2004/07/17

Post-modernism (part 1)

Before jumping to post-modernity, let's remember that industrialisation-capitalism-rationality pulled humanity towards a new and quite different stage of its evolution: modernity. See here for exemple the effects of modernity on population growth.

Population: ( In Deep Change, a website by David Forrest)

2000 One out of every 20 people who have ever lived are living today
1999 World population is 6 billion
1987 World population is 5 billion
1974 World population is 4 billion
1960 World population is 3 billion
1950 World population is 2.516 billion
1900 World population is 1.656 billion
1850 World population is 1.265 billion
1804 World population is 1 billion
1750 World population is 795 million
1650 World population is 500 million
1200 World population is 450 million
BC (estimates)
8000 World population is 5 million

In summary the world population doubled, on average, every:
- 180 years during the age of agriculture
- 60 years during the age of industrialisation-capitalism-rationality
- 40 years during the last stage fron 1960 to 1999.
We know from these figures that population growth accelerated along history but nothing better than a graph can show the dramatic importance of this acceleration. It's worthwhile to remember here that our present day human form was achieved not earlier than 100,000 years ago and that during the initial 90,000 years of their existence, humans were sparcely distributed. "Our studies suggest that hunter-gatherer societies offer full employment for all, simply providing the basic necessities of food and shelter" writes Steve Wieting, senior economist at Citigroup Inc. You must be an economist to put it in this way full of disdain. The table here should act as our antidote.



Sure enough, demographics are not providing us with an explanation about modernity but at least it gives us the big picture of its importance .

This absolutely stunning growth of population results without any doubt out of modernity which is a process far more than a given reality. The process as we have seen, in an earlier chapter, starts around 1200 with the crusades and leads to the fermentation of ideas that will give birth to the Western urge for more discoveries and the gradual inception of the instruments of capitalism and industrialisation.

New richnesses call for new art works out of the realm of the gods. Realistic portraits and local landscapes take central stage for some centuries and by the end of the 19th century appears the urge to leave realism...
Many argue that post-modernity corresponds to the rejection of realism that goes hands in hands with the appearance of the service economy. But it seems to me that post-modernity is somewhat more important than the shift from blue collar to white collar work. This shift is indeed only one change among many others in the development of capitalist-industrialisation.
Post-modernity is the story of the 21st century.

Three huge waves have started rebalancing our human societies in the 21st century:
  • A unifying world community under the law of capital..
  • A great atomization.
  • A greater recoursce to scientists and thinkers to solve humanity's growing problems
From the action of those forces, we see the world being pulled by two contradictory forces:
  • We have seen that the more advanced our societies the more they are atomizing. The paradox that thus appears is that, the further it develops, rationalist-capitalism leads to the fragilization of the collective, of societal institutions and their guidance systems, that takes place under individualism growing all powerfull.
  • Seen from the other side of the spectrum, our societies are also unifying into a world community that is sharing in a common rationalist-capitalist vision. And thus today, the world extends further then the shores of the US, the EU or the Western world for what really matters, I mean the economic dominance that brings cultural hegemony.
China, India and the rest of Asia represent nearly 60% of the world population. For the last 500 years, those countries have been largely left out of the workings of our Eurocentric economic system and the world view that it vehiculates. Their societal systems were not wiped out, during these last centuries of European invasions, simply because they were too developped and could resist the lores of Christian preachers. To put it otherwise, they were drawn by force in a position of economically dominated and then exploited by the west (cotton to opium). But force is to admit that they suceeded to maintain their societies into existence and also learned the hard way their lessons about white men's economic games.

Let's remember that Europe grew out of its medieval backwardness only because it stole from other societies what became the substance of its primitive capital accumulation which gave European nations the trempoline from which they jump-started the development of the capitalist system. The result for many societies around the world has been absolutely devastating: from pure disappearance (mostly American societies) to total dislocation (mostly African societies). As such the conclusion imposes itself that capitalism is a kind of natural "out-growth" of European violence, brutality and greed.

Asian societies largely subsisted because their very old and refined civilizations were no match for European brutal primitive instincts. But comes the 21st century and the moment of truth.
After much introspection and observation, Asian societies are taking on the West frontally at its own game. Japan started early, China and India just started playing according to the rules devised by the White men. But what appears cristally clear is that Asians are well on their road to beat the West at its own economic game. This, unmistakably, has cultural implications!

The brutal encounters of Europe with the rest of the world during the crusades and the 16-17th centuries discoveries made Europe develop into a vast capitalist-rationalism system that allowed it to dominate the world for the next 500 years. But we should always remain conscient of this very real fact that the development of capitalist-rationalism has been realized totally out of any consciousness by the Western society and its members. The best proof of this largely unknown fact lies in the non-understanding of the historical roots of capitalist-rationalism by those who were living through the historical period of their appearance as well as of the large majority of all people on earth at any time in history.
This system developped out of human control, it emerged as spontaneously and then auto-adjusted the myriad of human actions that followed the acquisition of richnesses during the crusades and the great discoveries.

The 21st century encounter of Western capitalist-rationalism with Asia seems to be leading the West out of its dominance and Asia towards taking the commanding role in the shaping of the system's future destination. This is a crude summary, I push the enveloppe a little far or perhaps a little early, my intention is to push, you the reader, to think at the implications of what is going on today.

The Western Eurocentric cultural worldview is going to be engaged in a cultural shock of an intensity without precedent in its history and in the history of humanity.
Three factors are going to shape the depth of this shock:
  1. the scale-population (in the sense of economies of scale): the Western Eurocentric cultural worldview (capitalist-rationalism) is shared by roughly 15% of the world population versus the Asian worldview that is shared by around 60% of the world population. The economic impact of those figures is not missed by Western big capital that only cares about the "logic of capital" but does not care a damn about the West itself nor its values of democracy and human rights nor the Western populations for that matter. We should all be conscient about this fact.
  2. the scale of importance or of refinement of the Asian cultures versus what can only be seen as Western cultural minimal primitivism. What is at stake here is what kind of cultural hegemony is going to shape the future. The choice is between a 'unified polarized world view' and 'divided opposite world views'. To put this otherwise the choice is between a neutral worldview seeing reality as a process of change and an engaged worldview seeing reality as a fight between good and evil. Artists and thinkers will not be able to escape for a long time chosing and it is inconceivable to me that their works would not turn around those choices...
  3. the advanced level of Western societies atomization versus strongly collective driven Asian societies. For the sake of clarity, let's consider one aspect only in the comparison, I mean education. We all know damn well that the advancement of science is largely dependant on the quality of the education given to our children. But force is to aknowledge that Asian societies are giving their children a far better grasp of the basic knowledge of hard sciences than Western societies. This simple fact is behind the reason why Asian societies generate 40% of their university degrees in engineering while in the West it is less than 10%. Combine this fact with the size of population and the conclusion is self evident. Asia will have far more engineers to solve technical problems than the West for as far as the eye can see in the future. The same discussion could be undertaken leading to approximately the same conclusions in many other fields.

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