Monday, July 9, 2012

the contested CLIMATES of post-hegemonic Modernity

Post-1945's competing, parallel, Hegemonies

The events of late summer and fall of 1945 gave quite a shock to Modernity - the underlying hegemonic worldview that lay behind ALL the competing ideologies of the war.

Modernity took quite a kicking - but kept on ticking, at least nominally.

The division, traditional since 1889, between the Left and the Right, hung on until after its 100th birthday in 1989, after which it refused any nourishment and died.

But all along and underneath, glacially slow but steady changes had been occurring along a broad front.

the Seventy Five Year reversal

In 1937, I think it would be fair to say that in America at least, most regarded the worst universities and the worst professors as being against Modernity while the best universities and best professors were regarded as being strongly for it.

By 2012, 75 years later, it is widely regarded that the reverse is true.

Our best universities are post modernist and even anti modernist - particularly in their basic science and humanities departments.

By contrast, Modernity survives in the run-of-the-diploma-mill type universities out in the more isolated parts of middle and southern America, particularly among the applied sciences.

Where ever Protestant fundamentalism and evangelicalism of the oldest sort flourishes, so does Modernist Science.

Bryant would be Amazed

William Jennings Bryant would be amazed - as should all students of the inexplicable.

But in fact 1875 marked both the decline, as well as the beginnings, of public Scientism based on the self-confident science of Newton, Dalton and Darwin.

Discoveries in the most basic sciences were starting to undermine  faith - but only among the most free-thinking -  in the certitudes of Newtonian Scientism --- at least among among basic scientists in the universities.

But Newtonian Scientism, if losing ground inside the Beltway of peer-reviewed science, was gaining far more ground in the non-peer-reviewed world of popular science, outside in the greater world.

Scientism had many - genuine - successes

Newtonian and Daltonian science was fuelling the tremendous successes of technology and engineering and invention between about 1865 to 1945 - a tremendous 80 year run.

 Particularly in those truly awesome years between 1872 and 1912.

These successes made the world we still live in today ; a world vastly different, overnight, from the relatively unchanged world humanity had lived for tens of thousands of years.

Our world in the 100 years since the end of Scientism's most powerful surge of creativity and productivity has seen only incremental improvements - and yes I include the Internet in that.

So Modernity and Scientism has reasons to be cocky --- but as usual, Hubris is a very hard genie to put back into the bottle once taken out for a stroll.

Scientism's biggest failure : WWII

Its efforts to extend these real successes into all areas of human activity produced ultimately the horrors of World War II and beyond.

But that lay in the future. For now, it reigned secure in politics, business and economics, the military, among the media, among the applied sciences in physical sciences and social sciences.

It was very strong among socialists and all people who thought themselves progressives (of all stripes) and in the art world and among the avant garde.

Its biggest opponents were a very large but relatively powerless group of religiously-minded people : catholic priests united with rural protestant preachers and the orthodox of all world faiths.

Its most worrisome critics were tiny in number - but disconcerting in origins - the well educated, upper middle class children of Modernist parents who choose 'to go back to the land' - the Nearings and GK Chesterton are probably among  the best known.

But the events of late 1945 changed all that : the number of critics of modernist science grew ever steadily among the basic hard physical scientists and among the counter-culture tribe.

Today's powerful - parallel - dual hegemonies

Almost seventy years on, we have two separate but powerful hegemonies inhabiting the same small planet.

Modernity is still dominant among the politically,economically, militarily powerful but weak among those who are intellectually and culturally powerful.

A billionaire doesn't really need a billion dollars a year to feel well off and he knows it.

 He sees a professor living on $80,000 a year and is jealous because that woman is living as well off as him, but in addition has great intellectual prestige -- while he is regarded as just a former gas jokey who got lucky and made $17 billion from his clever new idea in fuel distribution technology.

His friends at the club feel he is smart - but why doesn't the world agree?

He is smart. But his company is also one of America's leading CO2 polluters and so he is both clever in terms of 19th century scientism and yet dumb in terms of 21st century commensalist science.

Global Commensality Science triumphs in peer-review

Global Commensality science is equally frustrated - it knows its basic science is correct but it hasn't yet got a chance to deliver the technology innovations that would show life would be much happier in a post-modernist scientific world.

However, the growing number of the wealthy, well educated ,young who deliberately choose to live in the central sections of big cities and and then deliberately walk everywhere, has to be seen as a leading edge of an upcoming change.

The well connected/globally wired but walkable, densely populated, compact city does seem to point to a new emerging hegemony, as yet unnamed.....

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