Postmodernity - Term Overview

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When talking about postmodernity or postmodernity, we refer to the cultural, artistic, literary and philosophical process that emerged from the second half of the 20th century.

It should not be confused with postmodernism, the Hispanic literary trend that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an attempt to renew and overcome modernism. On the contrary, postmodernity is characterized by its opposition to or overcoming the aesthetic, philosophical and theoretical precepts of modernity.

The term "postmodern" is used in many disciplines, both in the arts and humanities and in the social sciences, with more or less the same meaning. However, it's difficult to define, since it encompasses at the same time a set of currents of thought, very different from each other.

Everything considered postmodern shares the idea of ​​the failure of the modern project, that is, the failure of modernity to renew traditional forms of art, culture and thought.

According to some authors, it would even be necessary to distinguish between " Postmodern culture " (" Postmodern culture " or " Postmodernity " in English) and "Postmodern Theory" (" Postmodern Theory " or " Postmodernism " in English), to distinguish between contemporary cultural trend in which we live since the end of the 20th century, and the models of criticism and philosophical thought that have been produced as part of these trends.

In some cases, the name postmaterialism or post-structuralism is even proposed as more or less synonymous with postmodernity. Another drawback when talking about the subject has to do with the validity of the term and the attempt to describe something that is currently in process, and for which there is still no established theoretical framework.

In any case, it's commonly distinguished when speaking of postmodernity between the historical period, the artistic movement and the philosophical current.

Modernity and postmodernity

Postmodernity cannot be understood without first understanding what modernity was and what ways of thinking it proposed. From a certain point of view, in fact, postmodernity is even part of modernity, its stage of decline or of overcoming, if you will, since there are no clear limits to the end of one and the beginning of another.

In fact, it should not be thought that went from one paradigm to the other completely, but rather that l to Postmodernism is, basically, questioning the relevance of the values modern.

But let's go by parts: on the one hand, modernity is the era that began in the 15th century that spans several centuries. In it a series of profound scientific, social, political and economic changes took place in humanity.

Among other things, this is how the bourgeoisie emerged as the dominant social class, the construction of the rule of law and the republican order, all under the premise that human reason was the best ally to organize the social and political world. Faith in science, in progress and in the accumulation of knowledge is typical of modernity.

Postmodernity is the loss of faith in those promises, largely inspired by nihilism and the pessimistic vision that followed World War II and its horrors. In this sense, postmodernity disbelieves in modern "great stories".

On the contrary, it takes an ironic stance, relativizing what were previously absolute values ​​and embracing nominalism, that is, the view that everything in the world is necessarily particular. Hence, the main criticism of postmodernity has to do with its lack of proposed alternatives, which could turn it into a kind of philosophical dead end.

Characteristics of postmodernity

Postmodern thought is characterized, broadly speaking, by the following:

- It's opposed to dualistic thinking. That is to say, he tries to escape from what he understands as a tradition of Western thought, which would have built a whole world view based on dual oppositions: black-white, east-west, man-woman, etc. Thus, postmodernity tries to make visible the "others", which would be those who are in the middle, those who escape through the cracks of said dualities.
- It proposes the deconstruction of values. Through the questioning of tradition and its values, postmodernity relativizes what in previous times was an undeniable truth, thus dismantling the inherited cultural apparatus and exhibiting its limitations, its fractures, its arbitrariness.
- Understand reality as the creation of language. Contrary to what the Western tradition understands by language, which is a mechanism for representing reality, postmodernity proposes that language and thought are the same thing, so that the real ends up being a linguistic construction, since thought cannot exist without language.
- It proposes that the truth is a perspective. Postmodernity disbelieves of the great truths, and instead embraces points of view, so it understands reality as something inaccessible, beyond our reach, since we only have access to the way we perceive and understand it.

Postmodern art

It's not easy to determine what is the beginning of postmodern art itself, but it's estimated that it began around the 50s of the 20th century, and that it continues to the present day. Its main characteristic is, paradoxically, to attack the traditional concept of art, thus valuing industrial or commercial objects, mass reproduction, collage or pastiche.

In other areas, the weakening of genres is valued, understanding them as liquid categories, not very rigid, that can be combined, and thus the transgeneric is embraced, especially in the literature.

Intertextuality is another significant feature of postmodern art, in which everything refers to something else, following the sense of the Internet hyperlink : one reference refers to another that refers to another, without the desire or need to return to the starting point.

This allows the exploration of the real based on simulations, as postmodern cinema proposes in its own way, in films such as The Matrix, Inception, Blade Runner, and others, whose imaginaries question the traditional concepts of the real, the true, the human and the separation between natural and artificial.

Postmodern architecture

In the architectural field, postmodernity began in the middle of the 20th century and was consolidated as a movement in 1970. Its main proposal is the return of "ingenuity, ornament and reference", as a response to the formalism imposed by architectural modernity.

The collision of styles, the ironic or paradoxical design, the return of the façade to form a "neo-eclectic" style, are the ways in which architectural postmodernity opposes the modern, discreet and utilitarian style.

Thus, while postmodern architects consider modern buildings as abstract or simplistic, modern architects brand postmodernity as vulgar, populist, and accuse it of sharing elements with shopping malls, full of useless or easy details.

Postmodern philosophy

Arisen in France around the 60s, postmodern philosophy, similarly to the above, starts from the idea that the postulates of modernity and the Enlightenment have already been surpassed.

Thus, it aspires to move away from the traditional way of interpreting and thinking. He abandons modern faith in rationality, thanks to the significant influences of Marxism, psychoanalysis, Nietzsche's and Kierkegaard's critiques of rationality, and Lévi-Strauss's structuralism.

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