What is Postmodernism?
Everyone should know what postmodernism is, because we live in a postmodern world.
The premodern world was tribal, communal, and all individuals were embedded in a cultural situation.
The modern world saw the onset of individualism and utopianism (anything is possible and humanity can be perfected), which led to many pathological ideologies like fascism, communism, and eugenics.
People in the modern world believed that they could create a type of heaven on earth, a utopia. Some people in our current postmodern world still have premodern and modern beliefs and systems of thinking, but the culture we live in is predominately postmodern.
If I had to sum up postmodernism, I would characterize it with this simple phrase:
Nothing is true and nothing means anything.
We have all been conditioned to think this way, whether we realize it or not.
Postmodernism also has these characteristics:
- Epistemological and moral relativism- This basically means that nothing is true, or better, either in values, morals, or even in science, denying the existence of truth in any realm.
- Pluralism- coexistence.
- Irreverence– complete commitment to ironic distance, and profane (anti-sacred) ways of living.
- Self-Referentiality– every person is his own god and judge of what is right and wrong.
At first glance, this postmodernism doesn’t look too bad in some ways, in that it appears to be laisse faire– live and let live, especially the pluralism. It would be more acceptable if it really were this way. The problem with postmodernism is that instead of a true and tolerant plurality developing, it often makes it impossible to build agreement and it fragments the social world, as people retreat into various camps. Postmodern people have not changed human nature, they have only retreated into tribes and into increasing social isolation. This is one reason conflict has increased so much politically in the US.
Postmodernism is leading to a conflict in the US between cultural forces and anti-cultural forces, which don’t cut clearly down any one political line, and which many people are not even aware is happening.
The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual catering of the museum of human history.
– Francis Fukayama, The End of History
The quote above by Francis Fukayama in his famous book, The End of History, is telling. Many naïve people believed that with limitless diversions, humans would drift into a postmodern bliss of tolerance and freedom, thus “ending history”. The opposite is happening, as the world is beginning to be made anew, with a slow re-enchantment of pious devotions to things bigger than the self, and a gnashing for meaning.
Many people don’t want to live meaningless, masturbatory lives. They want to care about things, that make life worth living. Postmodernism is the embodiment of a doomed system, a faulty way of looking at the world. It is an anti-culture that doesn’t support human life, and like a 3-legged table with enough weight it will collapse. Real people make real cultures, so an anti-culture cannot last over the long haul. Any true culture must confront an anti-culture, by its very nature.
Perhaps in the future, every one of us postmodern people will come to the table again and start to discuss what is good, true, and beautiful and then discuss how to proceed accordingly. And make a new and healthy culture by keeping the best of the old ways, and reforming the rest. If we don’t the future may not be happy and free. Awareness is a good first step.
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