Postmodern Theory of Culture and Cultural Tourism

  June 29, 2021   Read time 2 min
Postmodern Theory of Culture and Cultural Tourism
Postmodern theory favors de-differentiation of cultural activities and preferences. However, the concept of postmodernism is often regarded with incomprehension or distrust. When it comes to cultural tourism, Postmodern emphasis on diversity proves to be helpful.

As stated by Adair, ‘Few “isms” . . . have provoked as much perplexity and suspicion as postmodernism.’ Solomon and Higgins criticise postmodernism for its failure to contribute anything positive or new to philosophical discussion, stating that: Postmodernism . . . has come to represent a ragbag of objections, accusations, parodies, and satires on traditional philosophical concerns and pretensions. It is largely negative, rarely positive, the celebration of an ending but not clearly marking anything new.

Sarup notes that ‘many thinkers believe that the rhetoric of postmodernism is dangerous, for it avoids the reality of political economy and the circumstances of global power’. Walsh describes postmodernity as a condition, rather than as a coherent set of beliefs and practices. Solomon and Higgins argue that postmodernism is not a philosophy, since it rejects the concept of a single universal or absolute truth. Instead, its proponents argue in favour of plural and objective concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘discourse’. Postmodern structuralists such as Levi-Strauss and Foucault have argued against universal and totalising discourses, the authority of the single subject, and the generally accepted linearity of history. Foucault in particular emphasises the power relationships and manipulation inherent in social structures, which affect cultural development.

Therefore, although postmodernism could be disregarded as just another contemporary ‘buzzword’, its influence is pervasive in cultural theory. However, Milner describes it as ‘a particular cultural space available for analysis to many different kinds of contemporary cultural politics’. Urry describes postmodernism as being ‘antihierarchical’ and opposed to differentiations. Modernists considered there to be a definite gap between high art and low art, whereas postmodernism questions these divisions. This shift in perspective has been essential to the development of cultural democracy, increased access to culture and inclusive representation. Walsh describes how ‘media of mass communications have facilitated the removal of many of the boundaries between high art and low art and have helped to remove difference from the varied and rich cultures all over the world’, and that De-differentiation manifests itself in a number of ways. There is the destruction of the division between high and low art, the end of auratic, or rather, the end of the provision of auratic spectacles solely for consumption by a social elite. The de-differentiation of culture also results in the incorporation of culture into the everyday political economy.

Postmodernism is interesting in that it conceptualises culture less in terms of homogeneity, and more in terms of diversity, hybridisation and local discourses. This is particularly important in the increasingly cosmopolitan and culturally diverse environment of the global city. Knox refers to the usefulness of postmodernism in an urban context: ‘Postmodernity is an increasingly important dimension of socio-cultural life that articulates with certain features of economic and social change in contributing to the socio-spatial dialectics of the city.’