Post-Postmodernism: An Ugly Wor(l)d?

By Brinzeu, Pia | European English Messenger, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Post-Postmodernism: An Ugly Wor(l)d?


Brinzeu, Pia, European English Messenger


That postmodernism is already dead is a truism accepted by everybody. Its end has been repeatedly stated in recent years. The most famous declaration belongs to Linda Hutcheon, who, in the epilogue to the 2002 edition of Politics of Postmodernism, says in a loud voice: "It's over!" (166). But if postmodernism is no longer alive and kicking, what is? Post-postmodernism, obviously. The term makes Nealon (2012: ix) feel frustrated, because it is terribly unattractive, "just plain ugly," "infelicitous, difficult both to read and to say, as well as nonsensically redundant." The truth is that it has been frequently used since the turn of the century and it is more convenient, says the same critic, than "after Postmodernism," "the end(s) of Postmodernism," "Postmodernism 2.0," or "overcoming Postmodernism." Why? Because it indicates an important mutation: 'Post' is not a marker of chronological posteriority or subsequent historical order but a sign of intensification. It might therefore be a good solution for the multiplicity of contradictory tendencies and incoherent sensibilities which characterize the present times. What Nealon (2012: x-xi) also underlines is that, if Fredric Jameson's (1991) claims that postmodernism represents the cultural logic of late capitalism, capitalism itself is the thing that has intensified most radically into "the 'just-in-time' (which is to say, all-the-time) capitalism of our neoliberal era". Among the major tasks of post-postmodernism, he also mentions the necessity

to construct a vocabulary to talk about the "new economies" (post-Fordism, globalization, the centrality of market economies, the new surveillance techniques of the war on terrorism, etc.) and their complex relations to cultural production in the present moment, where capitalism seems nowhere near the point of its exhaustion. (Nealon 2012: 15)

But how can we construct a new vocabulary when, from the very beginning, we are stuck with the first word we should agree upon: the name of the trend? Variants are so numerous that it becomes almost impossible to enumerate them all. Epstein et al. (1999: 467) believe in transmodernism and its new non-ironic aesthetics. Lipovetsky (2005) speaks about hypermodernism, whose cultural practices and social relations are linked to hyperconsumerism. Samuels (2008) proclaims that we live in an epoch of automodernism, in which (technological) automation and (human) autonomy are correlated by an extended exchange of information. Kirby (2009) prefers the term digimodernism for a world which favours the new computerized variants of textuality, while Bourriaud (2009) declares that we live in a period of altermodernism, a successful synthesis between modernism and post-colonialism expressed in a globalized perception, nomadism, exile, and elsewhereness. Velmeulen and van den Akker (2010) approach the issue ontologically and see metamodernism oscillating between modem enthusiasm and postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity. It ultimately negotiates between the modern and the postmodern in a complex loop:

   One should be careful not to think of this oscillation as a balance
   however; rather, it is a pendulum swinging between 2, 3, 5, 10
   innumerable poles. Each time the metamodern enthusiasm swings
   toward fanaticism, gravity pulls it back toward irony; the moment
   its irony sways toward apathy, gravity pulls it back toward
   enthusiasm.

There are many other variants for what Nealon calls the "ugly" word. Eschman (2000/2001) is convinced that performatism brings back all that was good and beautiful in the previous era; under the influence of Stanislav Grof s transpersonal psychology, Dussel (2013) emphasizes the spirituality and esotericism of transmodernism; Ken Wilber (2000, 2006), the inventor of the integral theory in psychology and spirituality, believes in the integralism of the 21st century, while Childish and Thompson's (2000) remodernism finds in the new multimedia practices the possibility of reconsidering traditional modernist values such as authenticity, self-expression, truth, bravery, and spirituality. …

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