From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "Postmodernity is a late 20th century development, a shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in May 1968."
Postmodernity (also spelled post-modernity or the pejorative postmodern condition) may be used to describe the present social, cultural, and economical state, using the term of the art movement, or cultural movement, of postmodernism and its implication of a certain reaction to a perceived failure of the movement modernism (i.e., structuralism, optimism, progressiveness, and creativity) and the shocking events perceivingly ending modernity, especially the mass killings of Auschwitz and Nagasaki, which were both a horrible contradiction of modern values. The time period would cover the time since the Second World War, with a peak in the 1960s with their decolonization and Social Revolutions. Still, postmodernity does not yet have a simple, general definition on its own account. This distinction (postmodernism/postmodernist and postmodernity/postmodern) is not made by the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and is debatable; eg. "postmodern" art would refer to the movement.
The term is used by philosophers, social scientists, and social critics to refer to aspects of contemporary culture, economics and society that are the result of the unique features of late 20th century and early 21st century life. These features include the fragmentation of authority, and the commoditization of knowledge (see "Modernity").
Postmodernity has been said to have gone through two relatively distinct phases: the first phase beginning in the 1950s and running through the end of the Cold War, where analog dissemination of information produced sharp limits on the width of channels, and encouraged a few authoritative media channels, and the second beginning with the explosion of cable television, internetworking and the end of the Cold War and the expansion of "new media" based on digital means of information dissemination and broadcast.
The first phase of postmodernity overlaps the end of modernity and is regarded by many as being part of the modern period (see lumpers/splitters, periodization). In this period there was the rise of television as the primary news source, the decreasing importance of manufacturing in the economies of Western Europe and the United States, the increase of trade volumes within the developed core. In 1967-1969 a crucial cultural explosion took place within the developed world as the baby boom generation, which had grown up with postmodernity as their fundamental experience of society, demanded entrance into the political, cultural and educational power structure. A series of demonstrations and acts of rebellion - ranging from nonviolent and cultural, through violent acts of terrorism - represented the opposition of the young to the policies and perspectives of the previous age. Central to this was opposition to the Algerian War and the Vietnam War; to laws allowing or encouraging racial segregation; and to laws which overtly discriminated against women, and restricted access to divorce. The era was marked by an upswing in visible use of marijuana and hallucinogens and the emergence of pop cultural styles of music and drama, including rock music. The ubiquity of stereo, television and radio helped make these changes visible to the broader cultural context.
This period is associated with the work of Marshall McLuhan, a philosopher who focused on the results of living in a media culture, and argued that participation in a mass media culture both overshadows actual content disseminated, and is liberating because it loosens the authority of local social normative standards.
The second phase of postmodernity is visible by the increasing power of personal and digital means of communication, including fax machines, modems, cable, and eventually high speed internet. This led to the creation of the new economy, whose supporters argued that the dramatic fall in information costs would alter society fundamentally. The simplest demarcation point is the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the liberalisation of China. For a period of time it was believed that this change ended the need for an overarching social order, which was called "The End of History" by Francis Fukuyama. However, such predictions, in light of subsequent events, now are seen by many as extremely naive. Internetworking in particular has altered the condition of postmodernity dramatically: digital production of information allows individuals to manipulate virtually every aspect of the media environment, from the source code of their computers, to the wikipedia project itself. This condition of digitality has brought producers of content in conflict with consumers over intellectual capital and intellectual property.
In the 1990s a debate grew as to whether the present was a "high modernity" or whether postmodernity should be regarded separately. In general those who believe that postmodernity is a separate condition acknowledge a transition where postmodernity, sometimes hyphenated, is an extension of modernity.
In this period it began to be argued that digitality, or what Esther Dyson referred to as "being digital", had emerged as a separate condition from postmodernity. Those holding this position argued that the ability to manipulate items of popular culture, the world wide web, the use of search engines to index knowledge, and telecommunications were producing a "convergence", which would be marked by the rise of "participatory culture" in the words of Henry Jenkins and the use of media appliances, such as Apple's iPod.
- Postmodern philosophy
- Postmodernism: The absent father
- Continuity thesis
- Late modernity
- Second modernity
- Integral Theory