Neutralizing the power of discourses

Vincent Kundukulam

One of the claims of postmodern philosophers is that the discourses are used by the powerful to impose a special type of identity on the people. The institutions demand that the adepts attached to them constitute their identity in such a way that they get fit in to the mental frame of the establishment. The self-image of those who listen to the discourse is being transformed so as to suit to the interest of authority. The discourses put the persons in the places they want it. In such a context individuals cannot stand outside of the social conditions and judge the actualities from an autonomous point of view.

It is because of the lack of freedom in the totalizing systems that the postmodernists put into question all types of concepts related to authority, certainty, centre, universalization, teleology, hierarchy, homogeneity, etc. The discourses of power marginalize the subordinate groups who don’t share their views. All the structures impose restrictions on human identity and these limitations import moral consequences. In fact the humans exist in the society only as subjects conditioned by class, race, regions, and gender and so on and so forth.

In order to counter the influence of the dominant ideologies the postmodernists facilitate the promotion of a politics of difference. They promote a far more diffused and pluralistic individuality in which the identities of the marginalized sections are asserted against the dominant ones. The growth of feminism is a vivid expression of the assertion of the marginalized groups. Until the 1960s women were excluded from the hierarchical symbolic order on account of the claim that the femaleness implies weak values compared to those invested in masculinity. But feminism attacked the meta-discourse which are designed to keep the males in power. It questioned the validity and dominance of the conceptual frameworks regarding social roles that are proposed by the males. Instead it proposed the recognition of difference, an acceptance of the other where any framework does not gain upper-hand over the others.

The result of transgressing the conceptual stereotypical categories and promoting the difference was that the groups which achieved autonomous recognition began to function as isolated communities. They were cut off from all the central harmonizing ideologies. The irreducible pluralism cut them off from any frameworks of belief that might lead to common political action. They became perpetually suspicious of the domination of others. They were even lead to turn against the principles of Enlightenment like justice, equality and liberty. Reason when it is in alliance with the science and technology is considered to be incipiently totalitarian.

The problem is that postmodern skepticism affects badly the very rational means of communication. How the differentially defined groups can communicate with the other existing marginalized groups and the meta-systems? When each group is suspicious of the other playing a dominant role, the practice of consensual rationality which is one of the best antidotes to the political abuse of power becomes impossible. Due to this reason many think that the postmodernists lack a settled external view-point and therefore unreliable for the political life.

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