• Hindu College Gazette Web Team

Sublimating Modernity

So, the whole question comes down to this: can the human mind master what the human mind has made?

- Paul Valery


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Bigg Boss is always watching you. And you are always watching the paraphernalia of co-habitation 24 hours a day. Sex symbolic celebrities inside a house with no self-inflicted exit. Cosmopolitan households now consume this Panopticon in the name of reality TV. The camera is everywhere, the camera is you.


Such is the plight of modernity. Scholars often debate on the state of modern society after the World Wars. The postmodern is the state of the superstructure after the End of History, characterised by a non-linear humanity and unlike the dubious progressiveness of Modernity. The late modern era, in contrast to the postmodern, is a decentralised continuation of Modernity which features individuality and all the anxiety that it ensues. Late modernity is fluid, it is nomadic, it democratises Oedipus.


Zygmunt Bauman describes solids and liquids when he defines the modern and what is beyond. To be modern means to be post-modern in the same instant (Lyotard). The Enlightenment as human history and a means of class accumulation was ‘progressive’ for its time, questioning and rearranging the same means of authority and power. Science, of course, is political. It ranges from epoch to epoch, describing the same phenomena in lieu of its present and past epistemology. Archimedean Eurekas metamorphose into Newtonian Physics, Einstein’s unruly hair, and now Quantum Entanglement.


The reconfiguration of solids is modernity. Late modernity is the constant reconfiguration of the moulds that make the solids. Our world now features the individual in conflict with the citizen, the community, and the State. Blurred lines between what is private and public. Where the Enlightenment and the present European compromise is freedom for existential security, our current consumerism is a ‘modern’ trade-off: security in the name of freedom. Emancipation in a society is a myth, so much so to the degree of interventionism that is required to maintain a free market. It is the constant denial of an ultimate disorder, an entropy of ‘economic’ agents. For markets, it is the denial of monopoly as the ultimate centralisation of capital. For a consumer and their emancipation, it is the false veil of competition.


The late modern for its constant reconfiguration of the moulds implies that we are moving towards no ‘postmodern’ idea. We are in a world of constant optimisation, constant and certain dynamism in our way of life. New and fragmented commodities, fragmented lives, deconstructed reasoning, and an internal logic of science that shifts its boundaries every instant. With no goal in sight, our role models are the tenets of constant beautification. This is so due to the responsibility that individuality assigns. Who do we attribute to the definition of the post-Fordist work ethic? There is no final perfection left to ponder upon by our society.

By Kunal Panda (The Columnist)

Kunal Panda is a graduate majoring in Hindu College, University of Delhi. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he strives to pursue intersectionality in his research.

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