This is a nice synopsis (from the book description).
What is Post-Modernism
What is Post-Modernism? Is it a new world view, or an outgrowth of the Post-Industrial Society? Is it a shift in philosophy, the arts and architecture?
In this fourth, entirely revised edition, Charles Jencks, one of the founders of the Post-Modern Movement, shows it is all these things plus many other forces that have exploded since the early 1960s. In a unique analysis, using diagrams designed especially for this edition, he reveals the evolutionary, social and economic forces of this new stage of global civilisation. But why has post-modern culture arrived?
In an ironic parable, ‘the Protestant Crusade’. Jencks uncovers some hitherto hidden origins: the Modernists’ abhorrence for all things sensuous and natural, and their zeal for all things orderly and mechanistic. This pseudo-religion led in the 1920s to the famous ‘vacuum-cleaning’ period, the purgation of values, metaphysics and emotion. In the 1970s it led on to the ‘Protestant Inquisition’ which inadvertently created the very enemy Modernists feared — Post-Modernism; a Counter-Reformation, the reassertion of worldliness, fecundity, humour and pluralism.
However, more than one tradition emerged and Jencks, distinguishing two types of Post-Modernism (deconstructive and reconstructive) demonstrates that the former is often a disguised form of Late-Modernism. This takes the de-creation and nihilism of its parent to extremes.
The main engine that drives global culture today — post-modernisation, the electronic economy and instant communications network — is analysed in its close relation to other ‘posts’: Post-Fordism, Post-Socialism and the post-national world of trading blocs and unstable nations.
Jencks argues that this may result in catastrophe and global governance, or a web of transnational institutions and obligations. The most radical idea of this challenging book is the conclusion: the notion that the post-modern world does not mean the end of metanarratives, but something quite different. Belief systems are flourishing as never before and, Jencks argues, ‘a new metanarrative, based on the story of the universe and its generative qualities, will soon create a new world view that will affect all areas. It is a story which grows directly out of the post-modern sciences of complexity and is thus both true and mythic.’
I haven’t read this book, but I’ve read some other things from Jencks, and this seems to fit well with what I remember of those books. At the time (the 90s), I wasn’t seeing quite what he was talking about in regards to “reconstructive post-modernism,” but now, by 2011, I think his analysis has come into flower.
Post-modernism, as many have heard it talked about (the cliché version, or the kitsch version, of Post-Modernism), is really what Jencks would term “Deconstructive Post-Modernism,” and really, not a proper Post-Modernism at all, but rather the spinning out of Modernism.
The plurality that we see erupting on all sides that doesn’t fit these definitions of Deconstructive Post-Modernism, has now gotten large enough to no longer be able to be swept under the rug of the easy term. I like that idea. I’m sympathetic to that idea. Reconstructive Post-Modernism. It sounds hopeful. (As long as the flowering meta-narratives don't get consumed by their success and we end up with a horrific global order/catastrophe, that is.)
It’s fitting, then, staying on the hopeful side, that David Hockney is one of his favorite examples. He's one of mine, too.
CRITICAL MODERNISM – where is post-modernism going?
After developing for thirty years as a movement in the arts, after being disputed and celebrated, Post-Modernism has become an integral part of the cultural landscape. Charles Jencks argues that the movement is one more reaction from within modernism critical of its shortcomings. The unintended consequences of modernisation, such as the destruction of cities and global warming, are typical issues motivating Critical Modernism today. In a unique analysis, using many explanatory diagrams and graphs, he reveals the evolutionary, social and economic forces of this new stage of global civilisation.
Critical Modernism emerges at two different levels.
First, as an underground movement, it is the notion that there are many modernisms (not a single style or ideology). As far as the critical side is concerned, they react to two very different things: their own internal problems and the outside world as they find it, today globalisation and the terrorist debacle. In the arts it means looking critically at both the content and formal languages of creation, simultaneously, and it shares with Critical Theory the idea of exposing ideologies in order to enhance freedom, both of the group and individual. As far as the modernism side is concerned there is the usual commitment to progress, competition, and the romantic urge to overcome the previous generation. This results in a curious continuity and break, the swerve and the concealed repetition.
Second, when these movements follow each other in quick succession, as they do today, they may reach a ‘critical mass,’ a Modernism2, and become a conscious tradition. After two hundred years of one modernism replacing another, this might result in a more reflexive movement, one mature enough to reflect on its own dark side while celebrating creativity, a tradition come of age.
Modernisms: The key polemics
I 3rd-5th century – Modernus. Early Christians proclaim their ethical progress over paganism.
II 1450-1600 – Moderna. Renaissance usage by Filarete and Vasari on the superiority of the classical rebirth, distinguishing the ‘good’ revival (buona maniera moderna) from the ‘bad’ contemporary Gothic.
III 1600-1850 – Battle of the Ancients and Moderns. Again ‘modern’ means improvement over the ancient, invention within the classical tradition. The famous “Quarrel” within the French Academy starts in the 1690s and lasts 200 years, while the British contrast progressive classicism with Gothic.
IV 1755 – Modernism as fashionable rubbish. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary defines ‘Modernism: Deviation from the ancient and classical manner….Modern: in Shakespeare. Vulgar, mean, common. “We have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar things supernatural and causeless.”
V 1900 – Modernism. a Roman Catholic movement examining tradition that was officially condemned in 1907 by Pope Pius X for atheism and having an exaggerated love of what is modern.
VI 1914-30 – Modern Movement. In literature the free verse, stream of consciousness and experiments by Pound, Eliot, Joyce and Woolf; in design the technical and social progressivism of those practicing the International Style; in the arts the isms stem from Baudelaire and include Dada and Surrealism.
VII 1930-50 – Reactionary Modernism. The movements led by Mussolini, Franco, Hitler and Stalin that accepted the modern notion of the zeitgeist and a progressive technology and mass production.
VIII 1960s – Late Modernism tied to Late Capitalism. The proliferation of formalist movements, such as Op and Conceptual Art, and the exaggeration of abstract experiments in a Minimalist direction eschewing content. John Cage in music, Norman Foster in architecture, Frank Stella in painting, Clement Greenberg in art theory, Samuel Beckett in literature, and the Pax Americana in politics.
IX 1970s – Post-Modernism. Stemming from the counter culture, was the double-coding of modernism with other languages to communicate with a local or wide audience. In literature, John Barth and Umberto Eco, in urbanism and architecture, Jane Jacobs and James Stirling, in the arts, Pop Art, Land Art and the content-driven work of Ron Kitaj, Mark Tansey and Damien Hirst.
X 2000 – Critical Modernism. Refers both to the continuous dialectic between modernisms as they criticize each other and to the way the compression of many modernisms forces a self-conscious criticality, a Modernism2. Skeptical of its own dark sides, yet celebrating creativity, it finds expression in cities such as Berlin that have come of age under opposite versions of modernity.