7. Conclusion

Is There A Postmodern Age? 


Section 7.5.2

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





7. Conclusion  
     7.1 History and Evolution: A Paradox Resolved 
        7.1.1 Transition and Divide: A New Perspective on Modernity 
    7.2 The Eonic Effect As a Resolution of Kant's Challenge      
      7.2.1 Freedom’s Causality, Teleology and Politics  
        7.2.2 Free Will, Moral Action, and Self-consciousness       
     7.3 Will Democracy Survive? Toward A Postdarwinian Liberalism    
      7.3.1 Modernism, Eurocentrism, Imperialism, and 'Western' Civilization
        7.3.2 Ecological Endgames: A Tyranny Of Markets
     7.4 Ends and Beginnings       
     7.5 Critique of Historical Reason  
        7.5.1 Spengler, Toynbee, and Cyclical Theories 
        7.5.2 Is There a Postmodern Age?  
        7.5.3 Evolution and The Idea of Progress
        7.5.4 The Case of the Missing Centuries 
     7.6  Beyond Darwinism: A Theoretical Self-Defense
         7.6.1 The Meaning Of Evolution
         7.6.2 The Great Transition



    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     7.5.2 Is There a Postmodern Age? 


The student of the eonic effect casts an ironic smile on the postmodern idea. Although the term has created considerable confusion and debate, its usage proves itself by the spontaneous sentiment with which it has come into existence. We note that it is a term of periodization, invokes an epoch or age, and indirectly asks us to define what it comes ‘after’, i.e. to define what we mean by the modern age. But the term ‘postmodern ’ in many ways is a fine term suffering a botched definition. Instead of indicating a reasonable suggestion to stand back and look on modernism as a whole, it tends to be taken as indicating a rejection of the modern, and the too facile hope one will simply rewrite the whole of modernism with a new beginning. The critique of ‘metanarratives ’ is nonetheless a powerful one, for, as we see, a directional system might reflect a deeper teleology, but the two are not the same. The question for us is one of periodization, not the content of ‘postmodern’ philosophizing as such (which might show dialectical cousinship with the Enlightenment).[i]

In many ways a ‘postmodern ’ work in a true sense would be, say, The Communist Manifesto, this irregardless of one’s ideology, or stance on the controversial issue of private property, in its critique of the modern transition and a subsequent aspiration to redirect that transition as an ideology or universal history of freedom. That’s a good idea, or a very bad one, but, whatever the case, nothing in our model forbids it. The modern should be distinguished from the threshold or transition that created it. And the term ‘postmodern’ really should be ‘post-transitional’. That perspective neither affirms nor rejects the ‘metanarrative’ of the modern, but considers the relation of historical transformation and the free realization of that potential. The postmodern is taken to mean we sense a problematic with that realization. But the result should not lead to the rejection of the historical source, for, as with the Industrial Revolution, its ratchet effect on history is fixed. Our aim should be the disposition and realization of the given, without succumbing to the idea that it is fixed.

These questions in the debate are difficult to answer unless terms are defined over the course of world history. A simplistic postmodern gesture reacting against modernism will induce a kind of jackknife of a system with itself, and in fact we see that in the disastrous effects of the Bolshevik experiment. Our ‘eonic’ definition resolves the paradox, if you accept the definition suggested (which we might call ‘eonic modernism’ or ‘eonic period modern’), and adopt a perspective on world history as a whole, and take ‘modernism’ as a transformation relative to world history, starting in 1500, with a divide at around 1800. Then, if you adopt a view concerning a dynamic of history for this definition of the modern, and if this dynamic is discontinuous, the ‘postmodern’ automatically arises with increasing distance from the dynamic era. It is stunning to see actual philosophers arising in this timing and, although our ‘by the book’ chronology seems to affirm the basic modern, we might tiptoe over to these postmoderns to see what they are up to. More eonic data! They are eonic observer s, of a sort. Thus a postmodern gesture is both natural and yet open to chaotification in the sense of rudderless ‘going off on a tangent’. A full postmodern agenda would be to assess world history as a whole, and there the perception of a metanarrative might as well be the right approach! Postmodernists are really reacting the ideological teleologies that invariably bungle the job without something like our distinction of two levels.

We can adopt a simplified definition here, one that distinguishes

1. the modern transition, 1500 to 1800

2. a divide near 1800

3. a plain vanilla period starting in the nineteenth century. Note the postmodern is not defined here, but rises as you look backward toward the modern, i.e. transitional era, followed by the realization era of this modern transition. The ‘modern’ period is really two things.

In fact, noone owns the term ‘postmodern’, and Toynbee was one of the first to use it, so there is no ideology with a monopoly on the word. He is challenging the whole modern age, it seems, in a confusion of retrograde thinking. A rightist ‘postmodernism’ is surely fallacious, and is a warning the leftist ruminations on postmodernism will be cheated of their concept, à la the Toynbee declinist with his confusing mix that really still begrudges modernism its very existence. If you wish to decline, and erase the modern advance, noone is stopping you, except those who would rather not be on the other side of an impregnable boundary, e.g. the Thirty Years War, after which the secular as social pluralism became fixed. To do that right, you must renounce modern economy, no more rights of man, democracy. Check all the papal bulls between, say, 1524, and 1900. Toynbee was very confused, yet he got one thing right: the system is moving toward a greater global integration, beyond the local stepping of ‘European’ civilization, which might decline in some sense. There is only one civilization, that of man as man, a point quite clearly made in the Communist Manifesto, quintessentially modern and postmodern at once.

This, and much else, spills from a thimble of eonic analysis, with its powerful integration of period concepts in one rubric. There we see the exact analog of the ‘postmodern’ in its previous incarnations, e.g. the Hellenistic period coming after the flowering of Classical Greece, a grim reminder. It is worth remembering the Hellenistic example (forget Spengler). Within a few centuries ancient man lost everything, it would almost seem. In fact, although this analog is correct, it can be misleading. The modern world has the potential to create permanent advance, where antiquity was still too diffuse to maintain the stupendous level reached in a few centuries by the Greeks.



   Web:  chap7_5_21.htm


[i] Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity (New York: Verso, 1998), Terry Eagleton, The Illusions of Postmodernism (Blackwell, 1996), Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition (Ann Arbor: University of Minnesota, 1985).





Last modified: 10/04/2010