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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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BEYOND NATIONS & NATIONALISMS: One World

Modernism and Postmodernism

"... In a non-modern society, what is central is neither rationality nor its opposite, but something else, call it wisdom, which includes but supersedes rationality... alternatives to modern epistemology can hardly come from modern (Western) epistemology itself.." Makarand Paranjape in the Third Eye and Two Ways of (Un)knowing: Gnosis, Alternative Modernities, and Postcolonial Futures

"The relation between a society and its member's spirituality is reciprocal. A society's customs and laws, on the one hand reflect the spirituality of its members. The spirituality of its members, on the other hand, is largely shaped by the nature of society. This 'largely' is never, however, 'totally'.. Inspite of arch modernist B.F.Skinner's denial of 'freedom and dignity', we are not simply the products of our natural and social environments. We are, to be sure, deeply constituted by our relations to these environments. But in each moment, we create ourselves out of these relations in terms of our desires, purposes, meanings, and values - in short our spirituality. Because of this element of autonomy, individuals are not only shaped by their society; they can shape it in return. In stating this twofold position - that individuals are internally constituted by their social relations, and that they are nevertheless not totally determined by them - I have already rejected a modern for a post-modern viewpoint." David Ray Griffin in Spirituality and Society : Postmodern Visions (Suny Series in Constructive Postmodern Thought)


Some Symptoms & Useful Distinctions
Diane Gromala and Douglas Bicket

Contents are copyright by Diane Gromala and Douglas Bicket. These may be reproduced for non-commercial, educational purposes provided this notice is included and contents are not altered.

Modernism
"disenchantment with material truth and search for abstract truth."

Postmodernism
"There is no universal truth, abstract or otherwise."
Time Line
(Renaissance?) Enlightenment ---> 1750s ---> 1890-1945. Post WWII, especially after 1968
General
Attempt to fashion a unified, coherent world- view from the fragmentation that defines existence Attempt to subvert the distinction between "high" and "low" culture
High Modernism 1920s & 1930s, following WWI -- outmoded political orders and old ways of portraying the world no longer seemed appropriate or applicable; reaction against existing order; avant garde Eclecticism, a tendency toward parody and self-reference, and a relativism that knows no ultimate truth; no distinctions between "good" and "bad"
Alienation; objective, essential knowable  truth and beauty, totality and unity can still be found; meaning can be known, understood, and mastered through rational and scientific means. Texts: world is a multiplicity of texts and discourses
Classification of the world; order; hierarchy Relativism
Mastery and progress: Historical development; past affects present and future. Ahistorical: future is indeterminate; past is a "text"; we can't learn from the past; we can live only in the present
Universalizing "Localizing", pluralizing
Linear (like a novel) Non-linear (like the Web)
Works of art, science are windows to the truth. Works of art, science are only texts, can only be understood in themselves.
Computers
PCs/UNIX/command line environments Stand-alone mainframe computers Macintosh/Windows; Internet/WWW Computer networks
Culture
High culture vs. low culture -- strictly divided; Only high culture deserves to be studied, analyzed

Commodification of culture -- everything can be bought or sold

Everything's "popular" culture -- it all deserves to be studied; pluralizing

 

Symbolism
Symbols & meaning: hammer and sickle = world communism, "evil empire" Symbols drained of meaning: hammer and sickle in advertising (e.g., beer commercials)
Architecture
"Form follows function"; Le Corbusier, "machine aesthetic"; Mies van der Rohe; International style (eg, airports): straight, clean lines Multiple, historical refs.; "playful" mix of styles, past and present. Las Vegas, Pompidou Center; Venturi, Robert Stirling
Economics
Fordism: mass production; global (International) style Post-Fordism: "global localism"; multiple styles
Science
Bacon, observation, scientific rationalism; Newtonian physics, "clockwork universe"; David Hilbert Einstein, quantum physics, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Schrodinger's cat; Chaos; Kuhn, Rorty, science as a game, as "made" rather than "found"
Politics
Big ideas/big, centralized political parties rule
Fragmented ideas, decentralized power; "micro-politics": interest groups rule (minority factions, NRA, business groups); Foucault, "everyone has a little power"
Door-to-door politics; big rallies TV politics -- clash of images: "how will it play on the six o'clock news?"
Capitalism vs. communism: clash of ideologies "Late capitalism" rules
"The Making of the President" "The Selling of the President"
Parody: Dr. Strangelove; Orwell's Animal Farm Pastiche: Wag The Dog
Arts
Artist is creator rather than preserver of culture Artist plays with different styles; aesthetics; pastiche all-important
Impressionism, Cubism, abstract expressionism, suprematism (Malevich's "Black Square") Pop Art, Dada, montage
"Photograph never lies" -- photos and video are windows/mirrors of reality Photoshop: Oh yes it does -- photos and video can be altered completely; montage (where's the reality?)
Art fights capitalism Art is consumed by capitalism
Fiction/Literature
Novel is the dominant form; movies Author determines meaning; the "canon"; of great works: Shakespeare, Kafka, Joyce, Some can tell "good" from "bad" -- art critics important TV, WWW; Meaning is indeterminate. Thomas Pynchon, Cathy Acker, William Gibson. Rise in importance of "popular" culture; we can't tell good from bad; it's all relative
Theatre/Movies/TV
John Ford; Modern Times; Bertolt Brecht; Metropolis. RepoMan, Pulp Fiction (Tarantino), Blade Runner, X-Files
Music
Mozart, Beethoven, Schoenberg

Idea of creating an artistic "piece" continued through to rock'n'roll era.

"World music"; pick-and-mix of styles

Sampling

John Cage, David Byrne

Modernism
"disenchantment with material truth and search for abstract truth."
Postmodernism
"There is no universal truth, abstract or otherwise."
 

 


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