From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books on postmodernism, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on postmodernism. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on postmodernism in no particular order.
The Origins of Postmodernity – Perry Anderson
Publisher description: Where does the idea of the postmodern come from? Who first conceived, and who developed it? How have its meanings changed? What purposes do they serve? These are the questions addressed in The Origins of Postmodernity. The answers take us from Lima to Angkor, to Paris and Munich, to China and the stars. At the center of the story is the figure of Fredric Jameson, theorist supreme of postmodernism. What happens to art, time, politics, in the age of the spectacle? What has ended, and what has begun?
Postmodern Theory – Steven Best & Douglas Kellner
Publisher description: In this timely volume, the authors systematically analyze postmodern theory to evaluate its relevance for critical social theory and radical politics today.
Best and Kellner provide:
- An introduction and critique of the work of Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Baudrillard, Lyotard, Laclau and Mouffe, and Jameson, which assess the varying contributions and limitations of postmodern theory
- A discussion of postmodern feminist theory and the politics of identity
- A systematic study of the origin of the discourse of the postmodern in historical, sociological, cultural, and philosophical studies….
French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century – Gary Gutting
Publisher description: In this book Gary Gutting tells, clearly and comprehensively, the story of French philosophy from 1890 to 1990. He examines the often neglected background of spiritualism, university idealism, and early philosophy of science, and also discusses the privileged role of philosophy in the French education system. Taking account of this background, together with the influences of avant-garde literature and German philosophy, he develops a rich account of existential phenomenology, which he argues is the central achievement of French thought during the century, and of subsequent structuralist and poststructuralist developments. His discussion includes chapters on Bergson, Sartre, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, and Derrida, with sections on other major thinkers including Lyotard, Deleuze, Irigaray, Levinas, and Ricoeur. He offers challenging analyses of the often misunderstood relationship between existential phenomenology and structuralism and of the emergence of poststructuralism. Finally, he sketches the major current trends of French philosophy.
From Modernism to Postmodernism – Lawrence E. Cahoone
Publisher description: This revised and expanded second edition of Cahoone’s classic anthology provides an unparalleled collection of the essential readings in modernism and postmodernism.
- Places contemporary debate in the context of the criticism of modernity since the seventeenth century.
- Chronologically and thematically arranged.
- Indispensable and multidisciplinary resource in philosophy, literature, cultural studies, social theory, and religious studies.
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge – Jean-Francois Lyotard
Publisher description: Many definitions of postmodernism focus on its nature as the aftermath of the modern industrial age when technology developed. This book extends that analysis to postmodernism by looking at the status of science, technology, and the arts, the significance of technocracy, and the way the flow of information is controlled in the Western world.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- From Modern to Postmodern Philosophy – PHI 3345 | University of Dallas
- Postmodernism-Additional Resources – Coe College
- Introductions to Postmodernism?
- Intro to post-modernism
- Recommendations of places to start reading on postmodernism
- Intro books to postmodernism and poststructuralism?
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on Existentialism
- The Best Books on Continental Philosophy
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- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.