Smoke and Mirrors: Post-Postmodernity.

Haven’t blogged in a long, long time. Perhaps because I haven’t been annoyed enough. Rage is the fission required to motivate passion. Passion is the seed of creation. Flowery, I realise, for a Sunday morning.

I’m passionate about postmodernism. Very, passionate. It is the philosophy that enabled me to make sense of my transitions from teenager to twenties, working class to middle class, analogue to digital, goth to hippy to fragmented adult. It excuses my love of trash and validates my high brow tastes. It’s why Iain Banks can write about spaceships and Will Self can appear on Shooting Stars.

Of course I’ve been aware, in the periphery of my tunnel vision, that theory has moved on from late period Barthes, Baudrillard, Lyotard, Jameson and Lacan. From the poetic high theory of the 80s and 90s, to the polytechnicians of the noughties.

I’ve been studying literary theory for the last two years at post-grad level, after all.

In the last few weeks though, I’ve gone back to teaching at university level. So, now post-postmodernism is no longer a muted, inconsequential mumbling. I’m back in an environment where all theory is content. If it’s published, it’s valid. Heck. Someone may even come along and ask me to teach it.

I have issues with the very concept of post-postmodernity, never mind the theory. But, yes, I have issues with that too…

Here’s why:

It doesn’t really exist

There is no real movement. No set of theories in broad agreement with each other. You could argue the same of postmodernity. There was no band of brothers and sisters waving a flag there either. But it did have a shared and novel premise.

Post-postmodernism? It doesn’t know what it is. Is it a return to modernism? Is it the apogee of postmodernity? Is it another distinct and different concept?

None of the theory I’ve read so far seems to agree, except on one issue. And that issue is “postmodernism is dead!” And that’s because…

They don’t understand postmodernism

There’s a common misunderstanding in some disciplines that postmodernism is a style. Postmodernism is neo-gothic columns on a glass skyscraper. It’s shoulder pads and Blade Runner and William Gibson.

It’s not.

Postmodernism is a watershed. A finishing line. It is the everlasting moment after modernity. It is now.

Modernity and postmodernity are like BC and AD. There is no “after postmodernity”. There is no zombie-like resurrection of grand narratives.

Postmodernity is western culture’s saturation point. It’s the point where media and consumption became culture, instead of just home, family and the place you were born. Everything after that point is postmodernity. Everything before isn’t.

Post-postmodernity is just a label

And a lazy one at that. It treats postmodernism like a label too and that’s its core error. Postmodern theory is not a body of unified work with a set of tenets and rules. Postmodern theory is a set of disparate philosophies about the condition of culture after modernity.

Post-postmodernity is opportunistic

With respect to those academics writing in the post-postmodern idiom, labeling one’s work post-postmodern is little more than a publicity stunt. An attempt to grab attention. A spectacle. Which leads me to the final irony.

Post-postmodernity is postmodern

Let me count the ways. Post-postmodernity declares the death of its precursor as postmodernism declares the end of modernity and grand narratives. It is obsessed with the globalising effects of communication technology, whether eulogising or denigrating it. It fragments culture. It speaks of culture’s virtual transference.

It is a pastiche of the father. It is the schizophrenic child of modernity’s end. It protests and wails. It is time’s arrow in reverse flying back towards postmodernity’s birth, arrested in adolescence. “We can be original!” it cries, “You’re not the boss of me”.

Oh, shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up.

It’s over, OK? You are not saying anything new. All you’re doing is giving it a different name. How very postmodern.

We’re generation X and Y and Z. We’re blank and we hiss, like the static absence of noise on magnetic tape. MTV was our grandfather and the internet our mother. You can stop the CPR now. It’s too late to resurrect modernity. It’s been dead too long.

Accept this: your theory can be as new as anything else. It can explicitly describe connections, culture and communication that have not been explicitly addressed in exactly the same way before. You can even give it a cool sounding name. Call it hyperconnectivity. Call it virtuality. Call it Al.

Just don’t call it post-postmodernity.

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