrum, which replaces the original object. Therefore, Baudrillard claimed that human culture consisted mainly of simulacra, as through mass media, humans were attracted by the epistemological free-fall.
Jean-Francois Lyotard is primarily known for his idea of the metanarrative. He claimed that, in the era of information, people were influenced by the growing number of stories or narratives. Furthermore, the spread of computer technologies and mass media caused fracturing of all-embracing cultural narratives and ideologies. Especially, he was concerned with the fact that the ruling groups were trying to force the traditions of their language to less powerful cultures. He called for concentrating on small and local narratives of those who traditionally have been ignored or isolated. Lyotard analyzed the process of transformation of knowledge and information to exercising power. Thus, a computerized society with much knowledge is marketed as a product and is globally scattered.
Concerning the part of religion in sociology, it is a central issue in all societies and human lives, showing the human attitude and response to the environment. As religion is an extremely crucial part of societies, sociologists are interested in studying it. They consider the study of religion both a social institution and system of beliefs. As a social institution, religion is a social institution that includes the beliefs and practices in the human life. As an institution, religion has been developing for a certain period and is structured according to sociology trends. As a belief system, religion reveals peoples thoughts and worldview. From the sociological perspective, primarily studying religion focuses on the ability to examine religion in its social and cultural dimensions impartially.
Michel Foucalt was an atheist, but he developed a system of factors concerning the study of religion. He observed religion from different sides and had his own view on religion in sociology. Thus, he considered that religion and culture interrelated to some extent. Furthermore, he asserted that human knowledge and power had shaped the religious discourse. Then, Foucalt thought that all the ideas of religion touched the sexuality and body that caused thoughts about the embodiment of beliefs. In addition, the scientist considered that religion regulated human life according to a set of force rules. Eventually, Foucalt offered the idea of self-government of religion.