Philosophy of Technology and the Bifurcation of Postmodernity
*this article is Part 2/X, with Gonzálezean Metamodernism (3/X) and Black Metamodernism (4/X). They include new discoveries in metamodern discourse and substantially retcon the history of the term, introduced here in Missing Metamodernism. Whereas in a series of articles in 2015 Seth Abramson put forth a spirited intervention on behalf of Mas’ud Zavarzadeh’s metamodernism (circa 1975), I pose a similar injunction to the discourse. This puts metamodernism into yet another frame of abstraction in consideration of it as an evolving paradigm. For a more cursory overview of metamodernism and links to my other writings on it, see “Beyond Metamodernism”.
It felt like a strange story was unfolding when I unearthed this new source on metamodernism, from Borgmann (1992) — hitherto not cited anywhere — that eluded the slipstream of the discourse. I’ve been researching metamodernism for many years and never found it. It was as if a time traveller (a la Captain America) went back and inserted it in history, right where it always was but we had never noticed.
The source is an innocuous chapter titled “The Postmodern Economy” in an obscure conference publication titled New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues (1992). The chapter author, Albert Borgmann, specializes in “philosophy of technology,” which is also the theme of the whole book. His novel proposition on metamodernism is filtered through the lens of technology rather than art and culture (vis-a-vis the Dutch School); his general thesis being that postmodernity bifurcates into metamodern and hypermodern paths. This notion of a split choice is echoed in similar terms by van den Akker and Vermeulen (2017, paraphrasing Duménil and Lévy (2011)), that;
“only class struggle can determine the course we take, as societies, along the bifurcating paths — to the left an ecosocialist path, to the right yet another neoliberal path (with, possibly, fascist overtones)” — van den Akker and Vermeulen, 2017 (Dutch School)
Borgmann antedates all these developments, and has been hiding in our blindspot all this time, shying away from his own destiny as a metamodernist. By the end of this article I explain why. I always had a sneaking hunch that amidst the debris of post-postmodernism we might find some gem, but I did not suspect it would be so early (1992) and so explicit, prescient, and on point. At best I figured there was a lot of work to be done to parse the implicit metamodern themes in social theory throughout history (and there still is).
What Borgmann’s intervention speaks to is the fact that there is so much research produced in the world, not to mention the redundancy therein, that we are utterly disoriented by it, drowning in it, chasing our own tail within it. Major research events can be missed while other trends can become fashionable on a whim or by chance, and the research enterprise as a whole can lose sight of it’s own imperatives, common cause, and shared language. As a result, scholars and students alike are set up to fail in asking the right meta-questions. And with that, and multiple global crises unfolding, there is a mounting sense of urgency to get things right; to play catch up, to reach a consensus and conclusion, to settle scores, and to change everything, once again, before its too late.
The timing is of this text is remarkable (1992), when the status of postmodernism was waning but clearly largely undecided and contentious for various reasons. It is four years before the Sokal Hoax would unsettle postmodernism’s hypercritical foothold. And yet since 1992, in academic publishing and various fields postmodernism has continued to be an active buzzword, for lack of a better one (which we clearly see existed). Google Scholar indicates that New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues (1992) has been cited just 9 times, and that is referring to the whole book, not any particular chapter. Of those citations, none appear to have remotely anything to do with metamodernism. So it would be safe to say it is not just neglected or omitted, but lost and forgotten.
I must add, I find it all too synchronistic that the author’s name is Borgmann, writing about harmful and pervasive techno-science. The Borg, of course, are the collective abomination of technology assimilating all life in the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Starfleet, particularly as embodied by Jean-Luc Picard, represents metamodern values par excellence, looking back from the 24th century with both reverence and responsibility at humanity’s triumphs and evils, and boldy going forward into the unknown with fearless compassion and curiosity. The Borg, by contrast, represent the hypermodern tendencies of technology and capital, in the form of robotized zombies enslaved in a hyper-consumptive hive mind. The Borg famously captured and broke Picard, though he was later rescued and recovered fully. Borgmann, who coincidentally looks a little bit like Picard, would have us choose metamodernity, to resist being assimilated, despite the Borg mantra “resistance is futile.” And how fitting that Picard should return now, just when we need him/ metamodernism.
Preface to New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues
“The objective of the conference was to provide a public forum for discussing social problems associated with the implementation of new technologies, including the cultural implications of technology transfer between societies.” — Preface, by Stephen H. Cutcliffe and Steven L. Goldman, in Stephen H. Cutcliffe. “New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues.” 1992
The conference in question was held in 1989, and so Borgmann’s paper may be as old as that, though the book was published in 1992. And by taking a critical approach to science and technology studies (STS), the book anticipated the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the social implications we still struggle with today. It is within this context that Borgmann pitched his metamodern turn. Right out of the gates, this book confirms that it is produced in the spirit of values which we now consider central to metamodernism, such as deep ecology. INVESCIT (Science & Technology Studies Center, Spain), the organization that sponsored the conference leading to this volume, states that it;
“…pursues a deliberate research program marked by the following platform: rejection of uncritical theoreticism and thus of the subordination of technology to science; support for a “deep ecology” stance vis-à-vis the environmental risks posed by all technologies, new or in place…” — Preface, by Stephen H. Cutcliffe and Steven L. Goldman, in Stephen H. Cutcliffe. “New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues.” 1992
Introduction to New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues
In the book’s introduction, Steven L. Goldman gives an overview of the book, describing Borgmann’s chapter, as well other chapters in relation to it. Borgmann’s chapter is the second in the book, titled “The Postmodern Economy.” Goldman summarizes Borgmann’s chapter as such;
“For Borgmann, modernity, the realization of ideas promoted by Bacon, Descartes, and Locke, is already undergoing a transformation, but the form of postmodernism is so far ambiguous. Postmodern society may become “hypermodern,” a society in which the already pernicious influence of modern technology will become still more pervasive and dominating. Or it may be “passing through” domination by modern technology to a “metamodern’’ state, a state in which technological action will be “context sensitive and historically reverent,” carefully and respectfully (rather than aggressively) realistic, attentive to different “voices of reality.” — Introduction, by Steven L. Goldman, in Stephen H. Cutcliffe. “New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues.” 1992
Goldman explains that other contributors in the first section of the book — Medina, Sanmartín, and Ihde — all express “calls for social reconstruction” along with Borgmann, contra Bugliarello (the first chapter). Bugliarello is optimistic about technology in a tone reminiscent of the naif Steven Pinker, but it is a minority position in this book. Goldman writes, “[t]his is a call to radical, if not to revolutionary, action on social values and institutions and, eo ipso, on science and technology, which ineluctably will be transformed in the process.” Medina anticipates the “cultures of risk” generated by technoscience and denied by hypermodern insularity (incorrigibility or blindness to critique) — which calls up ‘existential risk’, a hot topic today.
Sanmartin is also in concert with Borgmann’s view, in that “the most pressing problems confronting society”, Goldman relays, “are the result of “enlightened modernity . . . a civilization whose superideology had science as its backbone.”” This is not anti-modernist, nor is it anti-Western civilization, but rather a mature awareness of the exponential dangers that technological ‘progress’ and population/economic ‘growth’ have generated and continue to generate. In summarizing the last section, New Issues, Goldman returns to the subject of deep ecology, discussing the chapter where Zimmerman explores its radical roots;
“From its inception, deep ecology has distanced itself from “mainstream,” reformist, enivronmentalism, for the same sorts of reasons that Karl Marx distanced himself from Fabian socialism. The modern industrial system cannot fail to destroy the ecosphere. That is the fundamental conviction of deep ecologists; all of their other commitments pivot about that “fact.” To work “within the self-destructive logic of the technological system,” as the reform environmentalists do, is to be co-opted by that system. What is necessary is “nothing less than a complete transformation of human understanding if humanity and the ecosphere are to survive in the long run.” This transformation must begin with “critical reflection on the metaphysical presuppositions” that have led the West, and through the West the entire world, to its current state.” — Introduction, by Steven L. Goldman, in Stephen H. Cutcliffe. “New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues.” 1992
Carl Mitcham, in his chapter, looks at decoupling technological development from militarism, specifically calling out the “military-industrial(-academic) complex,” however naive and optimistic it may seem. Thus, though Borgmann’s chapter is the only one explicit about metamodernism, from these brief citations we can get a sense of the relevance of the entire volume. Of the fifteen essays, writes Goldman, only two are optimistic, and seven of them argue that “only a revolutionary transformation of Western cultural values can prevent global catastrophe, precipitated by modern science and technology.” Foregrounding Borgmann’s metamodern hypothesis, Goldman writes that the conference and volume reflect a move “toward the formulation of a concrete political platform for informed social reconstruction” and concludes that;
“Current, so called “postmodern,” cultural trends are at best grounds for limited hope. These trends are ambiguous, at best pointing to the emerging possibility of a beneficient successor to modernism, but requiring such a profound transformation in prevailing values, and confronting the inevitable opposition of entrenched vested interests of enormous power, that these essays establish for the volume as a whole a mood of disquieting anxiety. ” — From Introduction, by Steven L. Goldman, in Stephen H. Cutcliffe. “New Worlds, New Technologies, New Issues.” 1992
Borgmann’s Chapter: The Postmodern Economy: Introduction
“This essay is an account and a recounting of how the postmodern economy has been rising out of the modern economy.”
“Postmodernism is caught in an ambiguous struggle to usher in a new time… into hypermodernism… [or] metamodernism.” — Borgmann (1992)
In his chapter, Borgmann speculates the bifurcation of postmodernity into a hypermodern and metamodern potentialities, thereby explicitly introducing the term “metamodern” into discourse, and in a pivotal way. He unpacks the ways in which both modernism and postmodernism are running up against limits, and have continued manifestations and struggles with each other. Two thirds of the chapter are spent backgrounding modernism and postmodernism in order to make the moves to hypermodernism and metamodernism justified, and it pays off.
The Rise of Modernism
The premodern world quickly collapsed, moving from a “locally bounded, cosmically centered, and divinely constituted world” to one that wasn’t, due to the discoveries of Chris Columbus, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Martin Luther, respectively. By the end of this phase and within a generation, the modern project would be founded and begin to be built up, by Francis Bacon, and then Rene Descartes, and John Locke, which gave us the “domination of nature,” the “primacy of method,” and the “sovereignty of the individual,” respectively. This is Borgmann’s “schema of triads” that help to track the evolution of modernity.
The Realization of Modernism
Meanwhile, technology is the X-factor rapidly reshaping the nature of individual throughout the centuries. In early modernity, new energy sources and resources (wood, wind, water, stone, metal) enabled growth but eventually ran up against limits. In the 18th century, coal, steam, and iron broke barriers and put globalization into overdrive. By the end of the 19th century, the earth was being terraformed at an accelerating rate; railroads, steamships, and skyscrapers traversed, compressed, and extended time and space. The 20th century brought a sense of fulfillment of modernity; new forms of energy, materials, communication, transportation and entertainment, and with it, totalitarian war and managerial liberalism. Poetically summing up the impact, Borgmann observes that;
“[t]he project of modern technology is an eminently real and material affair. It celebrates and affirms reality by overpowering and negating it. It revels in crossing oceans, spanning continents, circling the globe, in disemboweling mountains, plowing up prairies, and piling up cities.” — Borgmann (1992)
All this “progress” has of course enabled an “ever more spacious and commodious stage for the drama of individualism.”As for the myth of “rugged individualism,” it is a form of denial of dependence on the system. As Borgmann puts it, in reality, “there is no playful platform without a supporting structure.”
The Postmodern Critique of Modernism
At the time of his writing (1992), modernism has been under attack by postmodernism for several decades and is on the verge of collapse. The postmodern perspective questions and rejects the “aggressive realism” of Bacon, “methodical universalism” of Descartes, and “liberal individualism” of Locke. Borgmann cites Richard Rorty and Joan Rothschild as critics of aggressive realism, the latter calling it not just “an arrogant game of philosophers” but also one that has enabled oppression of women. Louise Erdrich’s answer to liberal “rugged” individualism is that Native Americans bear the scars of it, while Robert Bellah observes that the white middle class have been marginalized too, despite their apparent privilege.
It is not just about critique but the reality of the postmodern economic world running up against finite limits. Borgmann explains that for Daniel Bell, extraction and fabrication are the dominant industries of the preindustrial and industrial sectors. In the postindustrial economy, an activity he calls “processing” overshadows the previous two, which still persist. This succession is characterized by corporations like US Steel, General Motors, and IBM, in that order. Similarly, Galbraith notes the shift of the source of power from real estate to finance capital, and on to something even more abstract; expertise (which explains the success of Japan).
Giant corporations have come to rule the world, and free market individualism has been exposed as an “ideological cloak,” in Borgmann’s words. It is failing because “the economic system it has been covering up is no longer working very well;” I think we can just call this neoliberalism, although Borgmann does not.
The Postmodern Design
“Every worthwhile critique speaks from a constructive position, however implicit. Remarkably, the positive implications of intellectual postmodernism are so deeply enfolded in their criticisms as to be invisible; thus the antagonists of intellectual postmodernism not unreasonably have concluded that postmodern criticism is without merit” — Borgmann (1992)
This incredible quote speaks to its time but also foreshadows the current culture war over postmodernism (which is a kind of cultural deja vu), and rationalizes why opponents dismiss it. Though we are in a Culture War 2.0, as Peter Limberg and Conor Barnes call it, between memetic tribes, I would argue it still largely maps on directly to unresolved aspects of the Culture War 1.0 in the ’90s. At any rate, the language of postmodernism has become increasingly obscure and abstract, thereby alienating readers. And so have the mechanisms of oppression become more abstract, subtle, masking material/economic relations.
Critique has become ever more nuanced and transgressive against power structures, while also being sanitized and disempowered by said power structures or surrogates. It has led many people to throw out the baby with the bathwater; to abandon the fruits of deconstruction; to cancel the critique of postmodernism and normalize the status-quo. In short, intellectual postmodernism has failed to articulate a conclusive paradigm, sometimes being “implicit to the point of silence,” whereas architectural and economic postmodernism have followed some design logic and made their point more clearly.
In the informational and service economies, “flexible specialization” is the new norm, not the huge corporation. In this way, he argues, postmodernism could be more resilient and constructive, subordinating “competitive individualism” to “informed cooperation.” This reminds me of how Daniel Schmachtenberger talks about “dynamic subordination,” where you transcend the hierarchy game, the opting in and out of it in different relationships. However, in reality, this is still very difficult as a handful of conglomerates have come to dominate the tech sector, and market fundamentalist policies have impoverished the working class; they are now the precariat. Borgmann goes on to summarize his narrative thus far;
“Looking back on the course of history marked by the collapse of the Middle Ages, the proclamation of the modern project, the technological realization of the project, the postmodern critique of modernism, and finally the constructive proposal of postmodernism, one sees a story told by a chorus of diverse speakers and yet exhibiting, so it seems, a remarkably consistent and conclusive schema. But the poorly understood and unresolved status of individualism should warn that the conclusion of the story may be ambiguous and that the ending may still hang in the balance.” — Borgmann (1992)
Again, an ironic and prescient quote, given the battle for free speech and “classical liberal” individualism in the culture war now. People constantly want a new personal narrative to rationalize their agency and responsibility, and thus the story can’t resolve itself. But back to the 90s; modernity is declining while technology is rising, eroding and atomizing the status of individualism. This leads to a fork in the road, a choice;
“If the power of technology remains unquestioned, modernism will be succeeded by hypermodernism, that is, modernism by other means. If we come to recognize and restrain technology, however, a genuinely other era may dawn, one called ‘’metamodernism” for the time being. The question, then, is whether postmodernism will turn out to be hypermodernism or metamodernism.” — Borgmann (1992)
And here is where we run up against limits, or off a cliff, as it were. Borgmann identifies three main limitations; “environmental constraints, goods saturation, and economic crowding.” The first, which he calls “unequivocally evident,” is still not so obvious to conservative political forces around the world. The second he considers negligible, although arguably it is a more concrete problem today (plastic in the ocean in particular). The third, economic crowding, occurs when a market becomes saturated and businesses “must collide with one another in largely futile and destructive competition.” By going more abstract, crowding can be alleviated, but this reaches limits to, at the turn of the century. For Borgmann, the goal of technology is to liberate humans, first as “unencumbered individuals” and second as “consumers,” but in practice the market logic and world order seems to prioritize them in reverse, which leads us to hypermodernism.
In order to transcend the planet’s material limits, a “dematerialized unreality” is being constructed by technology. “Information processing, flexible specialization, and informed cooperation” can be seen as a postmodern technological response to the decline of modernism, however it tends to further alienate people, eroding the individual further from themselves and the natural world. These postmodern trends degrade into hypermodern versions, unless otherwise nurtured into metamodern forms.
“As the reality of resources and the dignity of wants are evaporating, the character of paradigmatic postmodern work assumes a feverish pointlessness and restlessness that are remarkably like the hyperactivity of distracted and unruly adolescents.” — Borgmann (1992)
Many people sit in front of computers for work, as they furnish “the electronic tissue for informed cooperation,” but often at the expense of real things and other people. We are also outsourcing our lives to new market niches, such as a financial planner. As the world gets more abstract, we become more distanced and disconnected from the problems our systems generate. If critics are right, capitalism has been headed for self-destruction for a while, and so;
“we must acknowledge as well the fatal liabilities of the hypermodern condition, of a life that is enfeebled by hyperreality, fevered by hyperactivity, and disfranchised by hyperintelligence. It is a life that is distended by an acute two sidedness, an enormous increase in our dominion over our experiences and in our sovereignty over the burdens of life, combined with a breathtaking diminution of the human substance. The reduction of the person to an indivisible point of sovereignty constitutes the ultimate and hypermodern stage of individualism.” — Borgmann (1992)
“But the postmodern condition also holds the possibility that we may recognize technology and pass through it to another beginning, one I have suggested we call metamodernism.” — Borgmann (1992)
Borgmann’s statement means that postmodernism is not a dead end. It does not die, though it is fashionable to say it is dead. Rather, the hope lies in the “promise of the wider postmodern conversation.” It is an intellectual and culture process, critique, and journey that may be the “rising trail that leads to the divide.”
“The fateful question is whether we are climbing up to the joyless and endless plain of hypermodernism or whether we are truly reaching the postmodern divide, a pass that opens up on a metamodern possibility.” — Borgmann (1992)
A fateful question indeed, and one that still hangs in the balance today. Borgmann argues that “pluralist truth by individual speech communities” that postmodernism prescribes only works in the context of commodious individualism (the opposite of rugged individualism). That this has not been achieved economically (“[t]he economic reply is the move to hyperreality”), then there can be no realized truth, hence “intellectual postmodernism is tacitly hypermodernist.”
He regards postmodern architecture as awakening us to the contextual and symbolic worlds we share and which anchor us in the real. Great buildings or spaces command our attention and reflect a historical context. This awareness can lead to deeper epiphanies. If we pay careful attention, he writes, and listen closely to the pristine wilderness, one can perceive the underlying reality, and hear the “voice of the polluted and neglected river is faint and painful…” To the hypermodernist, they are fleeting sensations, but;
“To a metamodern sensibility they are focal points of engagement and orientation, nothing more or less: nothing more, for to strip away entirely the artificial overlay would be irresponsible were it even possible; nothing less, if we allow the revelations of reality to center and grace our lives. In the latter case, our task is to keep artificiality from thickening to the point where it overlies and suffocates all that is real. We must reduce the artificial surface to a marginal and subservient position. It will still be a broad and powerful margin where we spend much of our everyday life. But the final function of the artificial must be to set off the real in its simple and unforethinkable splendor.” — Borgmann (1992)
Thus we are compelled to affirm modern structures as well as endorse their postmodern deconstruction, and finally then accept their metamodern presence. He suggests that focal realism is the answer to the aggressive realism that gave us modernity. It is focal in the sense of being able to focus between the artificial, the real, and the hyperreal, and see how they are nested within each other, but always come back to what is local, meaningful, and real.
“Focal realism, accordingly, is the devotion to focal reality and the metamodern alternative to hyperrealism.” — Borgmann (1992)
Turning to the question of methodical universalism, he accepts postmodernism’s rebuttal, and points out that pluralism is a signature stroke in any postmodern movement (whether intellectual or architectural) but…;
“if we leave it at a stylized and freefloating pluralism, we again tie the postmodern alternative to a technological substructure and a hypermodern mooring.” — Borgmann (1992)
For me, this speaks to the “uncritical theoreticism” warned about in the book’s preface, whether it be in form of frivolous abstraction or extremely nuanced social justice arguments. Postmodernism can become weaponized against itself under hypermodernism; relativism becomes self-defeating, theorizing becomes impotent and ineffectual to reform politics and policy, deconstruction is co-opted into contrarianism. Focal realism must be the attractor and organizing principle for cultural pluralism, he argues, and not “race, gender, or class, [or] nationality,” although these surely have their own focal factors to be resolved. As for ambiguous individualism;
“…postmodern communitarianism has been vague and thus easy prey to modernist countercharges of patent wistfulness, or latent totalitarianism, and to subversion by hyperintelligence. Postmodern architects have been strenuously at work creating communal spaces. But in reflective moments they have realized that these spaces have in fact been flooded by the individualism of commodity consumption, or they have remained awkwardly empty. ” — Borgmann (1992)
Again, this speaks to the predominance of the hypermodern trend described in the early 90s, how spaces get assimilated by . It can be applied to the current culture war (2.0). But at the end of the Cold War there was a new hope on the horizon, albeit one that faded quickly.
“How can we secure substance and a center for communitarianism? The answer is that we cannot, nor can the architects among us. Focal things cannot be secured or procured, they can only be discovered, revered, and sustained in a focal practice. Such focal things and practices are well and alive in our artistic, athletic, and religious celebrations. Metamodern communitarianism consists of the courage to heal these communal celebrations of their consumptive infections and to give them a central and generous place in our cities and countries.”
Focal realism, local pluralism, and communal celebration constitute the metamodern resolution of postmodern ambiguity… But there is as yet enough looseness and uncertainty in the emerging postmodern economy to make it serve metamodern rather than hypermodern ends.
Information processing would …respond with more insight and respect to the injuries of the environment and to the injustices among people. Flexible specialization would be the response to the possibilities of local, labor intensive industry. Informed cooperation would take the place of oppressive or mindless working conditions.” — Borgmann (1992)
We can only hope, as Borgmann did, that the tech community would account for negative externalities, but without a metamodern mindset articulated in the mainstream, and the political will and economic shifts to match, late stage capitalism will continue to grind down its workers with menial tasks and meagre wages, while the environments sustaining us collapse. Finally, confident in the consensus over the limits of postmodernism, Borgmann ends on a positive prescription for what sounds like degrowth;
“What unites and centers these several aspects of a desirable postmodern economy is the realization that the modern restlessness of ever searching for an alibi, an elsewhere, must come to an end. We must stop building and begin to dwell in the land that has been given to us. To practice postmodern economy is to put one’s house in order, to dwell in it through celebration, and to say: It is good for us to be here.” — Borgmann (1992)
And with that paragraph Borgmann’s chapter and his writing on metamodernism came to a end. There is a certain Petersonian essence to the final paragraph as well; “to put one’s house in order…” But Peterson should be understood as hypermodern here, not metamodern. I have critiqued him thoroughly from metamodern perspectivalism, if not simply from a basic sociological sensibility that he lacks. And in this spirit his many dogmatic quirks and beliefs have been debunked by others, while he continues to fall prey to the conservative grip(e) of PragerU and Quillette. For all Peterson’s anti-postmodern proselytizing and deconstructive bible-thumping, which has made him quite popular, Borgmann’s Christian ethics (of care) and commodious individualism are plainly superior to Peterson’s Christian mytho-pedantry and rugged individualism, and in a way that dovetails with that of Justo L. González, in the next article in this series.
To clarify the loose ends in Borgmann’s last paragraph, the “desirable postmodern economy” is the would-be metamodern version of it, as opposed to the hypermodern attractor. And despite titling the section “metamodern economy,” he does not define it, but rather describes a healthy postmodern economy, and we never hear of metamodernism again. The answer to this mystery lies in his book Crossing the Postmodern Divide, published in the same year (1992, though the chapters in New Worlds are collected from a 1989 conference), where he describes hypermodernism again only to then rename the metamodern counterpoint as “postmodern realism” instead:
“There is, however, a way of life beyond sullenness and hyperactivity. It is a re- covery of the world of eloquent things, a recovery that accepts the postmodern critique and realizes postmodern aspirations. I call this recovery postmodern realism and point up its emerging characteristics — focal realism, patient vigor, and communal celebration.” — Crossing the Postmodern Divide (1992)
It was another false start for metamodernism. In the intervening years before publishing the book, Borgmann would pivot from his metamodern turn in his chapter in favour of ‘postmodern realism,’ and without even explaining the switch. At any rate, it was perhaps a pragmatic and intellectually conservative move, providing more technical precision to his thesis and (p)reserving ‘metamodernism’ (by jettisoning the term) for it to recombine with a broader vision and paradigm later. In my reading, Borgmann’s contribution is thus not diminished by it — we still learn a lot about ‘metamodernism’ — and his body of work deserves further attention. Borgmann has authored six books and none of them use the term, but it stands to reason that since we missed him, we may have something that he’s been missing too.
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