A Meta-Metamodernist’s Mentality To Metamodernism

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the case Against metamodernism

Part II

If we pretend for a moment that Metamodernism can exist, and we forget about the fact that they didn’t correctly define Postmodernism, forget about the fact that they don’t seem to know about modernism, forget that the only way Metamodernism can exist is between these two definitions, like some pale Hegelian synthesis that doesn’t do justice to either thesis or antithesis, just like it’s not supposed to, and we assume that Metamodernism is that which relates to “feelings and stuff except when you don’t want to be feely then it’s not,” we should ask: is Metamodernism Metamodern? It seems only a fair question to ask – if it draws its ideas from Postmodern self-reflexivity, then it can stand under the scrutiny of Postmodern self-reflexivity. Except it doesn’t.

As I see it, the creation of Metamodernism is an inherently cynical one, driven by a Postmodern sense of ego and gain, born into the Postmodern world of capitalism. Metamodernism (as far as I can tell) seeks to encourage oscillation between the sincere and the ironic. So why then, does its creation seem so singularly ironic? Why does its creation seem so based on singular realities? Why are its logical outcomes so fixedly insincere? Where is the sincerity? Isn’t this what they told me Postmodernism was?

Metamodernism in this sense seems to have been created by – and almost exclusively for – Vermeulen and Akker. Rather than the community creation aspect that birthed say, Romanticism, it’s come through two, then have been filtered through overly enthusiastic yes-men. And women. This seems to sit quite comfortably with the idea of the Postmodern individual, especially seeing the way they went about it. Looking at the previous examples I have given in previous part- the books, the series, the artistic movement, which all seem to have been conveniently forgotten by this pair- they seem to have constructed a framework or reality if you will, that is entirely dependent on their perspectives, that hasn’t required their perspectives to change, that hasn’t required research to widen their perspectives. This, to me, seems very much like the private creation of a Postmodern, subjective reality.

“But look here, you facetious prick,” you cry, “isn’t there a bunch of them? How can lots make for singular subjectivity?” “That’s a fundamental issue with Postmodernism though,” comes the infuriatingly smug reply. All authors have different conceptions of what this Metamodernism deal is – this academic paper and website they’ve created is an amalgamated effort and both were possibly on the same page mentally, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fusion of two different interpretations, from different experiences, with different goals in mind. The creation of this, or any text is a fundamentally Postmodern process because of how widespread the tentacles of Postmodernism are.

The adoption of a pre-existing term is a curiously Postmodern one too – as I mentioned before with the difficulties of knowing how they defined Postmodernism, they seem to have taken a pre-existing term (the core, if you will ), interpreted it (a first stage), used it in the context of their interpretation (a second stage), and allowed us to interpret it for ourselves (a third stage simulacra). It’s a curious mechanism of recycling and such a bizarre exercise in Baudrillard’s very Postmodern simulacra/simulacrum concept that it almost seems deliberate. To think that in the infinite possibility of language and to quadruple that with bi-linguality and twice the number of heads, that they could not have come up with a fresh word to describe this concept is odd and, with as much or as little scorn as seems appropriate to you, seems to exemplify how derivative the concept is. It fails to build on modernism, Postmodernism, or indeed itself. Instead, it is a collapse of the two: a cul-de-sac search for a middle ground between them which does not and cannot exist. This isn’t a particularly important point, but I thought you might find it interesting.



a bit like this, but in your head

But I mentioned cynicism in creation and have not touched upon it. Instead, I’ve managed to get horrifically side-tracked and looked at how everything is Postmodern from my perspective. Which it’d have to be. Anyway. As I see it, the cynicism comes in the creation of a new theoretical framework for marketing and career purposes. Given the apparent lack of meaning behind Metamodernism, it’s difficult to conceive it as a sincerely intended critical viewpoint, which from a Metamodernist perspective, means that it cannot be sincere and therefore must be ironic in accordance with Metamodernism’s own binaries. In turn, I could then argue that the act of creating Metamodernism is more of an insidious form of irony than irony for humour, since it’s irony for personal profit; both Vermeulen and Akker have done very well for themselves, gaining public recognition and careers from it. This would be symptomatic of a certain hypocrisy underlying the foundations of Metamodernism, since its conception was entirely cynical, which is to say ironic, which is to say Postmodern.


Metamodernists look on as Vermeulen or akker enjoy a large pool of emotional sincerity


One question this raises is, can emotional sincerity exist in conjunction with capital gain? If it can, then surely they can sincerely build their careers and incomes on a legitimate Metamodern basis. However, I don’t think it’s possible. Capitalism has matured across the course of the twentieth and twenty-first century along with Postmodernism and in my opinion, at this stage, the two are inseparable. One needs only to look at the ironic use of emotion to appeal to the pockets of the masses to see how Postmodern irony is being used as a cynical tool to separate the overly emotional from what they’ve earned. Naturally, you could argue that if the viewer finds emotion in it, then it’s sincere. But again, that’s not a new Metamodern idea. That’s Postmodern irony being interpreted by an individual with an equally Postmodern perspective who has failed to pick up on the irony.

That sentiment might strike you as ironic, since it implies that a Postmodernist, defined by irony would miss irony, but I have to ask you, what critical perspective do the majority of people adopt? They view the world through the perspectives taught to them, across the latter half of the twentieth and early twenty-first century. That is to say, from Postmodern perspectives. In turn, do you really think that all irony has been picked up by all parties in that time frame?

My issue with the inherent hypocrisy of the Metamodern concept is this: you can’t integrate the capitalist process and anything sincere without posing a threat to what is currently conceived as Postmodern human nature as it exists in the twenty-first century. The act of separating our 2017 home grown variety of late stage capitalism and bitter irony, sarcasm and nihilism, is to remove one of the few and only defense mechanisms that remains against total and complete vapid materialism. Postmodernism allows us to laugh at how much control corporations and companies have over those who seek not for the betterment of our lives or the lives of others. We need only look at the National Rifle Association and their involvement in US politics, the progressive march of the UK Conservative government into the pockets of the private, nationalised few. It makes it a joke because what else can it be? We are the powerless who have internalised the values they have thrust upon us since birth, indoctrinated into empty Disney pipe dreams of “find love and get a happy ending” which is then used by the same company to sell us more of their toys, films and images. We’ve been born sold and the only defence we have is the ability to laugh at it before we either die or give in and buy the cack they sell. And why does the inner self and the pocket need protecting to this extent? Why get so angry about buying things? With the increased focus on economic wealth, we have all become agents for labour in one way or another; the housing market is broken, inflation is on the rise, we will soon have to support the bulk of an ageing population as the baby-boomers start to die off, the vast majority cannot afford to live without food stamps or welfare, and the list goes on. As a result, our lives become an endless quest for not quite enough money, and in response, companies, corporations seek to force more advertising into us, to extort what little there is. What Metamodernism stands for then is to erode this sense of irony with a completely ironic, ill intentioned façade of sincerity. This critical perspective encouraging vulnerability wills us into allowing “sincere” materialism, it encourages us to embrace brands that prey on the the sentimental, like John Lewis Christmas adverts to tug at our heart strings and wallets in equal measure. It would be easy at this point to claim that this is just a projection of insecurities – not an actual criticism of Metamodernism, but given that Metamodernism is entirely Postmodern construct with no new ideas or thoughts and it encourages us to embrace an aspect of sincerity synonymous with “buy what makes you feel,” is this really such an unreasonable reaction? Metamodernism is a sickening, cynical, self-serving attack that does little for the art world it claims to serve and even less for the general populace. It aims to dehumanise through mass media and take what remains until, as Huxley foretold in Brave New World, we’re little more than husks with nothing more than sensation to live for. Whether this sentiment is ironic or not, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Rather than oscillating towards the sincere, Metamodernism sits dead still: the pendulum has swung between irony and sincerity and on irony it has stuck. From this, I’d like to ask you a question. Can you really believe a movement which even in its creation cannot practice what it preaches? And given that all of the characteristics already belong to a particular school of thought, can you really say that it’s anything new? This final point raises one final rhetorical question: if it’s not new and is already contained in a particular school of thought, why should you acknowledge it at all? I’ll conclude this section with answers so this doesn’t feel too much like a test. You shouldn’t, you can’t and you shouldn’t.


The Metamodernist’s conceptual pendulum: swinging a little less stationary than the one in this image





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I'm a survivor of the Groningen English Language and Culture programme who's currently enjoying the fruits of an Arts degree. My writing interweaves through my past like memory. That is to say, unreliably, irregularly and it’s shaky if it does appear. In my free time I like to get angry at the television, complain about David Foster Wallace and eat.


Sam Ha