Life after Postmodernism: A Reflection on the ‘Meta-modern’ World

In the text Notes on Metamodernism, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van Akker propose a contextualization for art, culture, and life in general, after postmodernism. Within a dense argument that exposes the outdated tendencies of postmodern thought, the authors begin by outlining the ways in which events like climate change, financial crisis, terror attacks, and digital revolutions have altered the validity and relevance of postmodernism. Further, the article dives into the topic of globalization and the ways in which its development has led to modernity no longer being characterized by the typical lens of white, Western males and their “postmodern deconstruction”. Vermeulen and Akker also go into extensive refutation of some of the other post-postmodernist theories like hypermodernism, digimodernism, and pseudomodernism to name a few. To summarize, the authors argue that there is no such thing as the postmodern phase; it is simply a “catchphrase” (Vermeulen and Robin 4) used to describe an era. Metamodernism is transformative and innovative in ways that modernism and postmodernism never were. The movement represents change and a longing for a “better future” that has long been diminished. 

Modernism and postmodernism, although different in some capacities, expressed themselves by means of competing strategies and styles. With this in mind, I question metamodernism’s ability to articulate itself in a diverse manner. Among other things, postmodernism differentiated from modernism, in large part, due to technological advances and a cynicism that came after the Second World War. I question if Vermeulen and Akker overstate the significance of recent events and their ability to impact art and culture. If modernism was filled with aspiration and dissolution, while postmodernism was characterized by complexity and anger, are there enough emotions behind metamodernism to make it impactful? I would go as far to say that this generation has not experienced enough events of significance to bring about a new era.

As a whole, the text offers an important discourse surrounding the decline and demise of postmodernity as well as providing a model, metamodernism, that oscillates between “modern enthusiasm and postmodern irony”. 

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