There is no emotion,
Only a collage of emotions;
There is no desire,
Only an ecology of desires;
There is no pleasure,
Only an economy of pleasures.
All attempts at theorizing social life are, at the same time, works of autobiography. This is the most basic insight of the sociology of knowledge and, as such, it stands as an additional reminder of the tendency for discourse to create the conditions of its own subversion. The problematics posed by the conditions of postmodernity for the individual also exist for the individual theorist as well as for communities of theorists. Individuation at the individual level and differentiation at the collective level make it increasingly difficult to continue to maintain the illusion that science can achieve some privileged position of neutral observation reported in unbiased language.1
At this point, it should be clear that, as a sociologist, I conceive of postmodernism as not being merely a new intellectual perspective, but rather as an expression of or a response to the dramatic changes in the character of social life and the human experiences these changes have occasioned. This development is clearly what is suggested by Daniel Bell when he observed “[T]here are disjunctures everywhere, and more and more in contemporary society there are radical disjunctures. What I’ve argued is that beliefs are independent of changes in the social structure” (New York Times, 7 February 1989). Another, more personal view is expressed by Richard Ford in his novel, The Ultimate Good Luck (1981), as he described his hero in the following terms:
He had a sense when he joined the marines that the country he was skying out of was a known locale, with a character that was exact and coordinate and that maintained a patterned feel. A thing you could get back with if you had a reason. But that patterned feel had gotten disrupted somehow, as
though everything whole had separated a little inch, and he had dropped back in between things, to being on the periphery without a peripheral perspective.
The postmodern perspective begins with the decentering perception that a peripheral perspective is the best we can hope for when the surrounding social order, once perceived as an encompassing continent, is experienced as a dense and confusing archipelago.