Leadership & Postmodernism
By Prof Khwaja Masud

THE airport of a metropolis is the emblem of our turbulent times. It may be considered a social force in its own right — a metaphor for a cluster of related technologies and social developments. Travellers from every corner of the world stream in and out, travellers with cultural baggage and economic interests that bear no relation to those of their fellow passengers.

They move in different directions, yet they form a collective. The airport, like the world we live in, is a confusing place. The passengers may not have anything in common; but for airports to work, workers and passengers alike must understand and adhere to a complicated combination of rules and regulations.

The international airport is both an agent and a symbol of the new global economy that is eclipsing the nation state. It is also a symbol of man’s triumph over the forces of nature; yet quite often subject to the vagaries of the weather. Michel Foucault, the postmodernist French philosopher, has a one-word description of the airport — heterotopia. Utopia is a place where everything is good; dystopia is a place where everything is bad; heterotopia is a place where things are different, i.e. a collection whose members have few intelligible connections with one another. This, increasingly, is what we perceive our world has become: to feel this perception is to enter the postmodern world.

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