On Habermas’ Modernity vs Postmodernity

I read this important paper a little earlier today, and here is my attempt to summarize and clarify some of his ideas. In my head at least.

Habermas defends modernity from postmodernity which according to him presents itself as “Antimodernity”. What does this mean? He defines modernity roughly as distinguished from the past. More accurately perhaps, it would be described as in an opposing or contrary opposition with the past.
The idea of being modern, he writes, originates with a belief we have that the now is somehow different in a significant way to the past. A belief inspired by the progress of modern science and the changes observed in society and culture.
These ideas of modernity, according to Habermas have climaxed with the Dadaist and with Surrealism. Their rebellion and significance however have failed. The so-called avant-garde of today by constantly searching for, and exploring new territories reveals within itself a longing for a stable present. A longing for stability. Ultimately, by failing to keep attempting a distinction between the past and the present, despite the dominance of modernism in our culture, it is dead.
Despite the death of modernism, Habermas thinks that we ought to not give up on the project it has given itself. Instead, we should continue with its task and at the same time learn from the failure of dadaism and surrealism, who while modernist, Habermas sees as trying to in a way negate modernity.
The task of modernity emerges during the enlightenment. It was to develop an objective science, universal morality and law, and an autonomous art. In the 20th century these ideas have split from every day discourse by becoming specialized. Therefore it appears that his solution is to simply bring them back into common discourse.


Digg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditShare on Facebook

6 thoughts on “On Habermas’ Modernity vs Postmodernity

  1. i can comment on this one. :)

    i like this way of thinking, you know, going back looking at modernity and saying, “you know, that was a good idea, but you all screwed it up in some form or fashion, let’s give it another try” cause when it died, post-modernism came to rule, and the only difference i see between the old model and the post-model, is that there was a sort of intention, a meaning behind the use of modernity, to push the limits of man and his mental faculties, and post-modernism is like a sort of schizophrenia, tearing the walls down, who knows, maybe it was the response to a flawed way of going about it, to bring the whole thing down, only to try again when people woke up? a little all over the place, i know, but that’s me. so, think i’m looking at it all wrong, simplified version of events, or, what i think i was saying was, maybe post-modernism wa a mechansim to bring modernism, or the intentions of modernism back into focus, whether it was a concious thing or not? maybe, say, nihilism had its way with modernism through post-modernism, and now it’s back at the beginning, well, someone’s trying to go back to the intentions.

    these sort of comments should help with your studies 😉

    1. It is a good way of thinking, however there are reasons that modernity has died. I still haven’t made my mind up whether it is a good or a bad thing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. you’re right, haven’t decided whether this specific situation is alright, like modernism, but being able to say “It does have some good about it, but we lost our way, why not try again and learn from our mistakes, progress further with the benefits of such an -ism.” but also put something in place to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.

    no prob :)

    1. i suppose. it all depends on the value of the idea in the first place. if it was really worth defending we wouldn’t have allowed the mistakes to perpetuate like that. or would we?

      1. well, at this point, man seems cyclical in all that he does. he becomes a dummy, he then gets inspired, he has fun, he forgets, and he becomes a dummy again, just have to break the cycle 😉

Comments are closed.