Postmodernism Is Our Antiquity

Kazys Varnelis, the Director of the Network Architecture Lab at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, writes, “I want to suggest today that globalization as a process has reached a new condition, akin to that reached by modernization in the 1950s.” He elaborates:

In using the term “late globalization,” I am referring to Ernst Mandel’s concept of late capitalism, the point when capitalism was everywhere, saturating the world. With the spread of the Internet and mobile telecommunicational devices, the disconnected world of the past is long gone, rapidly becoming unfamiliar to us. Soon, the disconnected world will become unintelligible, its artifacts and ways of life lost to generations that will have no experience of it. If, in 1999, TJ Clark could write of “modernism is our antiquity…” then today we must add postmodernism to our antiquity as well.  

A couple of observations:

  1. I agree that postmodernism is now our antiquity. Postmodernism has been dead for a while. The Great Recession marks a new economic reality completely unlike the political economy of the 1970s and 80s, when postmodernism was in full swing. If postmodernism is dead, however, we need a new name for the current cultural epoch.
  2. Another term that may be obsolete is post-colonialism. If globalization has truly saturated contemporary culture, then the boundaries established by post-colonialism–colonized and colonizer, home and diaspera–have been blurred beyond recognition. 

Varnelis and some colleagues at Netlab will be exploring “the changing landscape of travel at a crucial juncture in world history” in future projects. 

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