Postmodernism and the Three ‘Pomo Flips’

Faced with theoretical or philosophical positions that seem untenable, it is tempting to counter them by reversing or inverting them, for example, responding to empiricism’s belief in the rooting of knowledge in empirical observation by claiming knowledge to be independent of observation and observation to be wholly dependent on discourses. This strategy retains the problematic structures which generated the problems in the first place […] Defeatist postmodernism typically defines itself in opposition to ‘foundationalism’, ‘objectivism’, and those who claim privileged access to ‘the truth’. In reacting against this, it then flips over into an anti-realism which rules out any possibility of empirical/practical evaluation and makes truth relative to discourse.

Realists also reject naive objectivism, but as we argued in the previous chapter, this need not make us flip over into relativism or idealism, or make us doubt the possibility of scientific progress or abandon the Enlightenment project. I shall call the former reaction a ‘pomo flip’, but there are other pomo flips too: from a rejection of grand narratives or totalizing discourses to an incapacitating fragmentation of the world and its discourses; and from a rejection of ethnocentrism, androcentrism and imperialism to an equally self-defeating cultural and judgmental relativism.

Andrew Sayer, Realism and Social Science, Pg 67-68

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