WE CANNOT SPEAK OF METAMODERNITY in its concept without first touching upon the problems that its historical context represents.
In order to exercise any kind of judgment, even a negating judgment, this new paradigm needs to take as a point of reference its previous truth. The postmodern paradigm, which in turn also contains modern philosophies within itself, is the prior truth to which metamodernity must adhere.
And it is precisely this negation that metamodernity makes of the previous movement that allows it to advance.
So the exposition of this new theme is also the exposition of the movement of the desiring will throughout history. A movement that is debatably dialectical, just as it is also debatable that the son always wants to revolutionize the ideas of the father; even when his ideas still work. And that is precisely the interesting thing about the study of movement, that it seems to change its nature in each epoch, and the old truths become obsolete in the face of new challenges. This forces consciousness to take changes of direction, and even to do something that postmodernity considered unacceptable, to return to metaphysics.
But returning to the historical context, the truth of the matter is that postmodernity never had great admirers. In fact, many of its ideas are the product of a desiring will that is only obsessed with keeping itself alive. It is not claimed that this was a vulgar desire, but it was just that. Postmodernity strongly defended a fragmentation, which always went hand in hand with the plurality of the market. The productive system that for a long time was considered crucial to have a more or less dignified life and to keep one's stomach full. But even more importantly, the postmodern will was specifically charged with preserving life, in the face of the threat of a new world war between states. The rejection of totality is also the rejection of the centralization of violence. Specifically of state violence, which usually involves nuclear power.
Nuclear power, seen from a point of view of historical advance, certainly represents the previous truth from which postmodernity starts. And the attitude that postmodernity has towards this nuclear power is one of total negation. It was precisely the centralization of violence in WWII that ended up leading almost to a global nuclear apocalypse. And how does one deny the centralization of state violence? The obvious answer is through fragmentation. Fragmentation begins manifesting itself in the form of the UN, human rights, and later postmodern philosophies; with the structuralists. Isn't the inexplicable relationship that postmodernists make between structure and fragmentation strange? How is it that fragmentation conveniently serves to escape from structure? This is not clear in postmodernity, and it will never be clear. For this imposition of the fragmentary does not come from a logical order but from an imposition of the postmodern survival instinct.
However, in the current historical context. The consequences of postmodern fragmentation have reached such a point that not only are people beginning to dust off the ideas of totality, but they are even considering entering into the philosophical theme of death. It is precisely this postmodern obsession with life that is creating a picture of possible extinction. Is this ironic?
But there is something else... Besides the obsession with life. Postmodernity survives largely thanks to enjoyment. Jouissance is the enjoyment of the negative, because of the lack of need to look for something better. This phenomenon can perhaps be understood through Lacan's definitions. Or perhaps it can be exemplified by current social phenomena. Where sexism, drugs, and compulsive entertainment are manifestations of a desire that in reality does not desire these objects, but in view of forcing itself to "enjoy" life to the maximum, it tries to squeeze as much as possible out of it; through these objects.
This can also be perceived with the debt-based economy. For under the premise of enjoyment, it is perfectly natural to go into excessive debt in order to get the most out of life, without taking any other object of desire into consideration. However, this jouissance inevitably one day ends up yielding under its own weight, and postmodernity comes to an end. Which depends on jouissance on average.
This becomes evident in view of the fact that the first metamodern tints find their root in the economic crisis of 2008. Jouissance ends, and the old ideas go over the cliff. But that fall was not total, but involved a period of economic recovery, which resulted in that incomplete tinge that metamodernity still carries with it. However, this alleged recovery is unfortunately reaching its final culmination today. In 2023-2024, we are on the eve of what financiers and economists are already calling the "Great Reset".
Certainly, the impact of all the accumulated debts will be such that it will change our production system forever. Added to this is the end of an economic cycle that culminated in the Covid 19 pandemic, along with massive unemployment due to automation and the rise of bullshit jobs. All of this non-productive, debt-based economy inevitably creates economic recessions.
In addition to this economic problem, there is also the growing ineptitude of states to face the challenges brought by new decentralized powers such as mega-corporations, mega-wealthy individuals, organized crime, mercenary armies, PMCs, and paramilitary groups. All of this, in the end, becomes the perfect storm, which almost inevitably leads us into a period of profound transition. It probably involves a sort of medieval era, which many are already culturally calling "Cyberpunk".
Metamodernity, rather than sounding like a loving bear hug, which wants to reconcile enemies to the death, as some authors claim. In reality, it sounds more like a "fuck you" or a kind of obscene finger sign. Examples of cultural expression such as Breaking Bad, Fight Club, and Grand Theft Auto V; are representatives that despite their apparent vulgarity, accurately reflect the metamodern sentiment. Of course, there are also less convulsive cultural elements that also accurately reflect this sentiment. The films HER, The Lobster & Intellestelar are equally valid examples. However, their aesthetics tend to get confused with the postmodern context and can become somewhat disorienting.
This whole period of transition is the fuel of metamodernity. Whose indisputable nature, regardless of the various opinions of the authors, is that it is a negation of postmodernity. A negation of negation. When postmodernity is not, metamodernity is. And this negation is more and more relevant, because the old truth is being consumed by history itself.
The Metamodern Concept
So it is this third moment, that of the negation of negation, to which metamodernity must adhere. And it must be taken into account that when negation is denied, the first affirmation is also being denied. So it is a negation of both, but at the same time it is a negation that overcomes both. But this third moment is complicated, because within what confers the study of the first two moments, there is much more clarity in them than in this third one. Not only at the metamodern level, but at the level of all previous philosophy. Therefore, the clarification of this third idea is the authentic metamodern mission. A mission that necessarily requires an entry into metaphysics, since metaphysics is the only thing that can manage to answer those questions that the existentialism inherent in postmodernity so craves; while this metaphysics in turn also requires the basis of modern gnoseology in order to understand itself. Overcoming and denying both currents at the same time.
To this is also added the fact that science is in a stage of certain stagnation. The currents that seemed to be the tip of the sword, such as nuclear physics and quantum physics, are beginning to see a stagnation in their conclusions. For the previous methods are proving to be insufficient, and the new scientific questions are increasingly turning again towards metaphysical questions. It seems that the sciences are entering an uncharted terrain where their previous tools are becoming ineffective, and the need for a new 'Werkzeug' becomes clear. For this reason, and for the previous one, metaphysical renewal becomes an essential part of metamodernity.
Thus here we can find a new characteristic that is inseparable from everything that can be considered metamodern in its truest form, which is metaphysical involvement. Certainly metaphysics is somewhat complicated in many ways, and its rejection does not always involve a vulgarity. After all, metaphysics can be likened to a nuclear reactor, which despite its enormous relevance in the energy input it gives to everything else, its relevance is so great, that its adjustment is a fearful action, which is only performed under the aura of necessity. You wouldn't jump into fixing an engine, just for the fun of it, would you, because there is the possibility of leaving it worse than it already was. One only sets out to fix the engine when it is smoking. Descartes is an example of that.
But to simply say that metamodernity involves metaphysics, and a gnoseological renovation, is too simplistic. This article should explain, at least in general terms, what that metaphysics and new gnoseology entails. This is where that word commonly used by current metamodern authors like Van Den Akker, Vermeulen, and Freinatch, comes into play. Irony, although it seems like a well-intentioned attempt at conceptualization, ends up being somewhat disorienting. Firstly, because this word possesses a broad hermeneutical meaning that can lead to disagreements. It can even be confused with the purely aesthetic aspect of the term. Secondly, because it presupposes a specific position towards the two opposing terms, a position that is not always shared even by the limited number of authors who have discussed metamodernity. In addition to this, metamodernity is often considered merely a cultural movement. Providing it with a specific conceptual direction seems premature given the primitive state of the new paradigm.
Perhaps the word "metaxy" (μεταξύ), is a much more appropriate term to describe this primitive attempt at assimilating opposing opposites. Along with the ironic fact that this word was the one that gave metamodernity its name in the first place. The word metaxy is more accurate, not only because of its greater clarity but also because of its nature. In contrast, irony is used in metamodernity to playfully engage with both elements considered as opposites. But that playfulness seems more like an attempt to please both opposites rather than to learn from them. It appears more like a unilateral identification of the SELF of both elements rather than an identification of the totality that those two opposites represent. In that sense, the word irony becomes even more problematic. By continuing to be a slave to the SELF, it avoids denying unilateralism, avoids the negation of narcissism, and this also results in avoiding the negation of postmodernity. Which goes against the desires of metamodern will. For this reason, using the word irony beyond aesthetics is considered inappropriate, as if it were some kind of gnoseological method.
On the contrary, the word metaxy is so ambiguous, so general, so simple; than it perfectly represents that primitive state in which metamodernity finds itself. Furthermore, the word metaxy also symbolizes a state of observation of both opposites. Observation, rather than playfulness. And that is different because playfulness focuses on one at a time, focusing on the SELF of each one individually. It tries to satisfy that SELF and perhaps even tries to identify with it. But observation doesn't seek to identify with any unilateral SELF; it is capable of flying so high that it can see the totality of both opposites from a privileged perspective. Like an eagle that, thanks to its elevated flight, can see the valley and the mountain as part of the same phenomenon.
Taking this metaphor as support, we can penetrate, at least in a basic way, into the concept of this supposed metamodern duality. And it seems appropriate to provide one last example of this duality, which seems perfect for the occasion. Not only because it involves the incorporation of opposites but also because of its clear presence in current history. Decentralized financial systems based on blockchain represent a conceptual ray of what metamodern duality is. Bitcoin, for example, is a system in which enormous fragmentation can be found. Almost as vast as postmodern fragmentation, perhaps not that extensive... but it's substantial. Millions of data points are separated in time and space. At the same time, they are completely independent from one another. They could be exchanged, destroyed, forgotten, preserved, or whatever their owner wishes to do with them. But despite this fragmentation of parts, despite this apparent separation, these data points together form a totalizing system that encompasses them all.
Bitcoin is not what it is because of its fragmentation or totalization, but because of both. Fragmentation provides the security and justice that a financial system requires. And totalization is precisely what makes the network valuable. A bitcoin is actually just a piece of data, similar to irrelevant data that we can write on an Excel sheet. It is the totalizing trust of the users who use the system that gives Bitcoin its monetary value in exchange. The same applies to any other type of monetary system. Without totalizing trust between the SELF and the otherness, no currency would have value. And as one can infer, this example does not speak of a "reconciliation" between two opposites but rather the submission of both opposites to a set of superior rules and lines of code that encompass them both.
Beyond irony, a similar issue arises with other words that metamodernity attempts to add to its discourse. Pragmatic romanticism, for example, ends up becoming an unparalleled vulgarity. It seems to imply, "I believe in unity, but only when unity benefits the SELF." This, in addition, is a very common phenomenon in social media, where a certain mass gathers around a narcissist who possesses more eloquence than substance. But this mass has no communication among themselves and can only interact within the limits set by the central narcissist.There is no such thing as pragmatic romanticism. How would that even be possible? Being and not being? Romanticism is romanticism; its longing for totality is absolute, as its longing takes the same nature as what is longed for. The only thing that can be pragmatic romanticism is actually incomplete romanticism. Error and the correction of error don't have to be contrary to romanticism; in fact, romanticism can perfectly contain them. Wasn't that the case with Hegel?
Finally, another problematic word in metamodernity is "sensitivity." This word clearly expresses an emotional element. But the problem lies in the fact that it sometimes wants to position itself as a concept when it is merely a feeling. In that sense, the identity of this idea can be seen in relation to the latest feminist wave, which is still part of an incomplete metamodernity. In fact, this phenomenon seems to repeat itself throughout the current metamodernity. This attempt to use sensitivity as an origin or to want to be born from aesthetics... It doesn't seem to be ill-intentioned, but rather ineffective.
All this lack of foundation in metamodernity is the main reason why this new philosophy has not advanced in influence as it should. To start from a mere sentiment, or from unclear concepts, is somewhat illusory. For this new philosophy to have sufficient solidity, it must start from a clear method of knowledge. And what better method than the philosophy of history. For it is precisely from the historical context of the nuclear bomb that postmodernity starts. In this sense, the historical context becomes something simply impossible to ignore in the creation of knowledge. If metamodernity wishes to have a solid basis in its knowledge, it must reflect on the history in which it finds itself. My book "The Great Postmodern Lie: An Introduction to Metamodernity" touches on this subject in greater depth. And one inevitably comes to the conclusion that if life was the foundation of the postmodern, then death is the foundation of the metamodern.
One cannot bathe twice in the same river. Times move on, and no matter how painful or difficult the challenges the future holds, the only thing the will can do is to continue desiring, as it has always done. But the will cannot desire on its own, it needs an object, even if the object is itself. And this direction can only be given by knowledge. And that is precisely the problem that postmodernity is bringing to an end. The obsolete object of knowledge requires a change of paradigm, which can only be given by an overcoming of the old ideas, by means of a negation. This is where metamodernity comes in as a new philosophical paradigm.
This metamodernity is still in an extremely primitive state. In which it cannot yet be considered as a concept, but only as an aspirational feeling. Because of this, the vague attempt at conceptualization that has been made so far can be misleading. However, if this new phenomenon is viewed in a one-sided way, a more or less conceptualized picture of what it refers to can be obtained. Metamodernity consists of two main elements: first, in being the negation of negation, focusing on the explanation of that third moment. And second, in a necessary involvement with the metaphysical theme of death. Along with also the important metaxis that presents itself as a challenge to this new era. Metaxis between postmodern and modern truths; and between life and death. But this metaxis can never be achieved by focusing unilaterally on the elements, it can only be achieved through a total contemplation of the problem, by means of a superior point of view on how many of these opposites.
This contemplation will not be achieved without height, and the fuel that moves the eagle's wings is precisely the definitive abandonment of that obsession with life of postmodernity. The only thing that remains then is to embark on that tenebrous port, whose boats lead to the always avoided theme of death.
* BONUS GLOSSARY *
"Sincerity" is another problematic word: Whose sincerity? The truth of otherness could well be perceived as insincerity, if I want to deny it. But that does not involve an immoral attitude of otherness, but it is I who am denying its ethics. And so it is with my "sincere" truth. The use of this word as a way of explaining a philosophical paradigm results in something totally inappropriate.
Irony and its hermeneutics: Irony is a problematic word. It has a vast history in which its meaning has gone from being a gnoseological method to being simply aesthetic, and vice versa. Its use goes back to Socratic philosophy, passing through modern philosophy, and ending with existentialism. Different authors have used it with almost always different connotations.
Great Reset: premature name given to an increasingly evident possibility of a world economic crisis in the periods 2022-2023-2024. With causes somewhat similar to those of the 2008 debt crisis. But with much more profound consequences.
Metaxis: a word of Greek origin which, although it only has an English translation (metaxy), can be used in its original language. The term used by Plato, involves a position between two opposites from a middle point, but also involves an assimilation of both at the same time.