[-empyre-] Forward from Christiane Paul: Is Modernity ourAntiquity?- empyre and empire
Forwarded to the list in plain text,
Date: March 5, 2006 8:15:11 AM PST
Subject: [-empyre-]IsModernity ourAntiquity?- empyre and empire
I'm a little behind in plowing through the very interesting questions
raised in this discussion and want to pick up on some of the basic
There seems to be a consensus that "modernity as an aspiration [is]
detectable within our feeling of contemporaneity" and "it would be
hard to ignore the accomplishments of Modernism and its continuing
power to define the field of modernity in our vision" (I'm quoting
At the same time, most people here seem to agree that neither the
underlying concepts of modernity nor postmodernity can provide
adequate foundations for capturing contemporaneity.
Andreas Huyssen, who has been referred to in previous posts,
described postmodernism as a direct result of the "successes" of
modernism (the quotes are his, and I assume that he meant to suggest
that success can only be a contested term in this context). However,
Huyssen saw postmodernism -- in relation to art, in particular -- not
simply as a 'movement' that defined itself in relation to modernism
and as a response to it (although the unfortunate prefix 'post' would
suggest that): he understood it as general societal, cultural, and
political space of problems that responded to an end of linearity or
even teleology since the late 70s or 80s.
In literature, in particular, modernism was characterized by a notion
of a loss of centers (a concept that was informed by various fields
and influences, ranging from the experience of WWI to the rise of
psychoanalysis and questioning of a unified "subject," and the theory
of relativity). Subjectivity was one of the few remaining "centers"
for an understanding of "reality." Postmodernism, on the other hand,
embraced the loss of centers (the subject included) and engaged in
its playful exploration. Not coincidentally, entropy seems to have
been one of the favorite metaphors of postmodernism, "deconstructed"
in multiple ways in Pynchon's novels (or his short story "Entropy").
One of the main failures of postmodernism seems to be its self-
indulgence with regard to relativity -- without proposing at least a
substitute for a more centered counter-model, a form of stability or
master narrative that humanity seems to desire.
And perhaps this is where -- in addition to the remnants of modernity
and postmodernity that still inform our contemporary vision --
certain strands of antiquity are revived, among them idealized
visions of glory and grandeur or the notion of "empire," which
according to Hardt and Negri is alive and well, and the new political
order of globalization.
Are the networked and performative artistic practices in which many
of us are involved a valuable counter-balance and at the same time
the foundations of today's "empire"?
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