Sunday, April 19, 2009
Is postmodernism a good or a bad age from a Christian point of view? We have to say with Dickens "it was the best and the worst of times". What do we do then? Ignoring the culture is risking irrelevance and accepting culture uncritically is risking unfaithfulness.
To understand the modern and the postmodern, we have to first understand the pre-modern. Simply putting it, people believed in supernatural; life in this world owed its existence and meaning to a spiritual realm beyond the senses. Thus we owe them the complex and dynamic era including the mythological paganism and the classical rationalism. Later came the modern age, where we human beings all wanted was autonomy, to be free from all restrictions and to focus on this world instead of some other world to come. This age began around the 17th century with the Enlightenment. Thinkers wanted classicism with its order and rationality. They rejected Christianity but believed in the existence of God, they related their moral absolutes to their deity. Reason was the most important human faculty, opposed of the romanticisms who assumed that emotions are at the essence of humanness. Existentialism began in the nineteenth century and today it is no longer the province of avant garde novelists. It has entered the popular culture; it has become the philosophy of soap operas and television. This became the philosophical basis for postmodernism. Modernisms reached their peak in the twentieth century. They wanted to create new forms of art for the new century. According to Charles Jencks, "the end of modernism and the beginning of postmodernism took place at 3:32 P.M on July 15, 1972. At the moment the Pruiit-Igoe housing development in St. Louis a pinnacle of modernist architecture, was blown up. And According to Thomas Oden the Berlin wall was the ending of modernism. Ihab Hassan says, "Modernists believe in determinacy; postmodernists believe in indeterminacy." Whereas the first believe in purpose and design and the latter believe in play and chance. Modernism establishes a hierarchy; postmodernism cultivates anarchy. Modernism searches for the logos and postmodernism rejects both meaning and word. According to Hassan, Modernist art focuses on the object of the art as finished work. They are concerned with creation. In contrast with the postmodernists; they are concerned with the process and the performance of the art. Modernists are interested in depth; postmodernists are interested in surfaces. Modernists cultivate presence; postmodernists cultivate absence. As we clearly see, postmodernism tries to re-order thought and culture on different basis" accepting reality as a social construction and avoiding totalizing discourses all together". What mentality, culture and life can be built on such foundation? What does it mean for arts, religion and politics?
The passages above are excerpted from “Postmodern Times,” chapters 1 and 2 in Gene Edward Weith, JR , Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture: United States of America: Illinois, 1994 (xii-46).
(The photo above is the federally funded Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. It was designed by St. Louis architects George Hellmuth and Minoru Yamasaki in 1951. Pruitt-Igoe opened in 1954 and was completed in 1956. Pruitt-Igoe included thirty-three, eleven story buildings on a 35 acre site just north of downtown St. Louis.)
Posted by Farrah at 11:23 AM