Postmodernism, institutional change, and academic workers: A sociology of knowledge

Thomas K. Rudel, Judith M. Gerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Objective. The surge of scholarly interest in postmodernist thought has become one of the most noted intellectual events of the late twentieth century. In this article we attempt to explain this intellectual efflorescence in terms of changes in the social structure of higher education. Methods. The introductory section of the article outlines the most salient features of a postmodernist perspective. The next section reviews existing macrosociological explanations for the rise of postmodernism. A complementary line of analysis, focusing on patterns of social change within universities, provides a more proximate explanation for the growing popularity of postmodernism. Results and Conclusions. The changes in universities can be described as involutionary. In responding to growing numbers of claims on their resources, university administrators and faculty have complicated the internal structure of their institutions without altering its overall structure or goals. Under these conditions of macrosociological stasis and microsociological change, several important tenets of postmodernism - the rejection of metanarratives and the emphasis on micropolitics - mirror the pattern of institutional change which in turn makes postmodernist ideas seem especially compelling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

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