I've been coming across the theories of Frederic Jameson a lot lately so I thought it best that I read some of his work. Jameson talks about postmodernism as a movement in the arts and culture that corresponds to the developing politics and economics based around transnational consumer economies and the global scope of capitalism, "late capitalism".
Daniel Clowes depiction of Jameson
Below is an extract from Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Jameson,1991):
The last few years have been marked by an inverted millenarianism in which premonitions of the future, catastrophic or redemptive, have been replaced by senses of the end of this or that (the end of ideology, art, or social class; the “crisis” of Leninism, social democracy, or the welfare state, etc., etc.); taken together, all of these perhaps constitute what is increasingly called postmodernism. The case for its existence depends on the hypothesis of some radical break or coupure, generally traced back to the end of the 1950s or the early 1960s.
As the word itself suggests, this break is most often related to notions of the waning or extinction of the hundred-year-old modern movement (or to its ideological or aesthetic repudiation). Thus abstract expressionism in painting, existentialism in philosophy, the final forms of representation in the novel, the films of the great auteurs, or the modernist school of poetry (as institutionalised and canonised in the works of Wallace Stevens) all are now seen as the final, extraordinary flowering of a high-modernist impulse which is spent and exhausted with them. The enumeration of what follows, then, at once becomes empirical, chaotic, and heterogeneous: Andy Warhol and pop art, but also photorealism, and beyond it, the “new expressionism”; the moment, in music, of John Cage, but also the synthesis of classical and “popular” styles found in composers like Phil Glass and Terry Riley, and also punk and new wave rock (the Beatles and the Stones now standing as the high-modernist moment of that more recent and rapidly evolving tradition); in film, Godard, post-Godard, and experimental cinema and video, but also a whole new type of commercial film (about which more below); Burroughs, Pynchon, or Ishmael Reed, on the one hand, and the French nouveau roman and its succession, on the other, along with alarming new kinds of literary criticism based on some new aesthetic of textuality or écriture ... The list might be extended indefinitely; but does it imply any more fundamental change or break than the periodic style and fashion changes determined by an older high-modernist imperative of stylistic innovation?
A strong belief of Jameson is that in postmodernism there is no originality, only mimicry and pastiche. He believes that there is no longer any individualism; that all signifiers circulate and recirculate prior to existing images and styles: "in a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum" (Jameson).
Jameson discusses nostalgia in his work, stating that in the postmodern, history is represented in pop-culture through the use of nostalgic fantasy images of that past. We view that past through idealism.
He states that history has become a "style" in the postmodern, that historical representations have blended with nostalgia:
"the disappearance of a sense of history, the way in which our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past, has begun to live in a perpetual present and in a perpetual change that obliterates traditions of the kind which all earlier social formations have had in one way or another to preserve... The information function of the media would thus be to help us to forget, to serve as the very agents and mechanisms of our historical amnesia" (Jameson).