“The watch being advertised is almost invisible.”

watch ad















Because postmodernism?

This comes at the end of the “Postmodernism” chapter of David Harvey’s The Postmodern Condition, in which Harvey’s clear moral disappointment in everything he’s describing as postmodern comes to a head. The oddest thing about this particular moment is that Harvey, in the snarky finger-waving aside he closes this picture caption with, seems to inaugurate a nostalgia for the days when advertising would just directly display its product (the sin here is that the ad is so distracted both by the naked woman and by its clever postmodern ‘superimposition of ontologically different worlds’ that it forgets to even actually advertise its product) and seems to attribute this specific depravity of advertising to postmodernism in exactly the same way he’s earlier attributed Foucault’s morally disappointing abandonment of classical Marxism to postmodernism. That is, he disapproves of it, and it seems potentially postmodern, therefore this is what postmodernism is.

Harvey concludes his chapter with this truly hilarious “Note”

The illustrations used in this chapter have been criticized by some feminists of a postmodern persuasion. They were deliberately chosen because they allowed comparison across the supposed pre-modern, modern and postmodern divides….All the illustrations make use of a woman’s body to inscribe their particular message. The additional point I sought to make is that the subordination of women, one of the many ‘troublesome contradictions’ in bourgeois Enlightenment practices…can expect no particular relief by appeal to postmodernism. I thought the illustrations made the point so well that no further elaboration was necessary. But, in some circles at least, these particular pictures were not worth their usual thousand words. Nor, it seems, should I have relied upon postmodernists appreciating their own technique of telling even a slightly different story by way of the illustrations as compared to the text. (June, 1991.)




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