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The Third Man - why Willie Mason and John Howard have embraced postmodernism

By Richard Stanton - posted Monday, 30 April 2007

When prime ministers and footballers refer to themselves as commodities, it’s time for the alarm bells to start ringing loudly so that we can take a long hard look at the extent to which postmodernity has completed its invasion of our modernist lives.

Richard Stanton provides a "please explain".

Most of us don’t know or don’t want to know what this thing called postmodernity is.


We don’t want to know because it’s perceived to be some wanky rubbish that’s been dreamed up by wanky academics who wouldn’t know the difference between the real world and their bum cracks.

Postmodernism is an interesting thing. It has given us chaotic capitalism and globalism. It has turned the citizens of the western world into consumers rather than producers. It has commodified everything from soap powder to speech.

Some of this is good.

Globalisation has the potential, in theory at least, to float the boats of the poverty stricken and the diseased. Chaotic capitalism moves swiftly across geophysical and geopolitical boundaries, forcing innovation where it may have previously been resisted.

The commodification of society means we now look for as many choices as we can when buying goods and services. And this should be a good thing, because more choice usually means cheaper prices and better quality.

Television current affairs programs, however, tell us that maybe we are not getting the choices we would like when they report that unscrupulous postmodernist players are substituting nasty overseas food for the nice stuff and not telling us.


In their desire to remain in modernity, television current affairs programs are missing the point. Even the greatest supporters of modernity are demonstrating that they are strategic when it comes to giving their constituents more choices than they deserve.

In this, one of the Western world’s best parliamentary debaters thinks the same as one of the world’s greatest rugby league players. They think the same because they have learned to commodify themselves.

A commodity is something that can be produced in bulk. It is a thing of value or a thing that can be the object of trade. It is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as a thing one deals in or makes use of.

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Richard Stanton is a wanky academic who teaches political communication at the University of Sydney and thinks he knows the difference.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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