The Politics of Modernities -
Antimodernity; Postmodernity
An internal critique
Michael A Peters
UIUC
Framing Modernities
• Frame 1: Modernities
Kant& HegelWeberHabermas
• Modernity as the ‘Progress of Reason’
• Modernity ...
‘Modern’
• "of or pertaining to present or recent times," 1500, from
M.Fr. moderne, from L.L. modernus "modern," from L.
m...
Hegel, ‘Progress’ & History
• Hegel’s metaphysics: only in our consciousness of
God, we come to realize his own self-consc...
G.W.F. Hegel
The Philosophy of History
I. Original History: Herodotus, Thucydides.
II. Reflective as Universal History : ‘...
‘World History’
• ‘The German nations, under the influence of Christianity, were
the first to attain the consciousness tha...
Kant – What is Enlightenment?
• Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his
self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the
inab...
Three Modernities; Three Value-Spheres
• Kant, Weber, Habermas
“rationalization across value-spheres bears
out the Neo-Kan...
Habermas
• The cultural rationalisation from which the
structures of consciousness typical of
modern societies emerge embr...
Autonomous Value Spheres
• As soon as science, morality and art
have been differentiated into
autonomous spheres of values...
Framing Modernities
• Frame 2: Anti-Modernities
Literary (Thoreau), Political Economy (Marx), Religio-
Philosophical (Pope...
Literary Antimodernism - Thoreau
• Antimodernism sees modernization as harmful for both
humans and the environment and rep...
Cultural antimodernism
• T.S. Eliot’s (1922) The Waste Land
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead...
No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the
Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920
T.J. Jackson Lears
• "Transatlantic...
Critiques of Industrial Labor
• Artisanal critiques of labor made by John
Ruskin, William Morris, and the Arts and Craft
M...
Catholic Antimodernism
• In 1907, Pius X issued the encyclicals
Lamentabili and Pascendi dominici
gregis to combat what he...
The Motu Proprio:"Sacrorum Antistitum"
Given by His Holiness St. Pius XAnd first of all, I profess that God, the origin an...
Heidegger’s Antimodernism
• Sources:
1. Catholic theological antimodernism
2. ideas of völkisch movement
(German interpret...
Antimodernist Environmentalism
• Ecofascism: ‘Only through a re-integration of humanity into
the whole of nature can our p...
Sayyid Qutb & Radical Islam
• Turned from secular reformism in the 1930s to radical
Islamism in the 1950s.
• Criticized th...
Framing Modernities
• Frame 3: Postmodernities
Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida
– post·mod·ern ; Date: 1925
• 1: of, relating to...
Foucault: How Much Does it Cost
to Escape Hegel?
• The history of French Hegelianism –
existentialist interpretation of Th...
The Question of Modernity
• the question of modernity has been posed in classical culture
according to an axis with two po...
Foucault (1984) on ‘What is
Enlightenment?’
• The critical ontology of ourselves has to be
considered not, certainly, as a...
Derrida & Hegel
• For Hegel, the world in its historical dimension is the dialectical
revelation of consciousness to itsel...
Nietzsche’ critique
• Nietzsche criticizes the historicism of the nineteenth
century in the 1874 essay, “On the Uses and
D...
Poststructural Readings of
History?
• Modernist thinkers like Kant and Hegel held that history is cumulative and
progressi...
“What is Postmodernism?”
• a work can become modern only if it is first
postmodern, for postmodernism is not
modernism at ...
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Politics of modernities

  1. 1. The Politics of Modernities - Antimodernity; Postmodernity An internal critique Michael A Peters UIUC
  2. 2. Framing Modernities • Frame 1: Modernities Kant& HegelWeberHabermas • Modernity as the ‘Progress of Reason’ • Modernity as increasingly more differentiated cognition and moral consciousness
  3. 3. ‘Modern’ • "of or pertaining to present or recent times," 1500, from M.Fr. moderne, from L.L. modernus "modern," from L. modo "just now, in a (certain) manner," from modo "to the measure," abl. of modus "manner, measure" (see mode (1)). In Shakespeare, often with a sense of "every-day, ordinary, commonplace." Slang abbreviation mod first attested 1960. Modern art is from 1849; modern dance first attested 1912; first record of modern jazz is from 1955. Modern conveniences first recorded 1926. Modernize is from 1748 (implied in modernized). • as a movement in the arts, 1929, from modern (q.v.). The word dates to 1737 in the sense of "deviation from the ancient and classical manner" [Johnson, who calls it "a word invented by Swift"]. It has been used in theology since 1901. • http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=modern&searchmode=term
  4. 4. Hegel, ‘Progress’ & History • Hegel’s metaphysics: only in our consciousness of God, we come to realize his own self-consciousness • the idea of historical development or ‘progress’: the logically-necessitated teleological course of history • self-consciousness and self-actualization of God as the “Absolute Spirit” • On the traditional view Hegel is seen as literalizing a way of talking about different cultures in terms of their “spirits,” of constructing a developmental sequence of epochs typical of nineteenth-century ideas of linear historical progress, and then enveloping this story of human progress in terms of one about the developing self-conscious of the cosmos-God itself. • http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/
  5. 5. G.W.F. Hegel The Philosophy of History I. Original History: Herodotus, Thucydides. II. Reflective as Universal History : ‘It is history whose mode of representation is not really confined by the limits of the time to which it relates, but whose spirit transcends the present.’ - Universal; pragmatical; critical (a criticism of historical narratives) III. Philosophical History - the history of the world as a rational process – the progress of the ‘Sovereignty of Reason’ - the essential destiny of Reason … is identical with the question, what is the ultimate design of the World?
  6. 6. ‘World History’ • ‘The German nations, under the influence of Christianity, were the first to attain the consciousness that man, as man, is free: that it is the freedom of Spirit which constitutes its essence’ (p. 32). • The course of the World’s History – perfectibility and ‘The principle of Development’ (‘a capacity or potentiality striving to realize itself’ p. 70) • ‘The World is divided into Old and New; the name of New having originated in the fact that America and Australia have only lately become known to us’ (p.98). • ‘America has always shown itself physically and psychically powerless, and still shows itself so. For the aborigines, after the landing of the Europeans in America, gradually vanished at the breath of European activity’ (p. 98).
  7. 7. Kant – What is Enlightenment? • Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding!
  8. 8. Three Modernities; Three Value-Spheres • Kant, Weber, Habermas “rationalization across value-spheres bears out the Neo-Kantian conception of three emergent domains of reason in the modern world” • Theoretical reason, embodied in science and technology; • Practical reason, embodied in law and morality; and • Aesthetic expressive reason, embodied in art and self-presentation.
  9. 9. Habermas • The cultural rationalisation from which the structures of consciousness typical of modern societies emerge embraces cognitive, aesthetic expressive and moral- evaluative elements of the religious tradition. With science and technology, with autonomous art and the values of expressive self-presentation, with universal legal and moral representations, there emerges a differentiation of three value spheres, each of which follow its own logic.
  10. 10. Autonomous Value Spheres • As soon as science, morality and art have been differentiated into autonomous spheres of values, each under one universal validity claim— truth, normative rightness, authenticity or beauty—objective advances, improvements, enhancements become possible in a sense specific to each (Habermas 1984: 164-65, 176-77).
  11. 11. Framing Modernities • Frame 2: Anti-Modernities Literary (Thoreau), Political Economy (Marx), Religio- Philosophical (Pope Pius X, Heidegger, Sayyid Qutb), Ecological (Theodore Kaczynski) “If the essence of ‘modernism’ is progress, a belief that technological development means socio- economic improvement, the heart of antimodernism is a realization that ‘progress’ has an underbelly—that technological industrial development has destructive consequences in three primary and intertwined areas: nature, culture, and religion.”
  12. 12. Literary Antimodernism - Thoreau • Antimodernism sees modernization as harmful for both humans and the environment and represents a wide range of critiques, including appeals to tradition, religion, spirituality, environmentalism, aesthetics, pacifism and agarian values. 19th century: Henry David Thoreau, John Ruskin, William Morris, and Orestes Brownson 20th century: T. S. Eliot, Rainer Maria Rilke, and W. B. Yeats • Walden is a a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings; a mixture of philosophy & natural history that reflected modern day environmentalism • Cavell finds perfectionism in Thoreau; a unique American voice that provides a mixture of poetic, philosophical and religious insight that allows for a very broad and rich interrogation both of ourselves and the world surrounding us.
  13. 13. Cultural antimodernism • T.S. Eliot’s (1922) The Waste Land APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding  Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring  Dull roots with spring rain.  Winter kept us warm, covering          Earth in forgetful snow, feeding  A little life with dried tubers. • "The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul: for my meaning is, that the poet has, not a 'personality' to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways." (from 'Tradition and the Individual Talent,' 1920) • A poetic exploration of soul's - or civilization's - struggle for regeneration. • Divided into five sections, The Waste Land is a series of fragmentary dramatic monologues, a dense chorus of voices and culture historical quotations, that fade one into another. In the center is the immortal prophet Tiresias. The waste land is contrasted with sources of regeneration, such as fertility rituals and Christian and Eastern religious practices.
  14. 14. No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 T.J. Jackson Lears • "Transatlantic in scope and sources," Lears discovers, "antimodernism drew on venerable traditions as well as contemporary cultural currents: republican moralism, which promoted suspicion of urban 'luxury'; romantic literary convention, which elevated simple and childlike rusticity over the artificial amenities of civilization; a revolt against postivism, gathering strength toward the end of the century, which rejected all static intellectual and moral systems, often in the name of a vitalist cult of energy and process; and a parallel recovery of the primal, irrational forces in the human psyche, forces which had been obscured by the evasive banality of modern culture." (p. 57)
  15. 15. Critiques of Industrial Labor • Artisanal critiques of labor made by John Ruskin, William Morris, and the Arts and Craft Movement • Marx's Theory of Alienation is based upon his observation that in emerging industrial production under capitalism, workers inevitably lose control of their lives and selves, in not having any control of their work. Workers never become autonomous, self-realized human beings in any significant sense, except the way the bourgeois want the worker to be realized.
  16. 16. Catholic Antimodernism • In 1907, Pius X issued the encyclicals Lamentabili and Pascendi dominici gregis to combat what he called "Modernism," a faith-corrupting force. In 1910, Pius X's witch-hunt climaxed with Sacrorum antistitum, an oath against Modernist philosophy to be taken by all Catholic clergy and theologians.
  17. 17. The Motu Proprio:"Sacrorum Antistitum" Given by His Holiness St. Pius XAnd first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated. Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously…. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and Lord. Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents. Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles.
  18. 18. Heidegger’s Antimodernism • Sources: 1. Catholic theological antimodernism 2. ideas of völkisch movement (German interpretation of the populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the ‘organic’ – Fichte – Volk=ethnic. The dream was for a self-sufficient life lived with a mystical relation to the land ). 3. Nietzsche’s Will to power • The Heideggerian singularity of focus legitimates a narrowing of place relationship to a special place, in a way that supports a concept of the home property of a (national) self that is strongly set apart from and above other places, in terms of care and priority. • Antimodernist radical ecology and the critique of modernity’s nihilistic ‘enframing’ of everything as raw material (‘standing reserve’)
  19. 19. Antimodernist Environmentalism • Ecofascism: ‘Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age.’ • Radical ecology & scientific antimodernism – appeals to Romantics, to organicism, to a transcendentalist creed a all based on ecosystem theory • Deep ecology considers human beings an integral part of its environment. Deep ecology places greater value on non- human species and processes in nature than established green movements. Deep ecology has led to a new system of environemntal ethics where the core principle of deep ecology as originally developed is Arne Naess’s doctrine of biospheric egalitarianism — the claim that, like humanity, the living environment as a whole has the same right to live and flourish
  20. 20. Sayyid Qutb & Radical Islam • Turned from secular reformism in the 1930s to radical Islamism in the 1950s. • Criticized the selfish and materialistic nature of American life and argued that extreme measures, including deception and even violence, could be justified in an effort to restore shared moral values to Islamic society. • Qutb had influence on Islamic insurgent/terror groups in Egypt (Muslim Brotherhood) and Al Qaeda. • a profound contempt for modern Western industrial consumerism, and a desire to assert in its stead a projected “earthly paradise” imposed by force, one that is free of the “polluting taint” of modernity. 
  21. 21. Framing Modernities • Frame 3: Postmodernities Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida – post·mod·ern ; Date: 1925 • 1: of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one <postmodern times> <a postmodern metropolis> • 2 a: of, relating to, or being any of various movements in reaction to modernism that are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms (as in architecture) or by ironic self-reference and absurdity (as in literature) • 2 b: of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/postmodernism
  22. 22. Foucault: How Much Does it Cost to Escape Hegel? • The history of French Hegelianism – existentialist interpretation of The Phenomenology (Wahl, Hyppolite, Kojevé) • Substitutes Nietzcshe’s critical genealogy for Hegel’s world system approached via Nietzsche, Blanchot, Bataille • Already evident in Deleuze’s (19620 Nietzsche & Philosophy
  23. 23. The Question of Modernity • the question of modernity has been posed in classical culture according to an axis with two poles, antiquity and modernity; it had been formulated either in terms of an authority to be accepted or rejected . . . or else in the form . . . of a comparative evaluation: are the Ancients superior to the Moderns? are we living in a period of decadence? and so forth. There now appears a new way of posing the question of modernity, no longer within a longitudinal relationship to the Ancients, but rather in what one might call a `sagital' relation to one's own present-ness. Discourse has to take account of its own present-ness, in order to find its own place, to pronounce its meaning, and to specify the mode of action which it is capable of exercising within this present. What is my present? What is the meaning of this present? Such is, it seems to me, the substance of this new interrogation on modernity. (Foucault, 1986: 90)
  24. 24. Foucault (1984) on ‘What is Enlightenment?’ • The critical ontology of ourselves has to be considered not, certainly, as a theory, a doctrine, nor even as a permanent body of knowledge that is accumulating; it has to be conceived as an attitude, an ethos, a philosophical life in which the critique of what we are is at one and the same time the historical analysis of the limits that are imposed on us and an experiment with the possibility of going beyond them (WE, 50, emphases added).
  25. 25. Derrida & Hegel • For Hegel, the world in its historical dimension is the dialectical revelation of consciousness to itself. In his curious idiom, the end of history comes when Spirit achieves awareness of its identity as Spirit, not, that is to say, alienated from itself by ignorance of its proper nature, but united to itself through itself: by recognizing that it is in this one instance of the same substance as it subject, since consciousness of consciousness is consciousness. Arthur C. Danto. The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art, 15-16 • ‘There has never been The Subject for anyone…. The Subject is a fable’. • There is a simple story to be told about Derrida’s relation to Hegel. He develops his core concepts such as différance and trace through an essentially negative relation to the central notions of the idealist tradition. Derrida has been particularly concerned to undermine what he takes to be the heart of the idealist project—the self-present subject. (Simon Lumsden, 2007) • The attack on logocentrism is simultaneously an attack on the history of philosophy (Hegel’s philosophical history) as a history of consciousness or Spirit achieving awareness of its own identity.
  26. 26. Nietzsche’ critique • Nietzsche criticizes the historicism of the nineteenth century in the 1874 essay, “On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life” (Nietzsche 1983, 57- 123). • There is no question of reaching a standpoint outside of history or of conceiving past times as stages on the way to the present. Historical repetition is not linear, but each age worthy of its designation repeats the unhistorical moment that is its own present as “new.” In this respect, Nietzsche would agree with Charles Baudelaire, who describes modernity as “the transient, the fleeting, the contingent” that is repeated in all ages
  27. 27. Poststructural Readings of History? • Modernist thinkers like Kant and Hegel held that history is cumulative and progressive and man is progressing inevitably toward a ‘perfect constitution’, a maximally free civil society. • Foucault Derrida and others see history, like God, as ‘ending’ in the sense of ‘dying’, and think faith in the progressive character of history is lost. They criticize the anthropocentrism of Enlightenment humanism and science that postulates Man as Lord of Nature • There is no overall pattern in history and modern society is not necessary better or enlightened in comparison to the pre-modern or the primitive societies. • Foucault attacks Marxism because it believes that it has explore the secret of historical development, while for him history is discontinuous. There is no rational course to history, nor any gradual triumph of human rationality over nature, nor is there any over-arching purpose or goal to history. • Our past is always an invention of our present. History, knowledge and the human subject are fundamentally rooted in contingency, discontinuity and iniquitous origins. • Lyotard regards Hegel and Marx as the ‘philosophes’ who believed in the progressive journey of history but now the Enlightenment philosophy of history as a systematic project has failed. Post-modern thinkers thus believe in the irreducible contingency and indeterminacy.
  28. 28. “What is Postmodernism?” • a work can become modern only if it is first postmodern, for postmodernism is not modernism at its end but in its nascent state, that is, at the moment it attempts to present the unpresentable, “and this state is constant” (Lyotard 1984, 79). The postmodern, then, is a repetition of the modern as the “new,” and this means the ever-new demand for another repetition.

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