The Conditions of Post-Postmodernity

Note: In each triad, the first figure represents modernism, the second figure postmodernism, and the third the woefully tacky-sounding post-postmodernism. It should be noted that just as postmodernism emerged from within modernism while also against it, maintaining a balance between negating certain aspects while affirming others, all elements of post-postmodernism operate in conjunction with and in opposition to both modernism and postmodernism. The cardinal sin of historicization is to lapse into bouts of absolutism. All things indeed melt into air, as Marx said, but that does not eliminate their traces.

Govermentality

  • Discipline
  • Control
  • Integration

Production Modes

  • Fordist-Keynesian
  • Post-Fordist Neoliberalism
  • Neo-Fordist Integrated Neoliberalism

Network Form

  • Decentralized
  • Distributed
  • Hybridized

Socio-cultural progression

  • Fragmentation
  • Complete fragmentation
  • Hyper-circulation of fragments

Interpretation

  • Depth
  • Surface level
  • Reflection of surface

Regulatory Model

  • Prison, barracks, factory
  • Role models, inclusion, competition
  • Precarity, surveillance, therapy

Weapons

  • Machine gun, atomic bomb, agent orange
  • Computer-integrated fighter jets, smart bombs, computer viruses
  • Social media, drones, flexible warfare

Limits

  • Nation
  • Globe
  • Space

Terrains of struggle

  • Identity, representation, movement
  • Human rights, global representation, peace
  • Opportunity, ecological, inhuman rights, equilibrium

Leftist orientation

  • Communism, internationalist, syndicalist
  • Alter-globalization, landlessness, anti-corruption
  • Accelerationist, Prometheanism, search for coordinates

Rightist orientation

  • Nationalist
  • Transnationalist, corporatist
  • Neo-nationalist, corporate populist, neo-fascist

Revolutionary Figures

  • Mao, Che, Fidel
  • Zapatistas
  • Wikileaks, Snowden, Pussy Riot

Pop Music

  • Fixed genre
  • Synthesizization
  • Micro-genre

Dance

  • Playful
  • Interpretative
  • Free-form

Modes of threat

  • Decline, conversion
  • Rupture, interruption,
  • Contagion, disconnection

Modes of paranoia

  • Subterfuge
  • Conspiracy
  • Disappearance

Modes of philosophy

  • Negation
  • Affirmation
  • Speculation

Religious Avatar

  • God the Father
  • The Holy Ghost
  • Cloud of Unknowing

Key Events

  • World War 1, World War 2, New Deal, Vietnam War
  • “Nixon Shock,” “Volcker Shock,” Fall of Berlin Wall, European Union, Dot-Com boom, Dot-Com bust, September 11th
  • Financial crisis, ISIS, ebola

Post-postmodernism is fully integrated globalized capitalism on the verge of expanding into cosmic realms. It is all scales considered simultaneously, stacks on stacks on stacks. False rules of dualism: modernism as hierarchy and vitriol, postmodernism as commercialization and malaise. Post-postmodernism is reflections of the surface, holograms even. Spectacle-Simulation-Simulacrum. The speed of war machines accelerate each one along their corridors, radiating poisoning and environmental war gives way to scud missiles gives way to drone warfare and the social media-tized masses highjacked by technocratics and meme politics. Movements rise and fall at the pace of fiber and satellite relay. Don’t think this makes it any less real, even if you’re a disembodied data double flickering in binary digits in a corporate mainframe. The Gulf War didn’t happen but ISIS is real. The threat is palpable: contagion is the universal threat of post-postmodernism.

The streets are dead meat for capital becomes living-dead speculations. Traders trade fragmented rumors and thoughts in front of machine screens fluctuating wildly, stock markets spinning behind closed doors in cybernetic feedback processes as philosophy gets a grip by speculating its way back to the stone age. Deleuze and Guattari are dead meat for capital and Baudrillard is the first postpostmodern thinker but forget knowing all that is to know and realize as full spectrum dominance expands and affects themselves are targeted on a microscopic level real praxis emerges from what cannot be known. Heresy is in vogue – heretics always come from the future – but there is no transgression that can’t be accommodated. Noise is the gilded path to surplus extraction. Better a generative silence than committing sins and smooth spaces.

Against accusations of determinism history follows a path of deterritorialization. Ballet and waltzes to today’s electroacoustically shaped dance floors, Wagner to Cage to mathematical music, Impressionism to Cubism to whatever, mo->pomo->popomo is body rhythms and electrons set on a course of decomposition, fragmentation of the socius at the speed of war. When the Millenial dust settled all that was left to do was pick up the pieces and not put them back together but hypercirculate the images of them. Make something new by mashing them together. Market recognition comes in a Vice article but it will be gone by this time next month. Strike at the right moment, at the right network node, and push through the side. Make a scene, make things leak. You’ll be commoditized and capitalized but the circulating leftovers linger. Maelstroms can cut both ways. Fads are fads, after all.

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6 Responses to The Conditions of Post-Postmodernity

  1. anon says:

    This stupendously fecund post thrills me to have stumbled upon it. I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time. Now, I want more!

    Specifically, I think I follow the gist of the argument and most of the (Focault? and Deleuze? inspired) lingo, but could you explain the differences in network form and interpretation, please? What is surface interpretation and how is it different from reflection of surface interpretation? Can you give some examples? Likewise for decentralized versus distributed and hybridized networks?

    • edmundberger says:

      Hey Anon, thanks for the kind words, and I would be glad to elucidate the contents of this post.

      The tripartite scheme derives, ultimately, from the deep history of neoliberal capitalism that I’ve been working on for the past several years, some of which I’ve put up on this blog. Part of me is skeptical on the whole discourse of modernism and postmodernism, but they are wonderful analytic tools to help structure a mode of thought. I would argue that modernism reached its height in the Fordist mode of capitalism, corresponding with Foucault’s disciplinary society. This reached its apex in the early 1960s and collapsed in 1972, when the international class contract solidified in Bretton Woods collapsed and helped usher in the gradual transition to a post-Fordist, globalized neoliberal capitalism. By the time this consolidated in neoliberal informationalism, where the ‘core’ countries of the system became driven by finance, tech industries and the service sector and the periphery became the space of manufacturing and the two linked by dense logistics networks and intermodal transort systems. Post-postmodernism is when the whole neoliberal system itself locks into an irreversible systemic crisis across a variety of scales; the first rumblings took place on September 11th and the ensuing War on Terror, when sovereign imperatives pierced through the language of ‘globalization’, but it really took off in the cascading financial crisis that, despite the rhetoric of the experts, continues unabated.

      I juxtapose different types of networks to different sorts of network order. The modernist disciplinary society, for example, would have been a decentralized network, which is diagrammed as having multiple large nodes with lines running through them that connect node to node. It’s multicentered. These nodes would in this case represent consolidations of power – large corporate firms, for one, but also the trade union combines, the powerful state, the international institutions that helped regulate order, and the countries themselves who were allowed to maintain relative autonomy over labor and capital flows. A distributed network, by contrast, is a diagram where any point can connect to any other point. This would be marked by the decline of borders, the increased flexibility (and precarity) of labor and capital, the weakening of trade unionism and international regulation, and the flattening of the corporate form through the shift from hierarchy to team-based bureaucracy and the rise of transnational supply chains, etc.

      A hybridized network is a multiform network that blends both the decentralized network and distributed form; we can see the reemergence of strong states and regulatory apparatuses while also remaining tethered to the world system. There is no apparent contradiction,at this stage, between the “national” and the “global”, even if the uneven planes of development pose a whole succession of problems where national vs. international labor and purchasing power is concerned. The hybrid network is a series of linked bubbles waiting to burst. It is also hybridized because one must account for the non-human agency that pervades our networks: for example, ebola is able to spread through the same vectors that allow the movements of people and goods. A better example, however,would be the Anthropocene itself, which was already present but exacerbated by the network logic of neoliberalism, and devastating impact of complex chains of tech-powered mineral extraction, production, and transport.

      As for the interpretation category, this is operating a more cultural and discursive sphere. Discourse in modernism was always about what hidden away or under the hood: symbolism pervaded literature, while critical theory as caught up in the Marxist theory of the base and superstructure. By the time we to postmodernism, however, these categories got rejected. Increased flexibility and the compression of space and time makes a mess of base and superstructures, signs and signifiers. Symbolism was indulgent. Analysis focused on the circulation of meanings, not the “meaning” itself. Under post-postmodernism we reach a higher level of abstraction we get to the point where what is debated, analyzed and dissected is the discourses surrounding the surface. I think a good example would be the fact that much capital circulates today not based on material production, but on the information extrapolated from the relations of production. The so-called waste of the transnational information system moves into position as the nugget of capitalism’s new innovation.

      I hope that helps, and let me know if you have any other questions!

      • anon says:

        Thanks for the quick and extensive response. I really appreciate this blog as a rare chance to integrate a number of my own hyper-circulating fragments.

        Ok, I see what you mean about networks, but I’m still confused by the interpretation category. Two mechanisms of interpretation come to mind:

        1. Interpretation as mapping one domain to another, e.g. truth values to symbols in a formal language.

        Modernism: patient’s speech to theories of unconscious in Freud, color symbolism to political soul of Ireland in Joyce, public (shallow) utterance to (deep) theory of “under the hood.”
        Postmodernism: A) Theories of “under the hood” begin to seem false, limited, or self-serving, but they still multiply, so the scope of interpretative mapping explodes in private but shared mappings shrink in public . Pop music goes from the (not great) symbolism of “American Pie” to Madonna who refers to nothing beyond her desire and ego but whose meaning as use revolves around reception–discussions of music industry finances, Dan Quayle political fights about sex in the media, background noise for coked up investment bankers. There is no depth because there is no height, no foundation, no view from nowhere. Joyce means different things to Catholics, Protestants, atheists, the English, ex-colonial subjects, straight men, lesbians, etc. Together these communities form a network with no foundation kind of like a market of meaning that constantly renegotiates value but with only one universal currency… money.

        and/or

        B) People begin to analyze surfaces for the first time. “The hood” has been popped and everything underneath is now surface (everyone is a sexual being to some degree) or evaporated in the light of day (but the Freudian Oedipus complex is bogus). “Circulation of meanings” refers to emphasis on reception? Or more of a parallax view situation where Rothko’s not doing portraits even Expressionistic portraits but he goes so deep into color that he evokes feelings in the public that are then interpretatively assigned to his work??? There seems like a really interesting line of thought here, but I can’t push it further other than to ask: what are the mappings in pomo surface interpretations?

        Postpostmodernism: Ok, I get that people are more interested in how audiences relate to cultural artifacts than how art relates to the collective unconscious, but what is a “reflection of a surface?” Is it photos of pomo art on Instagram? The audience becomes a kind of co-author? This seems just as anti-foundational as pomo. What’s being mapped from what to what when investors haggle over the value of a company’s data?

        2. Interpretation as function of luminosity.

        This is vague, but I wonder if there’s a connection to discussions about transparency in analytic philosophy of mind. There the argument is that certain perceptual and cognitive processes cycle through feedback loops so much faster than introspection/conscious awareness can read them that they are “transparent.” My rough understanding is that, for example, maybe the eye takes in a huge amount of information that is processed through a string of bottom-up feedback loops until a key sliver is slowed down and made more widely available to the brain in form of a model of the self and outside world that is “opaque” and conscious somehow.

        I bring this up because I read a thing on “performativism,” arguing that postpostmodern characters have become opaque in order to keep their subjectivity from dissolving in a chain of signs. The idea here is that the mysterious leadership of China seems more free and alive than than that of an American politician tied to increasingly rapid, thorough, and reflexive polling, A/B testing, big data surveillance,etc. So if perception is very roughly mapping/interpreting hyper-dynamic “sense data” onto “opaque” mental images, what does that mean for our discussion? Something like…

        Modernism: depth is trying to see through semi-diaphanous people to their opaque essences/structure.
        Postmodernism: surface is people dissolve into hard matrices of information. The matrix/essence/structure is the surface. One is no longer “Bob,” just a dataset in some computer or category in some racist’s mind. Facebook doesn’t know everything about you, but they know a bunch about you as a target for ads and that’s enough for their purposes. Likewise for other companies, governments, NGO’s, non-state actors, etc. The struggle for recognition is the struggle to be read as a human or to be paid for ontological self-presentation.
        Postpostmodernism: the reflection of the surface is what? What happens when the data matrix starts to adapt reflexively? E.g. Brazil is still just a dataset to the NSA but one that’s beginning to cloud the window of its soul through encryption???

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