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Post-postmodernism: an ugly wor(l)d?

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

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. Many other attempts to name the period--neo-minimalism, pseudo-realism, super-modernity, maximalism, trans-utopianism, post-humanism--are similar proofs of a frenzied delight in inventing new terms, framing new paradigms, and speculating about the future.

But if the word post-postmodernism is ugly, what is the world designated by it like? Can we say that it is ugly if it is committed to reason, authenticity, freedom, spirituality, and the ability of improving individual choices? On the other hand, can it be beautiful if younger and older generations of post-postmodernists do nothing else but "phone, click, press, surf, choose, move, and download" (Kirby 2006) on a chair in front of a screen?

It is "both-neither" (Childish, Thompson 2000). When we enter the new labyrinth established by post-postmodernism, we may either enjoy carving new directions and being thrilled by an essentially dynamic territory, or we may get lost. In both cases, we discover first that the numerous contradictory tendencies of postmodernism, illustrated by such great philosophers as Charles Jencks, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Frederic Jameson, Francis Fukuyama, and Ihab Hassan, are replaced by other competing and ambivalent directions, with all the positive and negative implications generated by a better living standard, technological and medical advances, computer techniques, and, last but not least, a new ecology of the mind, emerging as a new form of enlightenment. Second, we realize that traditions are no longer created as in modernism or deconstructed as in postmodernism, but acknowledged and hailed as open-ended in a new synthesis of premodern, modern and postmodern realities. They are revitalized in an effort to understand how the cultural, political, and economic axioms of today are related to the axioms of yesterday. Doctrines are no longer demolished but connected. Old roots diversify in new, unexplored directions, based on such ancient concepts as the Japanese wabi-sabi (the aesthetics of imperfection and natural wisdom) and mono-no-aware (the awareness of impermanence), the Portuguese saudade (nostalgia, melancholy), the Chinese wu-wei (action through non-doing), and the Indian pranasya prana (life-giving force) or buddhi (intuition).

Andrew Juniper (2003) is one of the many Westerners who believe that such ancient approaches to life breathe new meaning in the visual and decorative arts of the 21st century. The aesthetics of asymmetry and imperfection leads to simplicity, austerity, and modesty; rustic freshness adds sophistication; old age and patina generate serenity and wisdom, while the impermanence of all things oppose the Greek ideal of perfection in a beneficial way. The post-postmodernists can openly show their nostalgia for absent people or objects. Those familiar with the Taoist wu wei concept cultivate the virtue of "going with the flow," in accordance with the nature of things and events. Together with wu nien, the thought of non-thought, and wu hsin, the mind of non-mind, the active non-action places us within a larger web of interconnectedness, in a universe which encourages us to be spontaneously virtuous. In a similar way, the vital energy of life-giving pranasya prana, increased through meditation, develops intuition and a boundless feeling of the heart, much more powerful than the limited understanding of the mind.

These new (and simultaneously old) post-postmodern directions continue to develop rhizomatically, as Deleuze & Guattari (1980: 21) have successfully demonstrated for postmodernism, pertaining to "a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entranceways and exits." Taken from various sources, the landmarks of this new territory form a long list, containing such items as the intuitive, relative, variable, cyclical, harmonious, natural, integrated, curvilinear, raw, unrefined, degradable, ambiguous, seasonal, gloomy, nebulous, and warm. The most important issue, however, which cannot be absent from the list, is the superabundance of information generated by the multimedia practices. It reconfigures the new super-modern subjectivity with blogs, electronic mails, online chats, and file sharing, which, associated with a rapid movement of images and ideas, diverse sources, a rapid delivery of information, and a variety of formats, suspend boundaries, limitations, and inhibitions. Moreover, the Internet Portal, based on millions of interconnected cybernetic networks, raises new problems of access, censorship, democracy, rights, neutrality, and privacy. And, at the same time, this horizontal network of nodes and knots, as Enriquez (2012: 60) discovers, is marked by "presence in absence, privacy in public and connectivity in isolation", an ambivalence which places us on shifting quicksand.

Beautiful or ugly, our world of today is for sure very different from that of the postmodernists. The dominant economic, cultural, and political rules have changed so dramatically that even greater transformations are to be expected. Whether we will enjoy them or not is difficult to say, but undoubtedly new times require new words. Those who can invent them are invited to do so; those who cannot should follow Tom Turner's (1995: 10) suggestion: "Embrace post-postmodernism--and pray for a better name."


Bourriaud, Nicholas. 2009. Altermodern. Tate Triennal 2009. London: Tate Publishing.

Childish, Billy, Charles Thompson. 2000. Remodernism. Stuckism. com. March 1. Available at: <>

Deleuze, Gilles, Felix Guattari. 1980. Capitalisme et schizophrenie 2: Mille Plateaux. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

Dussel, Enrique. 2013. Ethics of Liberation: In the Age of Globalization and Exclusion. Durham: Duke University Press.

Enriquez, Judith Guevara. 2012. Bodily Aware in Cyber-Research. In Breslow, Harris, Aris Mousoutzanis (eds.). Cybercultures. Mediations of Community, Culture, Politics. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 59-74.

Epstein, Mikhail, Alexander Genis, Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover. 1999. Russian Postmodernism. New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture. Berghahn Books: New York.

Eshelman, Raoul. Fall 2000 / Winter 2001. Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism. Anthropoetics, 6 (2). Available at: <>

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Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Juniper, Andrew. 2003. Wabi-sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence. Boston: Tuttle.

Kirby, Alan. 2006. The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond. Philosophy Now, 58,

Kirby, Alan. 2009. Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. New York, London: Continuum.

Lipovetsky, Gilles. 2005. Hypermodern Times. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Nealon, Jeffrey. 2012. Post-Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Samuels, Robert. 2008. Auto-Modernity after Postmodernism: Autonomy and Automation in Culture, Technology, and Education. In Mcpherson, Tara (ed). Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected. Cambridge, MA: The Mit Press, 219-240.

Velmeulen Timotheus, Robin van den Akker. 2010. Notes on Metamodernism. Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, 2. http://www. aestheticsandculture. net/index. vhv/jac/article/view/5677

Turner, Tom. 1995. City as Landscape: A Post Post-modern View of Design and Planning. London: Taylor & Francis.

Wilber, Ken. 2000. Integral Psychology. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Wilber, Ken. 2006. Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Pia Brinzeu

West University, Timisoara
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Author:Brinzeu, Pia
Publication:European English Messenger
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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