The Story: Pluralism
Postmodernism as the term suggests is a reaction to modernism. To some degree, it is about breaking away from the “standardisation” pursued by modernism. There are many movements within postmodernism - many based on revivals of classicism. The aim of postmodernism is not to find “a” solution to the problems of modernism or the problems modernism sought to address, but that there are “many” possible solutions. The most accurate way to describe postmodernism is through "pluralism" or a phenomenon of many values and beliefs - not one single value or belief system dominating over others.
"But the most encompassing trend, it seems to me, is not so much away from belief as towards an increasing plurality of beliefs. Never has consensus been so hard to achieve on a political and professional level. In the architectural world, for instance, there has never been so much conflict, such professional bitterness and hostility. And yet, this friction, the debates between Modernists, Late-Modernists and Post-Modernists, or all of them against Traditionalists, or some of them against Free-Style Classicists - all this acrimony doesn't speak of a decline in belief, but of something quite different; a new-found discovery that differences matter, that distinctions can be fought over." [Jencks, 1989, p.50]
Postmodernism is relevant for all architecture intensive disciplines because it provides us with an understanding of why consensus is difficult to achieve. The activity of design and construction - in organizational structures, software systems or buildings - is currently undergoing this crisis.
"Post-Modernism as a cultural phenomenon is often hard to grasp because it is so various in style and discontinuous, even within a single building or work of art. Eclecticism is the natural style for cultural diversity and there is one fundamental reason for the increasing pluralism of our era: it has been united by current technologies into an instantaneous, twenty-four-hour 'information world', the Post-Industrial successor to a Modern world based on industry. To understand this new situation is to grasp a series of contrasts and not a single entity, or predetermined process. The shifts are kaleidoscopic and simultaneous - that from mass-production to segmented production; from a relatively integrated mass-culture to many fragmented taste cultures; from centralized control in government and business to peripheral decision-making; from repetitive manufacture of identical objects to the fast-changing manufacture of varying objects; from few styles to many genres; from national to global consciousness and, at the same time, local identification - and there are many more related changes than this short list implies. Fundamentally we are passing into a new era of culture and social organization, what Daniel Bell called the Post-Industrial Society in 1967 and what others have called the 'Third Wave', or 'information society'. Several related events have brought it into existence. " [Jencks, 1989, p.43]
What will drive organizational theory is a need to address cultural problems and this will require a sense of "openness". "Perhaps the biggest shift in the Post-Modern world is the new attitude of openness. It's not just a taste of heterogeneity, which has brought this about, but also a new assertion of minority rights, of 'otherness' ...But No single movement is typical of this widespread shift." [Jencks, 1989, p.55]