The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937

By Shu-Mei Shih | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Modernity without Rupture
Proposals for a New Global Culture

The task to be accomplished is not the conservation of the past, but the redemption of the hopes of the past.

MAX HORKHEIMER AND THEODOR W. ADORNO (1944)

The horizon open to the future, which is determined by expectations in the present, guides our access to the past. Inasmuch as we appropriate past experiences with an orientation to the future, the authentic present is preserved as the locus of continuing tradition and innovation at once ….

JüRGEN HABERMAS(1987)

Foreign influence and native style are not contradictions in opposition. The determining element of native style is language.

WANG ZENGQI (1988)

To many contemporary Western thinkers, Jürgen Habermas's 1980 lecture “Modernity—An Incomplete Project” mapped a curious intellectual constellation where those who are commonly considered radicals, such as postmodernists, were cast as conservatives, and the enlightenment ideals of rationality and modernity were once again, though in revised forms, declared to be paramount virtues. For Habermas, the problems of contemporary Western societies did not arise due to the damage wrecked by modernity and rationality, as claimed by such postmodernists as George Bataille, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, but rather due to the incompleteness of modernity and an insufficiency of rationality. Rationality and modernity, if developed more completely to their professed goals, could have built and still promise to build a world of “communicative rationality” which would integrate the lifeworld (society) with culture (art and morality), overcoming present alienation. Habermas calls postmodernists “young conservatives” who are very much the descendents of aesthetic modernism in their

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