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What is postmodernism contd ...


How do you see postmodernism related to poststructuralism?

Poststructuralism is one of the routes to postmodern skepticism. There are others.

Structuralism was the school of thought that said that there was a hidden underlying structure to the human mind. Different structuralists posed their own theory as to what exactly this hidden structure was. Poststructuralists, no longer believe there is such a well-defined, stable mental structure and some poststructuralists become postmodern as a way of dealing with this skepticism. That is, they turn to conversational paralogy and try to avoid forcing the paralogy to particular conclusion. Hershey Bell taught me the term "agendaless" to refer to this way of interacting.

Michael White, however, stayed with poststructuralism without moving into this postmodern paralogical approach. As you know, White helped create an important version of narrative therapy. He was heavily influenced by the ideas of the poststructuralist, Michel Foucault. For White, the term "poststructural" calls attention to the specific problems that underlie therapeutic modernism in a way that the term "postmodern" does not. His school of thought offers creative ways of dealing with problems once understood to be structural, but he does not call himself "postmodern," even though he would agree with many postmodern positions at least this is how I understand Michael White's reasons for considering himself poststructuralist rather than postmodern.

As opposed to structuralism, positivism was the school of thought that believed that words always labeled objects and that good positivist philosophy could teach us how to get the labels exactly right. This is the philosophy of most research in the social sciences, research that defines its variables and statistically analyzes its data. This was what I once believed in, and so this was my own route to postmodernism. It was also Wittgenstein's route. This postmodernism is postpositivist.

Remember, however, all of this simplifies the postmodern picture. Most postmoderns study both poststructuralist and postpositivist writing.

Is postmodernism just a fad?

In a way yes, and in a way no. I believe the postmodernism of today is likely to be a passing thing. Today, postmodernism is defined by its skepticism, but I think postmodernism will come to be seen as the kind of creative spirit that fosters collaboration and new ways of talking and writing between people who do not necessarily share an allegiance to the same school of thought.

Is postmodernism likely to affect our future as therapists? If so, how?

As therapists, postmodernism will make us work more collaboratively. We will study our clients' situation with them in ways that we hope will foster their creativity. We will be more inventive about approaches and less condemning of approaches different from our own.

I also believe that postmodernism will lead, eventually, to more online therapies (see New Therapist 7, due out in May 2000, for an exhausitive look at online therapy). Some will be self-help groups (sometimes including therapists) and some will be new types of advice services. I have recently imagined that we would have families describing their problems online while reflecting teams observed and commented over the internet. Regardless, the design of these conversations will be different from what we have known before. They will exploit the new online medium to foster better relationships among speakers, respect for difference. They will often tend to betray the theorist's intentions in order to make the therapy fit the local situation better. These postmodern therapists will be more respectful of clients than therapists have generally been.

That's how I see things going. However, like any postmodern, I realize that this peering around the corner is largely imaginative. There are so many unknown forces. Still, it is hard to imagine that whatever comes after postmodernism will be unaffected by the changes it has brought us.

Lois Shawver grew up in Texas, the daughter of parents who had not graduated from high school. Her father, unable to read, did not appreciate Lois' early scholarly interests. At nineteen she was engaged and was a mother of two in her early twenties. One day, Lois' loving grandmother offered to move in with her and babysit for a year so Lois could go to college. Six years later, Lois had a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She has been in private practice for 25 years and worked as a prison psychologist part-time for 15 years. She has published numerous articles and one book. Today, she lives with her husband Douglas Kurdys and their two dogs in northern California where she continues with a private practice, runs a popular internet listserv on postmodern therapies and publishes on postmodernism as it relates to therapy. Visit her at www.california.com/~rathbone/pmth.htm



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