Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Death of Postmodernism

Thanks to Tony Jones for pointing to a very useful article on the death of postmodernism and what is to come after.

The death of postmodernism, 

For a while, as communism began to collapse, the supremacy of western capitalism seemed best challenged by deploying the ironic tactics of postmodernism. Over time, though, a new difficulty was created: because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in recent years, it became ubiquitous. A lack of confidence in the tenets, skills and aesthetics of literature permeated the culture and few felt secure or able or skilled enough or politically permitted to distinguish or recognise the schlock from the not. And so, sure enough, in the absence of any aesthetic criteria, it became more and more useful to assess the value of works according to the profits they yielded [. . .]
In other words, increasingly, artistic success has become about nothing except money; and, increasingly, artists have come to judge their own success that way, too [. . .]  The paradox being this: that by removing all criteria, we are left with nothing but the market. The opposite of what postmodernism originally intended.

And, of course, there’s a parallel paradox in politics and philosophy. If we de-privilege all positions, we can assert no position, we cannot therefore participate in society or the collective and so, in effect, an aggressive postmodernism becomes, in the real world, indistinguishable from an odd species of inert conservatism.

And what will it be replaced with?  Rather optimistically, 

If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us. We can see it in the specificity of the local food movement or the repeated use of the word “proper” on gastropub menus. We can hear it in the use of the word “legend” as applied to anyone who has actually achieved something in the real world. (The elevation of real life to myth!) We can recognise it in advertising campaigns such as for Jack Daniel’s, which ache to portray not rebellion but authenticity. We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

Go deeper still and we can see a growing reverence and appreciation for the man or woman who can make objects well. [. . .] It’s not just the story, after all, but how the story is told.

These three ideas, of specificity, of values and of authenticity, are at odds with postmodernism. We are entering a new age. Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism and see how we get on.

Three words I think it is good to hold dear, whether or not they are the new hallmarks of the incoming "Age of Authenticity": Authenticity, Values, Specificity.  Of course it is worth saying that modernism is still very much with us and postmodernsim will linger with equal vigour, people are very inconsistent and flip switches with the least provocation, it is not like "authenticity is a good thing" is really news to anyone!

2 comments:

  1. I will dearly miss my subject position. Oh well, back to objectivist disinterested queer scholarship for me then! :)
    BW16

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  2. Thanks for stopping by BW, sorry for your loss. Give my regards to your greatx11 grandfather.

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