The Post-Modern Age has introduced countless changes to our experiences as human beings.  While Modernity had championed the rational, scientific, linear, ordered, functional world, post-modernism has almost effortlessly entered our Western culture and turned the modern European Enlightenment Project on its head.  Images have replaced language as our preferred tool for communication; relativistic, individualized little narratives have become champion over universal, social grand narratives; and linear, cause-and-effect notions of time have been challenged by the Zen-like notion that there is no time, no moment, before this one.

With a minimal degree of difficulty we can look upon the world and view the effects and manifestations of post-modernism on our music, our literature, our art, architecture, media, and even our spiritual discourse (after all, how much further discourse do we need now that “God is dead”?).  But what does post-modernism mean for our concepts of politics and society?  How does post-modernism effect the subtle and overt ways that power dynamics shape our society? What does a post-modern politic look like?

While a there is no shortage of movies, television shows, or books telling us post-modern tales of a future where we are beyond-human in our physical reaches (with cyborgs, artificial intelligence, and robots in no short supply) most of these visions fail to assume or imagine a post-modern effect on the nature of our relationships to power, authority, freedom, and language binaries.  If post-modernism is to integrate itself into our social and political lives in a meaningful, articulate way, it is surely to come in the form of a re-defining of our tolerance towards concentrated centers of power, be they States, corporations, or people.  The conclusions of a post-modern world point to a world based on localized relationships, mutual aid, and a discernable social value for things such as creativity, freedom, and desire.

Archetypal Principles of Modernity and Post-Modernity

Carl Jung brought to us the concept of the archetypes of the masculine and feminine principles.  The masculine principle, manifesting itself as logic, science, hierarchy, order, linear, causal, agency and reason, is easily connected to the identity of the Modern Era and the Enlightenment Project, which is why we sometimes refer to this Era as being under the dominate paradigm of patriarchy.  The feminine principle, on the other hand, finds itself associated with instincts, emotions, nature, horizontal relations, disorder, non-linear time, effect, communion and the extra-ordinary (what we might call the trans-ordinary or even post-rational).  Given the obvious connections between modernity and these masculine principles, it doesn’t take too much for us to begin to see how the ideas of post-modernism reflect the archetype of the feminine principle.  Indeed, monotheistic, masculine modernity gives way to polytheistic, feminine post-modernity, as we are urged by thinkers like Jean-Francois Lyotard to see reality in turns of  what he refers to as “pagans”; not one singular truth, but many, relativistic and individuated truths.

In the post-modern age the inter-dependence and inter-connectedness of each discipline is emphasized as everything around us takes the form of multi-media.  The line between image and reality, entertainment and news, is blurred.  This is precisely the manifestation of the feminine principle.  And as we shift from reading the written word to watching films and listening to the radio over the internet, we continue to erode the once omni-present masculine paradigm of order, distinction, and Truth.

While post-modernism, seemingly to foster its own individuation away from modernity, has tended to over-grandize itself (as the one universal truth in a world where there is and can only be individual truths) it does find a way to begin to describe a world that we feel we can no longer describe.  And it is precisely this sort of inherent contradiction that makes post-modernism exactly the feminine principle.  It is ill-logical.  Even the connotations of me saying that can be taken to be meant as an insult, our modernist values think so highly of pure logic.  But in the words of Ken Wilber, post-modernism is not pre-logical but in fact post-logical. 

And here Wilber would caution us against the very important difference between pre-logical and post-logical.  The pre-logical world existed before the Enlightenment Project, before written word, and before we thought reasonably about what we experienced.  The pre-logical world was full of things that were unknown, frightful, magical.  We looked for external forces to provide answers and protect us.  But having arrived at the post-modern age of post-logical thinking we find that rather than repeat the past we are developing a logic that goes beyond ourselves; in fact, beyond being human.  We are individuals to the point where our inter-dependence is obvious.  And because of this, we seek freedom for ourselves and recognize that such freedom demands the same for all.

Capitalism

Capitalism, while admirably offering a piece of society’s wealth to a greater number of its lower classes than the socio-political relationships of the past, is nonetheless an oppressive, inequitable arrangement which fosters the domination of many for the power, wealth, and (relative) freedom of a small ruling class.  Further, capitalism enjoys an insatiable appetite for consumption and waste.  Progress is defined solely as continual growth and expanded excess profits.  These excess profits are owned privately by the owning classes and keep the lower classes in a self-destructive race to the bottom of the economy.  Freedom is reserved for those who can afford it and for those who can’t afford it desire is crushed under the weight of isolation and want.

And, just as Lyotard points out that science cannot legitimize itself and there for must turn to the narratives of philosophy and politics for its purpose, so does capitalism rely on science and philosophy to legitimize itself.  But post-modernism has turned both science and philosophy on their heads, the results of which we can only imagine will continue to astonish us.  So too with the politics of post-modernism as it ages.  As we have traveled deeper into the experiment of capitalism, society has continued to embody the masculine while simultaneously showing the first signs of the feminine paradigm, the post-modern era.

These masculine principles have seemingly come to their full and final manifestation in the form of post-industrial capitalism.  In the context of our consumer-owner based society, extreme individualism is the last refuge for the fading ideas of modernity and the Enlightenment Project.

As Capitalism and Authoritarianism Fades

History’s great challenge to capitalism came in the form of socialism.  The socialists proclaimed that rather than organizing the State for the enrichment of an elite few, society should be intent on providing for the least fortunate and offering economic security for those whose labor produces society’s wealth.  About the same time that Marx was gaining notoriety for his revolutionary ideas about the political and social power relationships of capitalism, other thinks such as Michael Bakunin declared that it is the State itself that inhibits the freedom, creativity, and full empowerment of life and happiness, and that only with the final abolition of the State will we truly come to know freedom.

While Marx argued that the working classes would need to take over the State before being capable of doing away with it, the history of this is not so compelling.  The Soviets in Russia, as well as the Chinese, Cuban, and Korean “Communists” all have claimed to work for various adaptations in Marx’ principles, all with the result of replicating a State-run, centralized capitalist bureaucracy.

But rather than replicating the concepts of power that have been the hallmark of the modern era, perhaps post-modernism and the feminine principle offer us a clue as to what our social and political relationships may come to be.  Perhaps it is in over-coming the limitations of a purely rational, linear, top-down worldview we can come to re-define our relationships to ourselves, our society, and nature in a completely different and liberated way.  In the spreading of the libertarian-social concepts of Bakunin, the revolutionary desire of increased freedom becomes closer to our post-modern reality.

Even in warfare, the post-modern era is offering us a unique and fascinating departure from the colossal battles that have defined war as a clash between state militia’s for the power and supremacy of one regime and its resources over another.  In fact, during the past century we may be witnessing the gradual end of wars fought between nation-states.  “A-symmetrical” wars, in which one or both sides do not represent a government and therefore have no territory to defend or lose, have proven to heavily favor the de-centralized, gorilla-style (and often loosely organized) forces over that of the classical idea of an army (we see this in the Russian experiences in Afghanistan and Chechnya, as well as the disastrous American efforts in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq).  In a globalized world in which nearly every nation either posses nuclear weapons (and the capability to destroy the entire planet) or they are politically friendly with a nation who posses them, it is increasingly impossible for nations to clash they way we traditionally know they have.

Earlier in the century, we were even introduced to the unique concept of war by the people to abolish authority, repression and coercion in all forms, including the State itself.  This idea, brought to light during the Russian Revolution as well as the Spanish Civil War and even the experiences of Paris ‘68, was embodied by volunteer military forces who fought without hierarchy or centralized leadership.  While these early efforts to fight wars without the use of centralized, hierarchal models of organization fell short of success, the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico, commonly known as the Zapatistas, were able in the early and mid 1990’s to defeat the Mexican army and take control of their region without employing authoritarian and linear relationships of power; they operate according to directly democratic means where by no one is compelled to take-part in something they do not chose to and everyone effected by a decision is given equal say in coming to a conclusion.  Little narratives as military structure?

Despite the ways we may be able to imagine (or assume) how disastrous these non-hierarchal militias would be, we should not forget that the Makhnoite forces in the Ukraine kept that territory virtually autonomous for nearly two years while fighting simultaneously against Stalin’s Red Army, the rebelling White Army, and the fascist German invaders.  During the Spanish Civil War, large regions of the country were completely under the “control” of the anarchist CNT and FAI unions for over three years while fighting against both the forces of Franco as well as the Communist Party; it is even widely believed that while the de-centralized Spanish militias fought well, the de-centralized, directly democratic factories, mills and farms increased their production, by as much as 300% according to some.  And in Mexico, the EZLN (Zapatistas) have self-governed without the use of authoritarianism or top-down power structures since 1994.

Conclusions

The archetypes of the masculine and feminine principles are essentially identical to the ideas of modernity and post-modernity.  As we continue finding the world around us increasingly enveloped in the age of post-modernism (and as this age matures) we will undoubtedly discover new ways in which it manifests itself and altars the ways in which we live.  This will obviously come to effect our ideas and goals for our political and social lives.  At the same time philosophers began deconstructing our social and cultural norms, the ideas of a society of based on unfettered freedom (born of indivisible inter-connectedness) has been envision and desired. 

As we continue to experience the multitude of ways that post-modernism is changing our human experience, we will continue to witness the last vestiges of the old, modernist, masculine paradigm as it fights for its survival.  When the feminine principles that are embodied by post-modern ideas takes greater hold of our collective will, we should expect nothing less than the colossal shift from a homogenized society that prefers domination and centralized power to one that recognizes the value of distinction and favors cooperation and equality.  

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