The Last Word on Postmodernism?
If you've been part of the postmodern conversation (pro, con, confused) over the last decade or two, you'll find this article of interest:
It is not that postmodernism’s impact is diminished or disappearing. Not at all; we can’t unlearn a great idea. But rather, postmodernism is itself being replaced as the dominant discourse and is now taking its place on the artistic and intellectual palette alongside all the other great ideas and movements. In the same way as we are all a little Victorian at times, a little modernist, a little Romantic, so we are all, and will forever be, children of postmodernism. (This in itself is, of course, a postmodern idea.) All these movements subtly inform our imaginations and the way we discuss, create, react and interact.
... we are all becoming more comfortable with the idea of holding two irreconcilable ideas in our heads: that no system of meaning can have a monopoly on the truth, but that we still have to render the truth through our chosen system of meaning.
Certainly, the internet is the most postmodern thing on the planet. The immediate consequence in the west seems to have been to breed a generation more interested in social networking than social revolution. But, if we look behind that, we find a secondary reverse effect—a universal yearning for some kind of offline authenticity. We desire to be redeemed from the grossness of our consumption, the sham of our attitudinising, the teeming insecurities on which social networking sites were founded and now feed. We want to become reacquainted with the spellbinding narrative of expertise. If the problem for the postmodernists was that the modernists had been telling them what to do, then the problem for the present generation is the opposite: nobody has been telling us what to do.
We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.
These three ideas, of specificity, of values and of authenticity, are at odds with postmodernism. We are entering a new age. Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism and see how we get on.
One of the frequent causes for misunderstanding in the postmodern conversation has been the tendency of some to freeze the definition of postmodern in its earliest, most de-constructive phase. Then, anything that became slightly more constructive had to be named "postpostmodern," and so on. Since I've used the term to describe an unfolding, evolving, unfrozen (and, in fact, biased-against-freezing) mindset, I've always considered specificity, authenticity, and values as inherent in postmodernity ... All this serves as a reminder that, if we must be labeled, we are wiser to identify ourselves with labels that indicate an evolving way rather than a frozen location, unless we plan to stop moving forward in our journey.
Although the term "the Age of Authenticism" is, to me, as pretentious as "postmodern" was ambiguous, I do think the article is worthwhile.