A nice piece in The Chronicle by Robert Soloman about the misrepresentation of the word "existentialism" in popular and contemporary culture, centered around a review of a new book on Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Camus called Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit. Sounds like the subtitle to my life story! (ha ha...sigh).
Uh anyways, Solomon agrees with the author's evaluation of pessimism as an "appropriate and realistic philosophy," but disputes his conflation of the term with existentialism. He admits that the assertion of the meaninglessness of human life and the "death of God" (Kierkegaard was, of course, a Christian) provokes anxiety, then adds that such notions are not necessarily nihilistic: The recognition of indeterminacy permits the valuation of subjective positions, an outlook that produces a more situated,* and, inherently just, conception of human experience.
Having read very few existential texts but a healthy amount of postmodernist criticism (and opposition), it's interesting to observe the manner in which both terms (the former being a precursor to the other) are so often exploited as straw men; existentialism is misrepresented as pessimism, postmodernism is portrayed as a product of the descent of traditional values and the rise of consumerism, deconstruction is written off as destruction, and multiculturalism is conflated with relativism. Which leads to the Big Question: Why are philosophical systems that privilege individual agency so often treated as scarecrows by the media?
*I know it's kind of obnoxious that I linked my own posts here, but they're revealing of my biases.