Metamodernism is primarily a disillusioned, left-wing reaction to modernism and postmodernism, which does not challenge the philosophical and other premises, ideas and ideologies that underlie these modernisms, but has perched itself on a metaphorical fence between them, where it seeks mediations in the form of relationships and intercessions with both, believing this will somehow lead to an increase in knowledge.
Up until quite recently, most material relating to metamodernism has been reticent about defining what exactly metamodernism is, apart from a feelings-based phenomenon in the predominantly left-wing bourgeois arts and literary communities. This is, as far as I know, a first attempt by a metamodernist to write a Manifesto, in other words, a public declaration, a step forward into the arena of serious social, political and philosophical discourse. It is also a step that is fraught with danger because now meta modernists will have to defend their positions (or lack of) and will no longer be able to retreat into aesthetic generalizations, pompous romantic delusions, and vagarities. Imagine my disappointment after reading Turner’s Manifesto and discovering it was nothing more than a further reiteration of the above.
Metamodernism is not an upward or liberating movement but a kind of entrapment spawned from a disillusion with the irrationality of postmodernism ( but still not able to let it go!) and to a lesser degree, modernism; a movement held captive in a kind of willing incarceration by what it finds problematic but lacks the will to challenge or oppose.
1/ ::: "We recognize oscillation to be the natural order of the world."
What does oscillation mean but to move back and forth in a regular rhythm, in other words, to return to the place you started, which meta modernists believe is indicative of the natural order of the world? Perhaps that is the natural order as it relates to their ideas, but the real world is a world marked by indifference. Only in the diminutive human realm is their natural order i.e. a moral source from which natural law seeks to derive its authority.
It was the 18th century Enlightenment period, le Siècle des Lumières (the period of lights) or, The Age of Reason, that was one of the first in human history to derive the source of natural order, not from religious institutions, but from humanity itself, which, at the time, was a relatively new development – a development that gave birth and expression to a range of ideas centred on human reason and scientific empiricism (evidence based knowledge), as the primary sources of authority and legitimacy from which natural order and natural law are determined. This development came to create a set of ideals and implement ideas such as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, the importance of family and family values, individual liberty, private property, free speech, a free press and the separation of church and state…a movement that modernists, and particularly postmodernists, abhorred and mostly rejected.
Outside the human realm of these inventions and discoveries, there is no Ipso facto, natural order, because law and morality do not exist there. A lion, for example, is not moral or ethical when it pounces on its prey; when a volcano explodes it is not concerned with the village below.
It is oscillation alone that has relevance to the relationship metamodernism has to modernism and postmodernism, between which it "oscillates". One is reminded of a prisoner walking back and forth in a cage and occasionally banging his head against the bars.
2/ ::: "We must liberate ourselves from the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological nativity and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child."
There was no modernist movement in philosophy, but only within the arts and the literati, which greatly influenced philosophical thought, and arose out of the rebellious mood at the beginning of the twentieth century. Modernism was a radical, primarily left-wing approach that yearned to revitalize the way modern civilization viewed life, art, politics, and science. This rebellious attitude that flourished between 1900 and 1930 had, as its basis, the rejection of European culture for having become too corrupt, complacent and lethargic, ailing because it was bound by the artificialities of a society that was too preoccupied with image and afraid of change. This dissatisfaction with the moral bankruptcy of everything European led modern thinkers and artists to explore other alternatives, especially primitive cultures. I don’t see any lack of experience, wisdom or judgment in the modernist movement, or any overt naivety although during its later stages it was prone to a few excesses. An important factor to remember here is that the modernists were searching for ways to revitalize Western civilization.
However, Turner’s bastard child, postmodernism was different in terms of its objectives and intent. Vindictive, malevolent and poisoned by resentment, postmodernism was not interested in revitalizing the West but destroying it, root and branch. The reaction against modernism with the rise of the postmodernists would not have been possible without giving MARXISM pride of place in the arts, in literature, philosophy and social science. After the failure of the Fourth Communist Internationale, following the demise of the Soviet Union, Marxist intellectuals had become disheartened by the murderous nature of this regime. But their belief in Marxism still lit up their black souls, and they soon convinced themselves that the Soviet Union wasn’t real socialism anyway, attributing its failure to corrupt leaders and/or their misinterpretation of the holy Marxist writ, of which most believed the mass murderer Leon Trotsky was the true prophet and messiah. They knew Marx’s proletarian dictatorship would probably never succeed through the brute force and genocidal murder, Marx wrote was a prerequisite to Utopia (most of the West’s proletariat actually prospered after WW2), so they decided to employ another method of imposing Marxist ideas and concepts from within the institutions of the West, a kind of intellectually nourished malignancy they hoped would eventually metastasize through the whole body and destroy it.
Let’s take a closer look at postmodernism which shares the metamodernist’s belief in the naivety of the modernist movement. We’ll begin with the works of Antonio Gramsci (the grand old man of contemporary Italian Marxism, who described himself as a postmodernist) whose writings appeared on university and school syllabi along with sociological and other works by Frankfurte Schule Marxists (Jewish and other academic defectors from Soviet and Nazi occupation) and postmodern philosophers such as Foucault, Baudrillard and others. Foucault was well known in France as a radical left activist. Baudrillard was also a man of the left. The focus of his education and work was based on classical Marxism and on the development of a postmodern Marxism, something he and Gramsci had in common.
These philosophers and ideologues were few of many who shared a common goal: to subvert and destroy Western civilization by the insidious injections of Marxist ideology and ideas into its institutions – ideas which in many case were ANTONYMOUS but unambiguously opposed the rights of the individual, the structure of the family, free speech, a free press, private property and so on…ideas that were in essence totalitarian and radically antithetical to the principles of the Enlightenment, which were based on the primacy of truth, reason, human dignity and the freedom and sovereignty of the individual.
Truth, which was the guiding light of the Enlightenment, for the postmodernists was no longer important and was given equal status to lies, the proviso being to use any means necessary if it brought them closer to attaining power and the West closer to total destruction. Satre was right when he said that postmodern philosophy had its beginnings in the inescapable horizon of Marxism.
It is hard to see why Turner and the meta modernists consider postmodernism insincere. It was very sincere about its mission. Turner did mention postmodernism’s use of antonymous (contradictory) ideas and philosophies which he doesn’t seem to oppose, but rather incorporate into metamodernism methodology or whatever you want to call it.
The third declaration of the Manifesto seems, among other things, a pompous acceptance and assertion of the postmodern Marxist use of antonymous ideas:
3/ ::: "The movement shall henceforth be enabled by way of an oscillation, between positions with diametrically opposed ideas operating like the pulsating polarities of a colossal electric machine propelling the world into action."
I’ll examine declaration 4 in two parts, and show how it perfectly illustrates the thrashings of the imprisoned metamodernist mind and movement. The language itself seems trapped:
4/1 ::: "We acknowledge the limitations inherent to all movement and experience and the futility of any attempt to transcend the boundaries set forth therein."
Not very inspiring, but in tune with a metamodernist caged mentality. Let’s look at some of these phrases e.g. the limitations inherent to all movement. What he is saying here is that movement itself is limited. This may, in some cases, be relatively true, (what goes up must come down - Isaac Newton) but in terms of movement itself, is patently false. Simplistically speaking, a horse was once considered the fastest expression of movement. Then came cars, airplanes, spaceships and the possibility of human beings traveling at the speed of light. If we acknowledge the latest findings in the study of physics, even faster speeds may be possible. Special Relativity itself was preceded by Einstein’s own more powerful General Relativity (1915), in which faster than light travel is possible under certain conditions.
As for human experience, it is not separate from movement but has defined and unraveled its possibilities through scientific investigation, again, a fundamental principle of the Enlightenment rejected by most postmodernists, as being merely an expression of Western cultural imperialism, which is far from the truth.
4/2 ::: “The essential incompleteness of a system should necessitate an adherence, not in order to achieve a given end or be slaves to its course, but rather perchance to glimpse by proxy some hidden exteriority. Existence is enriched if we set about our task as ‘if’ those limits might be exceeded for such action unfolds the world.”
A system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method, which usually happens for a series of outcomes or specific goals. Turner assumes that systems are incomplete. His assumption is false. There are many systems that are complete and produce goals and outcomes on all levels. For example, in the 19th century the French physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot, who studied thermodynamics, pioneered the development of the concept of a system in the natural sciences. In 1824 he studied the system which he called the working substance (typically a body of water vapor) in steam engines, in regards to the system’s ability to do work when heat is applied to it. The working substance could be put in contact with either a boiler, a cold reservoir (a stream of cold water), or a piston (to which the working body could do work by pushing on it). In 1850, the German physicist Rudolf Clausius generalized this picture to include the concept of the surroundings and began to use the term working body when referring to the system. Here we have an example of a working system that has achieved its goal or given ends.
Perhaps Turner is referring to a political system in which he thinks it would be best for those who strive not to expect to reach a goal or end or be slaves to its course, but in the process of their futile striving, by proxy (the authority given to a group, an organization or individual to act on your behalf) to give you a glimpse of some hidden exterior existence. He then assumes that existence is somehow enriched by all this and that is how the world unfolds, which it seems for meta modernists works best when you let someone or something else unfold it for you.
This is the sort of reasoning you get when art and its fellow travelers want to consider themselves equal to science, as learned, authoritative researchers into the working nature of the world i.e. as discoverers of knowledge and truth.
5/1 :::" All things are caught within the irrevocable slide towards a state of maximum entropic dissemblance."
Let me break this jibberish down. For a start. the phrase all things, since he uses no qualifier, would, as it is written, mean the whole of existence: the stars, the planets, the moon, the earth and every living thing, which Turner sees as caught in a not able to be changed slide towards a state of maximum entropic dissemblance. I would say, in retrospect, this is how meta modernists view themselves! But what does he mean by maximum entropic dissemblance? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, dissemblance means the act of hiding something such as the truth or your real intentions. So what he is saying is that the whole of existence is trapped in a downslide where its real intentions are hidden, intentions that it knows about. This is the literal interpretation of what he has written, which doesn’t seem to make much sense. Let’s see, if by examining the second part, if we can come up with anything close to a clear definition.
5/2 ::: "Artistic creation is contingent upon the origination or revelation of difference therein. Affect at its zenith is the unmediated experience of difference in itself. It must be art’s role to explore the promise of its own paradoxical ambition by coaxing excess towards presence."
Turner’s reference to art is again so badly written and quite difficult to decipher. One can only infer what he means in relation to what he has just said. His muddy references to artistic creation I would say, at a guess, means that art within the context of this dissemblance accentuates what is different by imposing a kind of order on it, which is the revelation of difference, the affect at its zenith. Thus, he concludes by telling us that the role of art is somehow paradoxical and this paradox itself is coaxing excess towards presence. Turner’s writing is like the order out of chaos production of a Google online postmodern text generator! I suppose you could break all this stuff down to one simple paragraph: existence is hiding something from us and art can tell us. little by little, what it is…
The reverence in which Turner and the meta modernists hold art is curious, and why they would want to give it equal status to science even more curious. Turner considers art as some sort of angel of light that brings order to chaos, which is ridiculous. Putting all ethical, moral and virtue signaling considerations aside, historically, art has also brought chaos to order, and has often sold itself like a cheap whore to the highest bidder, enabled the rise to power of Marxist, fascist and Nazi dictators and down through the centuries has been financed by money lenders and other unscrupulous interests. Today, the art and literary establishment are complicit in the repression of free speech, of artistic and literary censorship, and of giving legitimacy to pseudo-scientific Marxist theories and Orwellian government policies and legislation.
6/1 ::: "The present is a symptom of the twin birth of immediacy and obsolescence. Today we are nostalgists as much as we are futurists."
What I think he means here is that we live in the present between the past and the future, where we yearn for the past and dream and hope for a brighter future, and that these experiences and feelings occur simultaneously. So?
6/2 ::: "The new technology enables the simultaneous experience and enactment of events from an in light of new technology in a multiplicity of positions. Far from signaling its demise, these emergent networks facilitate the democratization of history illuminating the forking paths along which its grand narratives may navigate the here and now."
The invention of new technologies in the age of instant communication allows us to examine our immediate/obsolescence from a multiplicity of positions. Turner believes this does not signal any sort of demise, but opens up history in a kind of democratic process - I would add without the concomitant of responsibility - which allows all the past grand narratives from a multiplicity of positions to find their way into the here and now, impact upon it and upon us and thereafter make life better for us all, a proposition for which all evidence is lacking.
What Turner has done is to create a kind of extreme left-wing open border, anything goes policy for history. This mode of thinking is an example of the death throes of degenerate postmodern Marxism, as it presupposes that these grand narratives are somehow equal in terms of their value and contributions to humanity and therefore should be let in and are not to be looked at in any context which would impose value judgments on them. According to metamodernism’s idea of relative grand narratives, the grand narrative of Nazism or extreme Islamic fundamentalism should not be judged, discriminated against or excluded, after all, one grand narrative is as good as another and no one has the right to discriminate, when these narratives are coming at you along those forking paths of history into the here and now, like a million refugees pouring into a country that lacks the resources to sustain and integrate them.
The next proclamation is the most foolish of all and demonstrates the utter Lucy in the sky with diamonds lunacy of metamodernism. What Turner is again reiterating is that art is of equal (not different) value to science as a source of knowledge.
7/ ::: "Just as science strives for poetic elegance, artists might assume a quest for truth. All information is grounds for knowledge, whether empirical or aphoristic, no matter its truth value. We should embrace the scientific-poetic synthesis and informed naivety of a magical realism. Error breeds sense."
Here we see the Marxist equality principle once again stepping in to arbitrate, NO MATTER ITS TRUTH VALUE, between art and science. This is a very revealing phrase, where the value of truth itself, in good old Marxist postmodern style, is devalued or of equal value to other values, or perhaps given no value at all. To be untruthful then, when required, being of equal or more value than the truth.
The statement that science strives for poetic elegance is ridiculous and a little less so the statement artists might assume a quest for truth. The problem being is that the difference between artistic truth and scientific truth is as broad as the grand canyon and twice as deep. Nothing could be further from the truth! Art is capable, at best, of occasional insights and of revealing truths, but truths of quite a different nature to scientific truths. Often, artistic truths are fueled by the biases of political ideology or the need to expound an ethical or moral (or lack of) imperative or position. Scientific truths are devoid of all moral or feeling based presuppositions and are primarily focused on understanding, exposing and utilizing the stuff of the world, through scientific reasoning, usually for the purpose of benefiting humankind and to increase real knowledge about the world, how it works and how it relates to the realm of human existence.
Turner’s belief that all information is grounds for knowledge is true and has some relative value. But this is nothing new. His idea of wrapping up art and science in the same package as a kind of scientific-poetic synthesis is absurd and an illustration of metamodern Marxism disappearing up its own increasingly irrelevant rear end. Turner then hopes that all this will lead to a magical realism, and even if it messes up, the error of doing so will be worth the effort and breed sense. This idea of learning from one’s mistakes is nothing new.
The final proclamation in the Manifesto is yet another example of empty, metamodernist, grandiloquent gobbledygook.
8 ::: " We propose a pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage. Thus metamodernism shall be defined as the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons. we must go forth and oscillate!"
The concept of pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage has been one expounded by many postmodern scholars which basically means we should love life more than its meaning which is usually related to a political or religious ideology. But Ideologies can be found at every level of human existence and many have no relation to politics or religion and involve a comprehensive set of normal beliefs. But to love something because it means nothing? Why would you love it then? And let’s say that what you loved was lost or ceased to exist. I mean, if it meant nothing to you in the first place, why would you care about it, grieve for or suffer its loss?
At this stage, Turner and the meta modernists from the confines of their cages lose even the will to act decisively, to take a stand, to grab the metaphorical hammer of truth, will, and reason and dismantle the bars of their cages. But they won’t do that. They would rather remain incarcerated, prisoners of their own devices, sitting on a fence in the middle of a cage, balancing indecisively between and beyond irony and insincerity, naivety and knowledge, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt. In other words, they would rather do nothing or let others do something for them.