Why Post-Postmodern Pish?

Post-postmodernism is a horribly clunky name for a very real and common feeling that many of us have experienced. We see it all around us- it is basically present-day man’s search for meaning in life. This sounds a little pretentious and vague, so I’ll back up and explain post-postmodernism’s two antecedent terms, Modernism and Postmodernism.

Modernism was a movement in art, philosophy, literature, architecture, and consumer goods that was at its height in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Basically, modernism was a child of the Industrial Revolution, which forced most people in the Western world to live in ugly, artificial conditions. Modern people were working in factories or offices, but still being offered traditional Judeo-Christian tropes as their source of meaning, and something didn’t fit in many people’s minds. Many modernists rejected religion and tradition altogether, and created revolutionary, even deliberately ugly pieces of art and literature as a sign of their willingness to examine the harder truths of life. No longer, modernists said, will we pull the blinders of faith and religion over our eyes. It was a nihilistic, but in some ways refreshing philosophy.

Postmodernism simply took modernism to its logical conclusion. The postmodern worldview only became widespread in the last decades of the twentieth century, but in a few short decades it has leaked into the everyday assumptions and actions of most Westerners, to a greater extent than most realize. Although the dominant thinkers of postmodernism were European intellectuals like Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Luce Irigaray, many Americans who have never heard these names still act from a postmodern point of reference. Basically, postmodernists not only reject religious tradition, but believe that all knowledge and morality are subjective, and depend on each individual’s perspective. To give an extreme example, the cultural values of most people probably inform them that bestiality or cannibalism are wrong, but someone raised in a different background might think otherwise. Postmodernism holds that both views are equally valid.

Post-postmodernism is a bit more difficult to define, as it’s still an emerging trend of thought. It is, however, a reaction against the ceaseless deconstructing of the postmodernists, and an expression of the fact that many people still long for an ultimate truth, even when they’ve been raised in an environment that tells them no such truth exists. Post-postmodernism is the idea that there is more to the universe than the narrow physical truths allowed by skepticism and rationalism. We see post-postmodernism in the renewed interest of many Americans, including those raised in no religion at all, in spirituality, the mysterious, and even in traditional forms of both Eastern and Western religions. Many contemporary individuals, in fact, happily subject themselves to the dictates of various religions because they fulfill their search for meaning. As Professor Mikhail Epstein wrote, “Post-postmodernism witnesses the re-birth of utopia after its own death, after its subjection to postmodernism’s severe skepticism, relativism and its anti-utopian consciousness” (from Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Late Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture, 1998). Whether you agree with it or not, post-postmodernism is an observable phenomenon.

That brings us to me- I’m simply trying to combine my disparate passions of academia, yoga, and martial arts, and to chronicle post-postmodernism as it unfolds before me. Oh yes, and the name “Pish” comes from my family’s nickname for me- my five younger brothers and sisters couldn’t pronounce my full name, “Patricia,” when they were little.


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