SNP’s word of the day: Transmodernism

Illustration by Leiws Mirrett
Illustration by Leiws Mirrett

Word: Transmodernism

Meaning: A development in thought following the period of postmodernism.

Usage: “We’re in Transmodern times now, since postmodernism is now mostly dead.” — a commenter on the Kurt Anderson essay we talked about last week

You should know it because: Postmodernism. The theory we’ve all learned to hate is defined, at least if a basic linear chronology is accepted, as the period of creation—of art, of literature, of architecture—following the high modernism of the 1950s. It’s an amorphous, unwieldly “-ism,” defined in large part by what it’s not: not modernist, not binary, not rooted in absolute truth or even reality. Punk rock is postmodern, Warhol‘s pop art is postmodern, The Matrix is postmodern, transgendered supermodels are postmodern, and so on. We have yet to find anything better than postmodern to describe the state of things, but there have been contenders. Like here: transmodernism.

Our executive producer, Gary Campbell, said he’d learned this new word on Tuesday, so I thought I’d figure it out for y’all. Ready? Transmodernism is a minor but intriguing philosophical movement founded by Argentinian philosopher Enrique Dussel; it’s not to be confused with transmodernity, which is another thing. Basically (verrrrrrrry basically), it seeks to elide the rebellion of postmodernism against modernism, and prove that pre-modern, modern, and postmodern ideals can coexist. It’s highly influenced by transcendentalism and values spirituality, not existential nothingness. It seems like a philosophy for seekers, for non-Westerners (postmodernism is almost as contained and defined by the West as modernism was, after all), and for people who just can’t decide. I mean, transmodernism posits a return to traditional family values while also promoting outsider thinking and pluralism, and to be real, you can’t have everything. That’s why, just like Ferris Bueller says, I’m not much for “isms,” and as my favourite bizarro Twitter acount @TinyNietzche says, “I always return to nothing.”

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