Stuck in the Middle With You: Metamodernist Ideology in a Post-postmodern Age

In “Notes on metamodernism,” Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker contend that postmodernism is dead, forced into extinction by ever-evolving societal ideals and priorities, resulting in the rise of metamodernism. They define this perceived movement as the seeming middle-ground between modernism and postmodernism, oscillating between commitment and detachment, respectively. This transition is accredited to the increasing focus on representation and intersectionality within all aspects of life; metamodernism was born independently of what the authors describe as the “gaze of the white, western male” that defined its predecessors, expanding the borders of philosophical perspective beyond merely the West. This self-reflexivity allows metamodernism to view culture and society with a sense of irony and cynicism that defined the post-modern movement while exuding quintessential modernist enthusiasm for reason and truth. The metamodernist ideology is predicated on the erosion of postmodern structures and can be recognized by its attitude of informed ignorance; the movement seeks a truth that it knows that it can never find but persists regardless, displaying a sense of cynical optimism. Metamodernism is in constant flux between the former two movements, making it “both here and there and nowhere”; a hallmark of the theory is its indefinable placement along the ideological spectrum.

Metamodernism is reflected in the rise of the spirituality movement, wherein individuals claim a level of connection to higher ideals while renouncing traditional or institutionalized religion. “Spiritual” individuals reject the highly prescribed nature of established religious sects while not accepting the full detachment that atheism offers; instead, it oscillates along the spectrum in the same manner as metamodernism. Spirituality embodies both the ardor for truth and enlightenment that defined the postmodern era and the critical nature of postmodernism as demonstrated through its disdain for regulated belief or practice.

Metamodernism ultimately strives to redefine the current ideological reality by striking a relative balance between its predecessors, resulting in a comfortable, albeit dubious, middle ground.

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