Adler, Alfred (1870–1937)
Austrian doctor and originator of Individual Psychology.
Africa and the South
Has modernism any relevance to the South of the world? From the perspective of the rich North modernism is a Euro-American reaction to the bourgeois rationalism of urban life. The individual personality—the invention of enlightenment modernity—rebels against the middle-class habit, and the rebellion assumes paradoxical proportions: an avant-garde experimentalism of style, which is attracted to romantic freedom, finds itself checked, painfully, by intimations of a metaphysical abyss, in which the Greco-Roman inheritance sheds the sustenance of myth to be retrievable only in fragments shored against ruin. With glimpses that beneath the confidence of Empire lay a heart of darkness, the condition of Europe suggested both Western decline and revivification in the politics of blood and soil. The social imagination—often damaging in its modernist anti-democratic tendencies—is transmuted through an art religion into a psychological correlative according to which it is not so much Marx, as Freud, who lends Euro-American modernism of the years 1880 to 1930 the delineation of its high achievement. The achievement is embodied in the great art works of the period: artifacts that in a de-familiar style—a style that “makes strange”—signal their autonomy from social dependency.
Such works—Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), for example—are, according to mythic predisposition, complex and comprehensive in their grasp of the modern urban scene. Conversely, the social conscience may identify a simplification of the scene. As Brecht might have put it, The Waste Land understands modernity as a politics of culture rather than a culture of politics. Simultaneously, however, Brecht complicated his own apparently anti-modernist aesthetic. In rejecting the hallmark of Euro-American modernism—romantic symbolism—as an obfuscation of material life, Brecht together with Hanns Eisler offered the Lehrstücke (c. 1929), in which the word is stripped of “bourgeois excrescence” in order to communicate meaning in plain speech. This is not entirely unconnected, though, to a key modernist maneuver: that of imagism, in which the writer avoids the superfluous word in the realization that the natural object is the adequate symbol. Where Brecht differs from the imagism of Pound and Eliot is in his skepticism, rather than nostalgia, for the master texts of Western civilization. In ironic modification of the mythic method, in which heritage yearns to be salvation, Brecht’s modernism anticipates postmodernism, or at least one ver-