restricted access Post-Modernism: The Social Aspect
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POST- MODERNISM The Social Aspect 54 In almost any current literary periodical or magazine, book review or collection of essays, the term "post-modernism" appears. What does this catchall word mean really mean? In some cases post-modernism is used to define an historical period, in others, it is an aesthetic category or style, still others, a way of life. Critics and artists often use it to categorize all areas of contemporary art. But when did modernism die, and why? Rather, we should think, when did the modern world die if indeed it did? It seems that behind this use of the term "post-modern" is a deep desire to reject the history of the recent past and a need to declare a new era of radical change in art, culture, event, audience. Perhaps post-modernism means more than an anthology definition. Perhaps it is a new consciousness of the individual and his or her relation to the world and self expression. Richard Falk, Emilio Ambasz, and William 0. Beeman provide a look at what "post-modernism" can mean today beyond its relevance to the history of an art form in their provocative views of its "social aspect." RICHARD FALK Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice at Princeton University. His books include A Study of Future Worlds, This Endangered Planet, and Human Rights and State Sovereignty. ". . . To live in a doomed city, a doomed nation, a doomed world is desolating, and we all, all are desolated. .. " Hayden Carruth, Marshall Washer As someone primarily concerned with the prospects for public space (including politics), the idea of "post-modernism" is neither familiar nor obviously helpful. There is, of course, a potential affinity between "modernism " and "modernization," the latter a cult as well as a term widely used by Western policy makers and social scientists, especially in the late 1960s, as an alternative image of economic and political development to that offered "backward" (that is, relatively non-industrialized) peoples by the promise of Marxism-Leninism. Modernization was, in other words, the banner of progress, measured in econometric terms of gross national product and rates of economic growth, that embodied "the gift" that the capitalist First World was intent upon giving to the non-Western Third World. In essence, "modernization" as "Free World" proponents perceived things, meant moving from agricultural/rural patterns of social organization to industrial/urban patterns without the geopolitical ruptures that result from class struggle . The modernizing process was deemed inevitable, global in scope, and associated with wider Western notions of evolutionary progress that encompassed dialectical materialism; only the ideological and geopolitical auspices (USA v. USSR) were in doubt. In this central respect, the partisan promotion of modernization as a specific path to industrialization, was a definite outgrowth of the more general notion of being modern, that is, working out in human experience the full consequences of reason and logic, an embodiment presumed until recently to have mainly positive connotations, the central ground for op55 timism and progress in the mainstream West. Specifically, the payoff of modernization was the continuous improvement of man's material condition , as compared to traditional (or pre-modern) society, moving ever closer to mass abundance and automation thanks to science-based technology. This broader promise of The Enlightenment underlies both Marxist and Capitalist ideologies, the modernizing debate centering on how to harness productive energies for maximum growth and social benefit, in essence, a controversy pitting advocates of market-oriented growth against those who believe in state plans enacted through bureaucratic command. Of course, modernizing tendencies have had their critics since the Industrial Revolution , mainly maverick poets and prophets who attributed the poisoning of body and soul to those dark Satanic mills. Countercultural gropings in the direction of "voluntary simplicity," libertarian socialism, and holistic religious experience is one developed countryexpression of "post-modernism," whereas the resurgence of communalism and a rejection of everything "Western," including especially modernization, dramatically evident in the Iranian Revolution, is quite another way of entering the post-modern world. The post-modern context is, then, a consequence of the ecological backlash most broadly conceived. Here, the modern dilemma centers on what happens when human destiny dispenses with...


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