Friday, October 26, 2012
La Condition postmoderne
La Condition Postmoderne or Late modernity
There seems to be an agreement that there is a change of historical era. The concept of the postmodern condition (for example Lyotard) implies that a new era has already started. The term late modernity (for example Giddens) does not say this, but the word "late" implies that modernitty is now in a late phase, which would seem to imply, that it is sooner or later to be replaced by something else.
The assumed new era, which has started according to postmodern philosophers like Lyotard says that there is now a fragmentation in time and space. Every point in time and space is seen as a point, a singularity not related to and caused by other things and not a sign of a deepper content. The division between a sign and what it signifies, sign (signifiant) and content (signifié) disappears, or rather the continuos content in a work of art and in a human utterance or indeed in a human being does not longer exist.
All this sounds very radical and new, but as I see it, when it concerns art etc is just a continuation of the modern. Postmodern architecture just looks like a continuation of the modern. In poetry it often looks like symbolism.
But on the human and the political level there really is something new.
Disinterest in the political and ideological. Collapse of the Grand narratives or explanations, like religions or political –isms, as the postmodernists correctly say. Culture has built ever more complex thought systems and rules for behaviour and thought. These are during the time “after modernity” being torn away.
But as I see it, what follows is not something abstract or really revolutionary different grom what has been seen before in world history, like the one postulated in the theory a technological singularity. This postulates that when computers exceed the human brain something radically different will happen. But human nature asserts itself again. All the cultural complexities are gradually stripped off. This is also why the technological singularity will not happen. Technology will never match human nature whatever the information handling capacity might be. The basic human Wille zur macht and other basic human instincts will continue. Now unchecked by political ideals and thoughts, about which nobody cares anymore.
Power hungry men will more and more dominate instead of political ideas.
Rome went through a similar transition between the Gracchus brothers (around 130 BC) and Marius and Sulla (around 80 BC). Today we do not know the details in this development. We do not know how postmodern this was, but it is clear, that the truly political and social conflicts and fights were dominant in the third and second century BC. and gradually ended in the first. The fights were more and more simply between dominant persons and just for money and for power per se.
Old China is another parallel. In the first Chinese modernity, The Warring States Period, we have 100 schools of thought. These are in the end narrowed down to just the two of practical use for the fighting and indeed winning statesmen: Confucianism and Legalism. Idealist schools like Moism disappear.
Today we can in detail watch and maybe counteract the same development in our own civilization.
Why is it happening?
- Fate would Spengler say.
- Causes would Toynbee say. What causes could here be in play?
1. Political and cultural fatigue. Loosening interest. All thoughts are thought. Alle Gedanken tausendmal gedacht. Spengler might agree but see this as destiny, because each civilization in his view has a limited number of possible thoughts. When all these are thought, nothing new will follow.
2. Long experience of questioning everything leaves indifference. Every new thought has for a couple of centuries been attacked from all sides. So now we don’t really trust anything. We know that everythig can be questioned, so we stop believing something old or new before we have started.
Every belief quickly becomes provincial. Left is only indifference or a return to premodern beliefs like Islam or other religions.
3. The impact of market mechanisms.
The Postmodern culture has no continuous beliefs and its members are fragmented even more by shifting messages from the commercials. The market mechanisms have invaded the soul.
Shopoholic. Shop products and attitudes and personality traits.
It is not true that all the Grand narratives or explanations have died. Economic liberalism, the belief in the holy market mechanisms not only survives, but thrives and dominate all thought and action in and between the states.
But the belief in other Grand explanations has disappeared in our parts of the world. Instead we believe in rapidly shifting fashions dictating material goods. Every half year another type of product is launched by American and Chinese and other producers, and the comercials learn us to crave for them. These needs take possession of our souls. Here the churches and Marx agree and they are right. We shop products and traits in the same way. We become changing signs witout content.
This political indifferance is one of the greatest dangers to democracy.
And pluralism? Well, as postmodernism witin culture and fashion is an extreme fragmentation, it is pluralism, but a superficial pluralism. Everything changes constantly. But it changes too often to matter. Nothing sinks into the souls. What matters pluralism, if nobody really cares about the myriad of ever-changing phenomena?