One of the leading postmodern theorists, Lyotard, maintains that societies construct grand narratives by which to legitimate and sustain social order. For Lyotard, grand narratives are stories a culture tells itself about its practices and beliefs. In many Western European countries, especially in the wake of wars in the middle east and the rise of 'terrorism', a grand narrative would be that democracy is the fairest most rational form of government. Lyotard argues that all aspects of modern societies, including the priority given to (positivistic) science, are underpinned by grand narratives.
For Lyotard, the main function of postmodernism is to critique grand narratives. Grand narratives conceal contradictions, inequalities and instabilities in social systems by asserting that positive aspects of the status quo. Postmodernism does not attempt to create alternative grand narratives but rejects any notion of universal or large-scale conceptualisations altogether. Instead, postmodernism prefers to explore 'mini-narratives', which are accounts (discourses) that address localised events and situations, which are provisional. As such, postmodernists make no claims about truth, reason, generalisability. Indeed, postmodernism appears to be atheoretical and relativist (see Section 1.5).