File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 67


Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 22:10:57 -0500
Subject: The Goths


All

In order that Steve and I don't continue at loggerheads on this subject
of postmodern religion, I want to acknowledge a few of the positions we
share in common.

1. We are both atheists.
2. We both think that theology has no epistemological function regarding
matters of fact.
3. We both share a similar political perspective and have concerns about
religion as ideology.
4. Neither one of us wants to "justify God's ways to man" in the sense
of being apologists for religion.

So what is our dispute really about then?

I have been pondering this question and here is my take on it.  (Steve
may well disagree.)

If we take Lyotard's thesis of the post-modern condition as the end of
metanarratives in a quasi-sociological way, then the empirical question
presents itself - With the decline of the Grand Narrative, would one
expect to see the decline of religion or its proliferation?

Steve has made it clear that his position is that religion will
decline.  My position is that religions will proliferate, although I
need to qualify what I mean by this.  I am not talking about the Faith
of our Fathers, despite the undeniable resurgence of fundamentalism
throughout the world as a reactive response to globalism.  
The kind of religion I am talking about as post-modern religion is
closer perhaps to what the media would label cultist in a pejorative
way.  It is religion that tends to be marginal rather than conventional,
not so much theistic as exotic, not so much moralistic as therapeutic
and one that allows its participants to playfully explore new
possibilities of self outside the confines of the mainstream worldview. 
(By self here, I do not mean the self as an ontological or metaphysical
principle, but the self as a kind of style, a rewriting of one's
inscribed identity, the self as a signature. - "signed, moi!")

On the whole, I think this constitutes a healthy sign because it
indicates a greater differentiation and complexity in contemporary
culture - more singularities - sure signs of the postmodern.  However,
many of these sects are clearly dysfunctional and politically
reactionary.  I don't want to come across here as an advocate for
Heaven's Gate.

While thinking about these questions after reading Reg's post, the
thought occurred to me, can the Goth movement be described as a kind of
postmodern religion in the sense I am attempting to describe?  I think
it is, but I want to throw the question out there to stimulate further
discussion. 

Goths also have a particular interest for me because they are linked,
however tangentially, with the earlier Gothic movement that historically
had a major role in the manifestation of the sublime within Romantic
culture. 

Here is what Reg said:

"While the comments below are fair enough they can be expanded at least
far enough to include a contrasting element, thus adding a dynamic
effect. There is, after all, an equally strong movement esp among young
people to appropriate tribal personae, which works against the heirarchy
of capital. They are, nevertheless, stakeholders in a pop industry
(music, fashion) which favours working class "authenticity" and
"integrity" while being sublimely unsentimental about what these terms
really mean. I experience the aesthetics of terror every weekend when my
glam-Goth daughter goes out with her neo-Punk pals, ready to lord it
over those 'stupid, fawning rich kids who try to suck up for some street
cred'. It's not just social cache though, because that street cred
translates into a powerful and burgeoning segment of the West's 
economy ... and the kids all know it. "

So, how about it, is this a case of a postmodern religion? And, if not,
why not?  

I am not asking this question sociologically as much as philosophically,
I am attempting to see this as enthusiasm in the Kantian sense as a
possible sign of history.  (keeping in mind that enthusiasm literally
means "infused with God".) 


Eric


   

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