Postmodernity definition/Stages/Characteristics/Modernity

Post-modernity is a concept that represents the entire socio-cultural structure from the late 1980s to the present day. In short, postmodernity consists of the environment in which the postmodern society is inserted, characterized by globalization and the domination of the capitalist system. Postmodernity definition

Several authors divide postmodernity into two main periods. The first phase would have started with the end of World War II and developed until the decline of the Soviet Union (end of the Cold War). The second and final stage began at the end of the 1980s, with the breaking of the bipolarity experienced in the world during the Cold War.

Stages of Postmodernity

First stage of Post-Modernity

In general, postmodernity represents the “break” with old models of linear thinking defended in the modern era by the Enlightenment. These were based on the defense of reason and science as part of a plan for the development of humanity. Postmodernity definition

However, with the horrors witnessed in World War II, a strong feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment began to grow in society , as the entire “plan” based on Enlightenment ideals had failed.

According to Jean François Lyotard (1924 – 1998), one of the most important philosophers to conceptualize post-modernity, it can be clearly exemplified as the total bankruptcy of ideas once taken for granted and true by modern thinkers.

Postmodernity questions the great utopias and ancient certainties that were previously defended by the Enlightenment. In this way, it starts to consider everything as a set of mere hypotheses or speculations.

Second stage of Post-Modernity: consolidation

Many scholars consider the end of the 1980s as the definitive consolidation of Post-Modernity as a social, political and economic structure in the world. With the end of the bipolarity imposed by the Cold War, the world started to live under a New Order, based on the idea of ​​plurality and globalization among almost all nations.

Technological and media advances, the internet boom and the monopoly of the capitalist system are some of the characteristics that helped to consolidate the principles that define post-modern society. Postmodernity definition

The definition of postmodernity is complex and there are different views on its formation and meaning. Several sociologists, philosophers, critics and scholars seek to explain this phenomenon that “replaced” the principles that once marked modernity.

Characteristics of postmodernity

Post-modernity is characterized by a break with the Enlightenment ideals that were defended during the modern era, such as the utopian dreams of building a perfect society based on principles considered true and unique.

Among other standout features, emphasis on:

  • Replacement of collective thinking, and emergence of the feeling of individualism, represented by narcissism, hedonism and consumerism;
  • Appreciation of the “here and now” ( Carpe Diem );
  • Hyper-reality (mixture between the real and the imaginary, mainly with the help of online technologies and environments);
  • Subjectivity (nothing is concrete and fixed. The idea previously taken as true is now interpreted as just one more in the set of hypotheses);
  • Multiculturalism and Plurality (as a result of globalization and a mixture of typical characteristics of each culture, for example);
  • Fragmentation (mixing and union of several fragments of different styles, trends, cultures, etc);
  • Decentralization;
  • Banalization or absence of values. Postmodernity definition

Postmodernity or Postmodernism?

There is a great deal of discussion around the correct use of these two terms. Some scholars consider both synonymous, while others try to emphasize the differences between postmodernity and postmodernism.

Fredric Jameson, an American literary critic and one of the main authors to analyze post-modernity, argues that, although similar in some aspects, the two concepts are distinct.

The post-modernity would be a structure , that is, how the present society is set up. For Jameson this period can be called “late capitalism” or “third moment of capitalism”. In short, it represents the period in which globalization is consolidated, as well as changes in technological, communicational, scientific, economic areas, etc. Postmodernity definition

On the other hand, postmodernism must be interpreted as an artistic-cultural style , which was essentially born from architecture and spread to the arts and literature.

In other words, it would be correct to use the term postmodernism to refer to works and other stylistic works that present characteristics of postmodernity, such as:

  • absence of rules and values;
  • individualism;
  • plurality;
  • shock and mixture between real and imaginary (hyper-real);
  • freedom of expression, etc.

For Jameson this differentiation is important, because while style is something ephemeral (it changes easily), changing a structure is not so easy.

Zygmunt Bauman and ‘Liquid Modernity’

The studies carried out by Bauman (1925 – 2017) on postmodernity and its consequences are considered one of the most significant, whether in the sociological or philosophical field. Postmodernity definition

The Polish thinker coined the term “liquid modernity” to refer to the period known as postmodernity.
For Bauman, social relations in postmodernity are very ephemeral, that is, as they are easily built, they tend to be destroyed just as easily. The relationships maintained through social networks on the internet are a good example of the principle of fluidity in contemporary relationships.

Instability, fragmentation, decentralization and multiplicity, which are some of the most striking features of postmodern society, help to understand the idea of ​​using the word “liquid” to define the state of the current “modernity”, according to Bauman.

Just as liquids don’t have a shape and can more easily “slide” around in a jar, for example, so can the human behaviors and values ​​of a globalized society be described.

Difference between Modernity and Postmodernity

For many scholars, the so-called “modern era” would have started from the French Revolution (18th century), when there was a break with the thoughts that prevailed in the medieval period to ascend to the Enlightenment ideals. Postmodernity definition

According to the principles of the Enlightenment, during Modernity reason and science predominated as exclusive means of conquering the absolute truth of all things.

During the modern era, the Industrial Revolution also began, which developed while society lived in the midst of a great ideological conflict. It is noteworthy that at that time the idea of ​​the existence of a final and definitive truth was assimilated.

Different from the fragmented state of post-modernity, in modernity linear and Cartesian thinking predominated , where society gathered under the guise of a common purpose. The “plans” in favor of building utopian social structures were what motivated humanity during this period. Postmodernity definition

With the end of World War II, there was a profound crisis in society that began to abandon the old failed “plans” of the modern era. Thus, little by little, all the characteristics that define the current post-modern society emerge: individualism, the predominance of capitalism, consumerism, the valorization of individual pleasure, etc.

Modernity post-modernity
Beginning of the French Revolution (18th century). Beginning at the end of the Cold War (80s of the 20th century).
Linear and Cartesian thinking. Fragmented thinking.
Collective plan, in search of the “utopian dream”. Individualism / Each person in search of their individual pleasures and satisfactions.
Search for order and progress. Breaking territorial and cultural barriers / Globalization.
Working towards a collective “plan” for the future. Hedonism / Living the “here and now”.

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