seedling thoughts on causality

I am skeptical of the notion of modernity because it immediately implies a teleology (the term “modern” is unavoidably deictic, from whence comes torturous configurations like postmodern, post-postmodern, hypermodern, neomodern, late-modern).

Society today is not a necessary outcome or a logical conclusion of the past.

Is democracy a “discourse”? Why do I take for granted that a democratic and popular representational institution represents the “best possible” form of government, civil equality as an end goal? If I had been born in 16th century France I might not have been able to see that monarchy was a bad idea; if I had been born in 1920 Russia I might have been a communist, or a Stalinist. What am I unable to see about modern democracy?


9 responses to “seedling thoughts on causality

  • inaesb

    Democracy itself is an exercise in futility. It is contradictory of its definition of governance whereby the minority gets sidelined. Is it mere semantics or perhaps a fervent wish for an all-encompassing Utopian definition? I guess your contention is very much a true reflection of what democracy represents today… “best possible” for the majority that is in this flawed world.

  • robin

    We SO need a new word for this (young) intellectual moment (p.s. I assert we are in a young intellectual moment) — postmodern is totally out of gas.

    We can totally come up with a new name for a new era right here, Rachel.

    A word that I’ve heard and really like is “neoroque.” Root is of course “baroque” — the intention is to emphasize perhaps a move beyond irony and deconstruction back into sincerity, feeling, engagement, etc.

    But, that might not actually be apt.

    In conversation (well, nerdy conversation) I tend to use “probabilistic age” a lot b/c I do think there is something unique about the scale of our era — in terms of the sheer number of people, the sprawl of cities, the consolidation of corporations, the spread of networks, etc. That last point is important b/c of course the internet is actually helping us deal with the actual scale & complexity of our society. (The long tail is admittedly overhyped but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting & important.)

    But, I don’t think “probabilistic age” has much of a ring to it… any other possibilities?

  • andrew weiss

    Robin: what about World 2.0? =)

    Inaesb: I am not sure what you mean by “it is contradictory of its definition of governance whereby the minority gets sidelined.” As I understand it democracy is all about not sidelining the minority but institutionalizing it’s primacy.

  • rAchel

    modernity is just one of my gripes. I find putting ‘new’ or ‘neo’ in front of anything is troublesome too. example: in 1968 we had the “old left” and the “new left” — what are we to call the Left now? new-new-left? it is a good thing indeed that there are no more continents to discover & stake imperial claims on, or we might end up with another set of “new new england”, “new new york”, “new new jersey”, etc.

    all this leads me to conclude that we have reached nomenclatural saturation & cannot come up with anymore new period names, & so are resigned to rehashing and reformulating old ones. hence, abominations like “neroque”. it is only a matter of time before someone pipes up with “Rerenaissance”.

    (in other words, robin, I totally cannot think of anything :P)

  • Gavin Robinson

    From a latin purist’s point of view “modern” shouldn’t have those teleological associations because it would just mean “now”.

    I don’t think we should worry about what to call periods because all periodisation is arbitrary, and that becomes much more obvious is we can’t find a good name for a period. (Incidentally Reading University once hosted a public debate between a medieval and a modern military historian entitled “Whose period is more bloody”!!!)

  • eb

    I, for one, look forward to the dawning of a new paleoclassical postmodern rerenaissance unlike all that have come before.

  • rAchel

    @ Gavin: that is hysterical. in the realm of historysnark, I haven’t heard anything as funny since my high school history teacher remarked that the french revolution was full of revolting peasants.

  • oli

    Robin: That reminds me of a post I read about a current in music moving in opposition to PoMo irony. Scott Walker, World Music and hypnotic Metal (the ‘New Solemnity’) saving people from Franz Ferdinand and Robbie Williams.
    Well, we can all dream.

    Here’s an intriguing post on the same topic from a rather splendid blog:

  • disorderly & skeptical thoughts « a historian’s craft

    […] on a wider scale, I am, as I have said before, skeptical about modernity and by inference progress. Eugenics, social darwinism and communism seemed like progressive ideas. […]

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