Lyotard, Jean-François (1924–1998)

The origins of postmodernism lie in the architecture and writing of Robert Venturi in the 1960s and Charles Jencks's identification of an architectural movement in the 1980s. But it is with the publication of Jean-François Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979 [English trans. 1984]) that the broader implications of a shift in the nature of modernity were first explored. Lyotard, whose early career was as a philosophy teacher and Marxist activitist, later employed Freudian ideas as he engaged with the contemporary philosophical debates that grew out of phenomenology and post-structuralism.

The key feature of the postmodern world that he described was the failure of the grand narratives—those of religion, philosophy and politics—to continue to legitimate knowledge claims. The problem was the success of ...

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