Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Postmodern Vocabulary: Logocentricity, Marginalization, Privilege, etc.

Originally posted on March 4, 2015

New words can help us think clearly about new concepts. It isn’t that we’re just trying to be fancy. Old words don’t address the meaning at all. For example, here are some words that help me think about new trends:

Logocentricity is a word that suggests that someone speaks in a mode of discourse (or thinks that way, too) as if what counts, really, is the common definition of a word. It is a cultural value that rewards folks who were skilled with manipulating words—lawyers, publicity agents, news reporters, textbook writers, and so forth—people who could make bad stuff seem noble and good stuff trashy—these people earn big bucks. People who have equal skill in making plants grow—have a “green thumb”—, or those who can perceive what animals need and relate to them, are not logocentric. They earn very little. Our culture has become heavily logocentric, and people have come to believe in “definitions,” as if anything could be adequately defined, irrespective of context and non-verbal communication. I’m not knocking words and their use, but rather critiquing an unthinking reliance on “what’s there in black and white.” Major under-handedness has been perpetuated by creating laws whose spirit could be circumvented by the letter of the law.

Marginalization is usually an unconscious individual or collective process of treating certain kinds of people as if they live at the margins, or beyond the margins of meriting recognition. You don’t see movie stars being these people. If they are portrayed, they are stereotyped, perhaps as stupid or clowns of villains. Only recently have homosexuals or people of color or other minority groups been portrayed as significant figures. Previously, such people were marginalized. For a good example of seeing how African Americans were marginalized, see the 2014 movie, The Butler.

Of course, throughout history some things are thought of as significant and other categories ignored. However, when this is done carelessly or unconsciously, some things deserve to be redeemed from the margins. Whole categories of people have been discounted, and they’re not standing for it anymore. 

Empowerment is another word that needs to come into the mainline of usage. Many people and groups have been dis-empowered, and have bought into it. Teaching these people to know their rights and to exercise their powers of self-assertion and self-affirmation involves empowerment, or maybe re-empowerment. It’s an important process in the post-modern world.

Post-Modern goes beyond the modern mastery of technology and turns its attention to the psycho-social way we construct our world. The modern view was that the world could be assessed objectively. The post-modern view takes note of the criteria for assessment, and how those criteria, the words used, what is looked at, all are determined by prior assumptions, and that these assumptions must be examined. Change the often hidden assumptions, and you change our view of things.

Privilege is having a status such that many things are taken for granted. It’s worth looking these words up on web searches. People who are privileged generally don’t recognize that fact, nor do they recognize that those who are less privileged, or under-privileged experience life very differently. It’s part of a mood of re-evaluation to consider what privileges are assumed; what indeed are people entitled to? If not, why not? And is this entirely rational, the hierarchy of entitlements, or is it rationalized to serve those who are at the top?

The purpose of these words is to get us thinking. I know we think we think, but basically what is thought is how to maneuver among our assumptions. Re-evaluating assumptions requires a somewhat more energetic form of thinking and discussion, a more critical viewpoint.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *