What is Postmodernism?

Learn the major arguments of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and other postmodernist philosophers – and new ways of thinking about the questions they raise.


Many activists use the language of postmodernism in their calls for “social justice.” Others say that postmodernism is destroying our civilization and will enslave us all.

In this course we will do what very few people on either side of the postmodernism controversy seem to have done: examine the texts that are associated with the notorious philosophy.

You’ll gain an understanding of the major arguments in the most famous works of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and other postmodernist philosophers, and you’ll have new ways of thinking about the questions they raise:

  • Does truth exist?
  • Is there a reality that exists outside and apart from human consciousness?
  • Can ethics be objective?
  • What purposes have truth claims served?
  • What are scientific “facts”?
  • What is power, who holds it, and where is it?
  • Is physical punishment more effective than shame?
  • Does power operate from the top of a society downward or from the bottom of society upward, or does it move in different directions and originate from multiple sources?
  • Are words violent?
  • Does one’s biology determine one’s destiny?
  • Were you born a man or a woman or neither?
  • Does freedom exist?

Meet the Instructor

Thaddeus Russell


Thaddeus Russell is the founder of Renegade University and the author of A Renegade History of the United States. He has taught history and cultural studies at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, the New School for Social Research, Occidental College, and Willamette University. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Russell graduated from Antioch College and received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University.

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Video course

Full access to high quality video courses.

Office Hours

Speak one-on-one with the instructor via phone or video call

Social Learning

Participate in a course related social media network with others taking the course.