Monday, January 20, 2014

Nostalgia for postmodernism

 I've long suspected there may one day be such a thing as nostalgia for globalization. Should China and Japan really get into it about those deserted rocks — called one thing by the Japanese and another by the Chinese —  and the United States become involved, as it certainly would, bye bye this Modus Vivendi we've come to call by the name of globalization, and hello nostalgia for it. Flawed as it is, globalization beats world war, beats one imperium using armed might to go full tilt against others.

Many historians have pointed out how similar the current situation is to that which prevailed prior to World War I. Then, too, global markets had taken root, only to to overturned by militarism and nationalistic fervor. In the twenty-first century, China has come to economic power not by dint of Maoism and quaint calls to world revolution, not by taunting the United States as a "paper tiger", but by strategic uses of global trade.

Would China sacrifice its gains, overturn the global applecart by making war on Japan? One would think not, but it's worth remembering that nationalistic fervor — revanchism, anger, all tied to  arms build-up — often overcome accounting and plain sense. In short, it's hardly unknown for the insanely ruinous path to prevail.

What are the odds of such a calamity coming to pass?  Were I a global book maker I'd say they are low but far from negligible.

It just today came to mind that another kind of nostalgia might be in the offing — nostalgia for postmodernism. What, you might ask, is there  about the much maligned, supposedly abstruse discourse of postmodernism to be nostalgic about? This: postmodernism and it's ally, cultural relativism, whatever their flaws, allowed all sorts of ideas, impulses, ethnicities, identities and experimentations to take the stage, however briefly.

But in a recent NY Times piece ("Lost in the Gallery-Industrial Complex" NY Times 1/19/14), Holland Cotter  writes that: "Roughly since the end of the multicultural, postmodern 1990s, we’ve watched new art being re-Modernized and domesticated. . . ". What does he mean by this? Suggestive as it is, I wish he had taken the time to spell it out. But what he means comes pretty clear in the course of his piece. He's saying that money rules, more than ever, fusing together all the art world ways of making it.

What he's saying is that the unmitigated rule of the big buck in the art world may yet make us nostalgic for Pomo, notwithstanding its darned obscurities and complexities.

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