Marxist theories of postmodernity

Marxists see postmodern society as merely the product of the most recent stage of capitalism, therefore to understand postmodernity you have to examine its relationship with capitalism. Harvey argues capitalism goes through periodic crises and postmodernity arose out of the crisis in the 1970s.

Flexible accumalation

The crisis meant that a new way of ACCUMALATING profits had to be created. ICT and technology developed which allowed firms to communicate efficiently; workers had to become more flexible to meet employers needs; production had to become more niche and easily switchable between different products – work became FLEXIBLE. These changes brought about the common characteristics of postmodernity – e.g niche markets promoted cultural diversity.

Flexible accumulation also turned leisure, culture and identity into commodities. Music, fashion, gaming…it’s all a source of profit. Jameson argues that it commodifies virtually all aspects of life, including identity.

Harvey argues that this more developed capitalism has led to the compression of time and space. Foreign holiays, for example. The birth of holiday/travel agencies has meant I can travel anywhere in the world with a couple of transactions and a passport. Space has been compressed. Living in England I could travel to France in less than an hour by plane, a journey that would have taken me almost half a day 50 years ago. Time has been compressed.  Harvey argues capitalism has been able to shrink the globe.

Politics and progress

Harvey and Jameson argue that flexible accumulation has brought political changes. in particular, it weakened the working class and socialist movements and they got replaced with feminism, eco-warriors etc. Think about it. Which is more in the public eye: threats of the northern hemisphere flooding caused by global warming OR bosses paying workers too little? However, they are hopeful that these movements will group together to create a “rainbow alliance” and bring about change.


Evaluation of labelling

  • Emphasis on negative effects of labelling gives criminals a victim status. Realists see this is ignoring the real victims of crime
  • Ignores that individuals may actively choose deviance
  • Why do people commit crimes prior to labels?
  • It implies no labels = no deviance. The people who commit crimes but are not labelled on deviant? People are unaware they are deviant until labelled?
  • It fails to examine links between labelling and capitalism, so focuses on middle range officials such as police who apply labels rather than the capitalist class that make the rules.