Post is the name of a breakfast Cereal

Post is the name of a cereal company that makes Raisin Bran, Honey Combs and Shredded Wheat. In 2006, they discontinued Post-Toasties, the brand of choice in summer camp. When I hear the prefix post-, I think of cereal.
The latest infection of language is to call everything is post- and post-modern. People who want change apply it to every change they want and people who are against change call all change as post –modern. Simply things like the modern poetry of Rilke or the thought of Hegel can be called Post-modern by those who have not read/heard of them.
People throw around terms indiscriminately. I do not like the term right and left- there has to be a description.  Right and left differ between decades and countries. I do not like it when the word existential is used as a synonym for emotional or important. Nor do I like it when hermeneutic, which means the horizons and assumptions that allow for interpretation, is used for exegesis. And I do not like when the word “unique,” which in Rav Soloveitchik means revelatory and outside of culture, is used for special.
So here is a little screed from another blog inhabitato dei, with the expletives removed.

You’re not “post-“ anything so shut up!

If there was one term I could actually effect a moratorium on I think it would have to be the phrase “post-”. But, since I can’t effect a moratorium, allow me to propose an axiom instead:
Any conceptual position (theological, philosophical, etc.) that describes itself using the modifier “post-” is never actually “post-” anything in anything other than a temporal sense (and usually that’s not the case either).

Postmetaphysical? No. Postfoundationalist? No, you were never foundationalist to start with. Postliberal? No, you’re still liberal. Postmodern? Shut up, that’s just stupid. Post-postmodern? Kneecaps, meet baseball bat.

The only possible places where I can think of the term “post-” having any real usefulness are in the realms of architecture and art history. Insofar as it gets used by philosophers and theologians its just an attempt to short circuit an argument by pretending that the views you are attacking were a developmental stage you  went through when you were young and not quite as well read as you obviously are now. To call any view “post-” anything is just a masquerade alloying one to define your adversary as wrong, arcane, and naive from the outset.

In short, adopting the language of “post-” is unforgivably cheap and masks a lack of ability to actually make good arguments against things you want to criticize.

There are indeed large cultural changes afoot. Gen Y- the Millennial are the most liberal generation alive and their immediate seniors gen X is the most conservative. And more importantly- Since the 1730’s, every 30-35 years American culture has dramatically shifted from liberal to conservative and back again. But describe it. Calling it post-modern is like the 1958 person saying “we cant kept kosher outside the house- we are modern” or the 2000 person saying “of course we are libertarian and not interested in high culture, are we dont seek religious experience, we are Orthodox.”

3 responses to “Post is the name of a breakfast Cereal

  1. Speaking of unique, one of the most “unqiue” diatribes against the term appears in JZ Smith’s chapter “On Comparison” in his Drudgery Divine.

  2. I’m not sure what the criticism is here. Are we all angry at people throwing around terms that conveniently mean nothing to them? Lots of people I know hate when people say “magical realism” but even if you can talk constructive about it, that’s still what it’s called. Are we against terms naming time periods instead of describing them? Terms like , say, Elizabethan, or Victorian, or any names of those literary periods where a specific confusion and uncertainty seems to prompt artistic responses so diverse that even today we have trouble tying them all together? In art history you have the Rococo and Baroque and other names where people still debate what the damn etymologies could be.

    Postmodern as a term has been around for at least sixty years, and attacks against the term itself have been around in print and from the back of the classroom for decades. After all this time, to criticize people for just using the word is a bit unfair. To take people to task for not understanding the historical period that they’re living through enough to label it appropriately might be even more unfair. A CUNY PhD student has a hard enough time explaining what Modernism is to a class of undergrads. I guess we should settle for better, but blaming everyone else (so it seems) for not having arrived already doesn’t make much sense to me.

    • I actually like the terms romanticism, magical realism, post-modernism, post-liberal. And I accept the variations in definition and that they function as cluster concepts.
      And I do not expect people to correctly write about the time that they live through. But my peeve, which you might not share, is more of the case of the 1960 “we are modern therefore we eat out” use of the term that does not allow a proper description of the social issues of the day. And when it comes to issues of rights – to just call “civil rights” or “human rights” as modern loses the force of the argument. Or if one champions full GLBT equality, to call it post-modern, lessons the argument.
      Ordinary people do not throw around magical realism, it is thrown around by someone that is trying to approximate an academic understanding or weakly applying what they learned in class to inappropriate situations. Many of the other terms are used by those grasping at terms without any starting core of reference or attempt at approximation.

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