Mariner was drifting through the endless world of the Internet last evening when he came across the author Frederic Jameson, a prolific writer in the 1980s and 1990s who contributed ideas about postmodernism. Mariner hasn’t thought about postmodernism since the 1990s. It is refreshing to revisit the perceptions of Jameson and others about the philosophical interpretations that underlie the way people perceive the world today.
Most readers are aware of ‘the age of enlightenment’, a movement that occurred in the 18thcentury. It evolved because of new scientific understanding at the time and the beginning of industrialization – both of which changed how people lived and identified with society (Luddite rebellion in 1811).
Then, from about 1900 to 1965, came modernism. To keep the post short, mariner cites Wikipedia:
[Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world.]
It is intriguing to note that the end of modernism was imprinted in American history by three significant assassinations: John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. As an example of the breadth of philosophic change at the time, one of mariner’s favorite authors, Paul Tillich, wrote “Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions” in 1963 and “Situation Ethics: The New Morality” by Joseph F. Fletcher was written in 1966. Since then the role of Christian doctrine in American culture has been changing dramatically.
Postmodernism is the next interpretation of society, religion, art, economics, etc. It defines how everyone today experiences society and daily ethics. In the turbulence of the sixties, from Viet Nam to Woodstock, a conservative resurgence occurred to quell general disruption and was empowered by the election of Ronald Reagan. During this conservative period especially during the 1990s, philosophers like Jameson began to realize a new world was emerging that would be culturally segmented and institutions of every kind would not be sacrosanct.
Just like the earlier periods of enlightenment, change has been brought about by scientific advancement, an emerging new kind of economy, and a separation of human values from religious and ethical traditions. Today, the polarized conflict between conservatives and liberals in all walks of life represents the same conflict experienced at the end of earlier periods of philosophical change. It is interesting that shifts in global philosophy occur more rapidly each time.