In order to sufficiently define post-modernity, we need to look at the meaning of modernity since it is the predecessor to post-modernity. Modernism simply refers to a capability of moving forward and making some progress towards a given goal. Most of the theories that led to modernity rested on personal goals whereby each person wanted to maximize his/her interests and minimize the rate of dissatisfaction that they could be exposed to. Modernity can also be used to refer to the post industrial era which had several developments taking place. In order for a person to be fulfilled in modernity, he/she has to continually continue moving forward towards some goals. This movement never stops. Post-modernity on the other hand is a lampoon that involves the mixing of assorted elements that create a given kind of destruction of time since most of the elements are mainly borrowed from the past. Post-modernism is a cultural style which is a much more ambitious suggestion. This cultural style involves the change in activities being done by individuals as changes occur in the society. According to Adam Smith, modernity arises when people are allowed to enter into free and fair relationships with each other. (Gøsta, 1990 p. 93). Modernity also refers to a post-traditional and post- medieval historical period which is a period characterized by capitalism and industrialization. It also relates to the modern era which has a lot of enlightenment that call upon a specific movement in the Western values. Modernity also refers to the social relations which are associated with the rise of capitalism. During this time, there are tendencies in the intellectual culture, especially the movements which are tangled with the post industrial life like the Marxism. Modernity has been associated with cultural and intellectual movements from as early as the late 15th century to the late 20th century. This period is also characterized with improved services and inventions whereby the production process moved from the traditional methods to more automated and improved methods of production due to the introduction of industries during the industrialization era.
According to Harvey (1991), post-modernity symbolizes the cultural demonstration of late capitalism and that it emerges from a alteration of time and space to accommodate a shift from a political economy based on Fordism to one based on flexible accumulation (Harvey, 1991). Harvey also manages to demonstrate with a lot of ease and authority a wide range of cultural forms from structural design, and urban development, painting, and literature. He is also well versed in currents of postmodernist theory but also shuns away from the drawbacks of terminologies and murkiness. He also adds that the rise of the postmodernist cultural forms is related to a new intensity. He terms this as “time-space compression.” However, this new intensity mainly consists of qualitative and quantitative change in the social organization. It also has some limitations as it does not point out an era beyond capitalism. It mainly focuses on the basic rules of capitalist accumulation. Hervey disregards economic focus, the limits and contradictions of production that have resulted into the rise of in-service sector. He therefore takes a more multidisciplinary approach to history as he takes into account several factors that led to the concept of modernity and later on post-modernity.
There are three theories which are very instrumental towards the study of modernism. The three theories have also developed further so as to reflect a change in the ideologies that were initially held by different scholars. The proponents of these theories have been able to demonstrate the relationships that exist between these theories in their ancient forms and the transformations that have taken place in order to have a more comprehensive overview of the notion. The main theories that have contributed towards the inceptions of the concept of modernism and post modernism include: liberalism, positivism and Marxism. The three theories have also gone a transformation into new improved forms of the theories that are very instrumental in the study of modernism and post-modernism. Liberalism has been transformed to Neo-liberalism, Positivism has been transformed into Neo-positivism and Marxism has been transformed into Neo-Marxism. The following section outlines these transformations and how the proponents of each of the traditions interpret the changes that have taken place in the recent past.
Liberalism to Neo-liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of freedom and equal rights. Liberalists believe that every individual in the society has rights which should be protected by the constitution. Different liberalists espouse a wide assortment of views depending on their understanding of the principles related to liberty. Liberals usually support such ideas like, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, capitalism and freedom of religion. These are some of the fundamental rights that every individual should be accorded. Such ideas which are advocated for by liberalism are also supported by even the political groups that do not openly support the concept of liberalism. Liberalism generally entails several cerebral trends and traditions which are sometimes held voluntarily and involuntarily even without the parties involved realizing. However, the dominant variant here is classical liberalism which became widely accepted in the 18th century and social liberalism which became more popular in the 20th century. Classical liberalism mainly revolves around the broader concept of negative freedom while social liberalism is revolves around the broader concept of positive liberalism. This idea has been endorsed by several philosophers among them Harvey and Karl Marx. Neo-liberalism on the other hand is a set of economic policies which have become widespread in the last three decades. The effects of neo-liberalism can be clearly seen in several places across the world. One of the effects of neo-liberalism is that the rich grow richer while the poor grow even poorer. The idea of liberalism is used to symbolize freedom in different scopes of life while neo-liberalism is a new kind of liberalism. Neo-liberalism is proposed so as to act as a corrective measure to iron out the mistakes brought about by liberalism and have a more acceptable and favorable society. Some of the main characteristics of neo-liberalism include:
i. Rule of the Market – this involves liberating the free enterprise from any bonds that could be imposed by the government disregarding any kind of social damage that it may cause. Neo-liberalism is based on the notion of compete independence whereby the government should not interfere with the activities of any market dealings.
ii. Cutting public expenditure for social services – Neo-liberalism is also based on the concept of cost sharing. Individuals are required to pay part of the expenditure on social facilities so as to reduce the burden on the government’s side. This involves a reduction of the safety net for the poor as support is reduced on social services like education and healthcare
iii. Deregulation – this involves reducing government regulation so as to ensure that profits are optimized. The concept requires that the government seizes from imposing regulatory measures so that a free market is created thus an increase in the amount of profits earned by the investors.
iv. Privatization – this includes selling the state owned enterprises to private investors so as to improve the quality of services being offered due to increased managerial efficiency.
v. Eliminating the concept of public good – this is then replaced with individual responsibility and every individual is expected to find a remedy to their own problems and not necessarily involve the community or the government.
Neo-liberalism is a concept that has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF and rages all over the world. This resulted into a decline in wages and a rise in the cost of living for several countries across the globe. Some scholars say that neo-liberalism means neo-colonization of developing countries. With the concept of neo-liberalism, the government is not obliged to offer relief services to its citizens. Every individual is expected to exercise some form of responsibility. This helps the government to decrease its expenditure on social services hence channeling the money to other development initiatives.
Neo-liberalism has been opposed by different countries since it leads to widening of the economic gap between the poor and the rich. It is actually destroying welfare programs in different countries across the globe and also attacks the rights of labor. The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are just a mere minority of the total world’s population. To the majority of people in the world, it brings more suffering than before, suffering that will never seize. Contemporary neo-liberalism on the other hand brings back the contributions brought by classical liberal political economy. This theory asserts that minimum state intervention would likely to stifle the equalizing process of competitive exchange and create monopolies, protectionism and inefficiency (Esping, 1990:93).
Positivism to Neo-positivism
Positivism is a philosophical approach theory that is based on the view that social and sensory experiences are similar. Any thoughtful and intuitional attempt to gain knowledge is highly rejected. This concept was developed early in the 19th century by a founding sociologist and philosopher called Auguste Comte. According to him, positivism can be defined as a rejection of metaphysics. From a positivist point of view, sciences are a way of receiving the truth and understanding the world well enough so that we can be able to forecast and control it. The positivist theorists believe in empiricism. There has been a significant shift from positivism to neo-positivism which involves a rejection of the central doctrines of positivism. A neo-positivist may argue that the way scientists think and the way we think are not noticeably different. One of the most common forms of neo-positivism is called critical realism which is a notion ascertaining that there is a reality which is autonomous of the normal thinking process. Neo-positivism came out in order to examine and determine the urgent philosophical methodological problems that were brought about by modern science. Neo-positivism is a modern form of positivism and shares some of the fundamental principles of positivism thus rejecting the notion of philosophy’s potential as a form of theoretical cognition that studies essential problems of world understanding and performs special functions in the system of knowledge that are not fulfilled by specialized scientific knowledge (Gøsta, 1990 p. 92). Neo-positivism differentiates science from philosophy and asserts that the only type of knowledge is dedicated scientific knowledge which is based on observations and facts. Neo-positivism also defines the classical problems of philosophy as unlawful and rebuffs to even pose the basic philosophical question of the relationship of matter and consciousness. In reality, neo-positivism has some principles of slanted idealist empiricism and phenomenalism which date to G.Berkeley and D. Hume (Gøsta, 1990 p.100). Neo-positivism represents some specific stage in the evolution of positivism and reduces the problems of philosophy. The development of neo-positivism has made it possible for scholars and philosophers to determine the relationship existing between science and the common knowledge. Neo-positivism has also made it possible for the concept of positivism to be further elaborated and improved.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a new philosophical wave developed that preserved its links with the overall orientation of neo-positivism but has also come against the neo-positivist approach and understanding of the tasks of a methodological analysis of science (Gøsta, 1990 p. 98). All these new proposed concepts are the weighty theoretical crisis in the present-day neo-positivism which is actually no longer an integral and consistent philosophical school (Gøsta, 1990 p. 101).
Marxism to Neo-Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical global view and a technique of socioeconomic inquiry. It revolves around the concepts of materialist understanding of history and an analysis and evaluation of the growth of capitalism. This theory was established in the 19th century by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and encompasses Marxian economic theory that has influenced sociopolitical movements around the globe (Szelenyi and Bill, p.662). The Marxian analysis begins with an analysis of material conditions that takes into consideration the economic activities required by the human society to provide it material needs (Szelenyi and Bill, p.647). This theory views the socialist system as being prepared by the historical growth of capitalism. The theory states that Socialism is a historical necessity but not mandatory. In a socialist society, private property used for production would be outdated by cooperative ownership. According to the theory, corporate ownership can no longer maintain the population due to its need to reimburse from the falling rates of profit by driving down the wages and cutting the social benefits (Szelenyi and Bill, p.648). Marxism theory advocates for the creation of a socialist society where things are done socially and not on individual basis. Neo-Marxism amends the Marxism theory by slotting in some of the elements from the other intellectual traditions such as the critical theory, psychoanalysis and Existentialism (Szelenyi and Bill, p.648). The theory of neo-Marxism comes under the broader framework of the New left which is a term used mainly to refer to activists, educators and agitators who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a different approach to the social justice (Szelenyi and Bill, p.652). This theory was sought in order to correct some errors that might have erupted in the past and build a more favorable society. This concept arose as a way of explaining the questions that were not adequately addressed by the Karl Mark’s works. The theory of Neo-Marxism is also used describe the opposition to disparities that were experienced by the lesser Developed countries in a globalised world as an approach to economics which stresses the monopolistic nature of modern capitalism (Szelenyi and Bill, p.658).
Postmodernism is a cultural style that has coincided historically with the above listed changes. Liberalism changed to neo-liberalism, positivism changed to neo-positivism while the Marxism also changed to neo-Marxism. As these changes were taking place, modernism changed to post-modernism which is characterized by a new era of numerous developments. This period has seen the steady dismantling of the welfare state whereby individuals are expected to show some responsibility for their welfare. Organized labor has also tremendously declined and there has been a rise in flexible employment. This period has also been characterized by increased flow of capital and goods and communism also fell during this period.
Postmodernists do not place their beliefs and arguments in a defined structure or category. The beliefs and the practices that they hold are usually personal and not identifiable with a particular special interest group. The following characteristics are common to most postmodernists:
They hold that there is no truth and the notion that people usually have about truth is an artificial delusion that is usually wrongfully used by people in order to gain authority over others.
They also hold that reality and fiction are tantamount and they ascertain that it is very hard to establish anything dynamic since a fact today can be fiction the following day.
Ownership – the postmodernists also claim that a collective ownership is the best way to go
Disappointment with modernism – postmodernists are not happy with the non-fulfilled promises of science government and technology.
Ethics is personal – the postmodernists subject ethics or integrity to personal belief and they describe morality as an individual initiative and each person can determine his/her fate depending on personal opinion.
Globalization – most of the postmodernists claim that the national borders pose barrier to free communication and they also believe that nationalism causes wars. They therefore propose internationalization and the unification of separate countries.
All religions are suitable and none should appear to be superior to the other.
Liberal ethics- they all defend the cause of feminists and homosexuals
Pro-environmentalism – the post modernists defend mother earth and blame the western society for its destruction.
The world is dynamic in nature and is characterized by changes all over. The changes occur in quest for improvements as different philosophers propose improvements to the existing philosophies. Liberalism, positivism and Marxism were improved in order to have more representative theories that could reflect the developments that have taken place all over the world. Different ethnic economic niches were created by the new immigrants into the philosophical arena so as to shape their fates. The three theories discussed earlier have developed through changing social circumstances but also at the same time maintaining their core tenet. The evolution has been necessary so as to have some improvements in the general perspective of the world’s social and economic nature.
Work Cited List
1. Gøsta Esping, The Three Political Economies of the Welfare State: International Journal of Sociology, Vol. 20, No. 3, The Study of Welfare StateRegimes (Fall, 1990), pp. 92-123
2. Ivan Szelenyi and Bill Martin, The Three Waves of New Class Theories: Theory and Society, Vol. 17, No. 5, Special Issue on Breaking Boundaries: (Sep., 1988), pp. 645-667 Springer Publishers
3. Ronald Inglehart and ]acqttes-Rene Rabier Political Realignment in Advanced Industrial Society: From Class-Ilased Politics to Quality-of-Life Politics p. 457
4. David Harvey, The Condition of Post-modernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 1991 p. 250 - 267