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7th March 2018

On Hypermodernity

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On Hypermodernity

by John David Ebert

1.

Every new world age must be preceded by an Event of such momentous significance that it causes a tectonic shift, or discontinuity, in the ontological architecture of a society. Hence World War II was the great Event that separated Modernity from Post-Modenity, irrevocably dividing one world age from the next. Everything that we think of as “postmodern” came into being after it: eclecticism in architecture; the death of the metanarrative (Lyotard); the rise of minority cultures; decolonization and the Voice of the Cultural Other being expressed in academe (Spivak), etc. etc.

Likewise the Event that separates Modernity properly speaking–demarcating it, say, from the Enlightenment–from all that went before it was the French Revolution and the succeeding Napoleonic Wars that eventually, once the dust had settled, led to the Haussmanization of Paris: a complete structural reworking of boulevards, streets and demolition of old, worn-out neighborhoods that was already consistent with the Revolutionary tendency toward Deconstruction; that is to say, of the getting rid of old grand historical metanarratives (hence the advent of the metric system; the attempt to implement a new world calendar by getting rid of months and days named after old European gods and goddesses intertwined with Christian eschatologies). The difference in world horizons is exemplified by comparing Ingres’s 1827 painting “The Apotheosis of Homer” with Manet’s 1862 “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe.” Whereas the former painting apotheosizes the West’s grand Homeric narrative of descent from the Classical world, Manet’s painting absolutely defies all attempts at trying to find a narrative in it.

After the restructurings of Haussman, the French Impressionist painters put Paris on the map as the capital, not only of the nineteenth century–to quote Walter Benjamin–but of the entire project of Modernity down to World War II (after which the center of the art world shifts with Abstract Expressionism to New York, although Paris becomes the Intellectual Capital of Postmodernity in the 1960s).

Such Evental shifts between world ages can be found all throughout history, for they are not at all unique to Western Modernity. The seventeenth century BC, for instance, was an age of horizonal demarcation with the advent of the two-wheeled horse chariot and compound bow that, in the West, created the Mycenaeans of the Pelopennese, Troy Level VI (1700 to 1200 BC) and the Hyksos invasion of Egypt which was ruled for a little over a century by Semitic peoples from Palestine. The Hyksos dynasty ended the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and their expulsion from Egypt by the twin brothers Ahmose and Kamose around 1530 BC marked the transition of Egypt into its New Kingdom imperial phase and the creation of its trans-Palestinian Empire.

Another such Event takes place around the year 1200 BC, which brings this Late Bronze Age of the chariot empires to a close with a massive systems collapse signalled by the Trojan War (end of Troy VI, circa 1250 BC) and the eruption, from the Black Sea, of marauding Sea Peoples who systematically dismantle and destroy the Mycenaean world, the Hittite Empire, and nearly all of the cities of Palestine. Egypt barely survives this period intact, but its imperial days, from that point on, were over.

Not to digress too far, but I think it is important to understand that such world ages are nothing new and indeed, make up the ontology of history, which is catastrophic and dis-continuous.

2.

The Great Event, likewise, that signifies the decisive shift from Postmodernity to Hypermodernism was September 11, 2001.  Up until then, as Baudrillard once pointed out, Events had been on strike and had apparently ceased to happen, as globalization dissolved history into its anticlimactic end. But 9/11 was the great Hyksos Event that signified the transition of American political power from the concerns of what Carl Schmitt called its “grossraum,” that is to say, its trans-national hemispheric domain, to the building of an Imperial Security State Apparatus, with a global external proletariat defining a specific Outside in the form of those neo-Hyksos barbarians known as the mujaheideen and their various genealogical offshoots (ISIL, ISIS, etc.).

At least, this is the Event that signalled the shift on the political plane, for on the technological plane, the shift can be more precisely demarcated in the year 1995 when the National Science Foundation turned the Internet over to the public. The impact of the Internet on all previous forms of media is the equivalent on the technological plane of the Hyksos Event of 9/11 on the political plane. For the Internet now proceeded to provide Hypermodernity with its World Interior which, as Peter Sloterdijk pointed out, had earlier been architecturally expressed in the 1851 Event of the Crystal Palace in the Great Exhibition in London of that year–preceded by the Parisian prologue of the Arcades of the 1830s–which provided Modernity with its World Interior: namely, that of a global shopping mall.

This was a kind of translucifying of retail space–an opening up of it, as it were–by liquidating its walls and rendering them transparent to the outside. As Walter Benjamin pointed out, the department store came into being out of the Parisian arcades, as well as the concept of retail stores connected by labyrinthine alleyways with iron and glass enclosures. (Whereas the Crystal Palace simply enclosed all retail space into a single gigantic, linear open mall lined with purveyors and merchants: the ultimate outcome of that phase of Modernity marked by the discovery and conquest of the New World, and the expansion of Western imperialism across the planet, from whence signifiers of all kinds and sorts were ripped from their various cultural contexts and put into the circulation of Industrial capitalism).

Whereas the World Interior retail space of postmodernity was the advent, in Edina, Minnesota in 1956 of the shopping mall, which introduced the innovation of turning all the retail spaces away from the city center and faced them, as it were, with their backs, while enclosing itself in a bi-level air-conditioned interior as a miniature city. The shopping mall, with its fake plants, strategically placed fountains, and above all, its electified staircases in the form of escalators became the world interior of postmodernity.

And along with it, what Marc Auge termed “the Non-Place,” that is to say, the eruption, during the 1950s in America, of the Interstate Highway System and its various motels, fast food restaurants and strip malls, all of which had a decentralizing effect on the quaint old city center of the traditional modern city. While the downtown areas began to crumble, the city exported itself to the countryside so that, as McLuhan–the great prophet of postmodern media–put it, “every truck stop cafe with a television and a newspaper became as cosmopolitan as New York or Paris.”

But then, Hypermodernity put an end to the shopping mall, which began to dissolve and disappear during the decade of the 2000’s as the Internet, in turn, decentralized the mall by exporting it to the living room: in effect, the mall became an individualized, rather than a communal, experience. With the Internet, the individual never had to leave his home to shop, and so during the 2000’s retail stores, shopping malls and their connected media–bookstores, record stores, magazines and newspapers–began to disappear as they were absorbed into this new totally electronic World Interior.

3.

Whereas the media of postmodernity had all been analogue–records, cassette tapes, photographs, magazines, celluloid–the media of Hypermodernity is exclusively digital. With the satellization of the Exosphere, the analogue telephone became transformed into the cell phone and later the smart phone, which jacked the individual into the World Interior from wherever on the planet he happened to be. He didn’t have to go anywhere to be included in the new Hypermodern World Interior. And all his analogue photographs could be dissolved from their nitrate surfaces and melted into cyberspace directly from his brain as his camera became an appendage of the new World Interior. His vinyl records were dissolved and liquefied, and his celluloid films transformed into bytes that obsolesced the movie projector. All analogue media were liquefied, dissolved and fed into the new matrix.

Now the individual became empowered to become a new kind of entity, for Hypermodernism has created the Hyperindividual, a new–and bizarre–kind of individual that is nothing like the traditional Western idea of the transcendent Self, for this new self is floating, discarnate, deworlded and decontextualized from all world horizons. The Hyperindividual has no connection with history, community or any kind of idealistic, utopian projects. Those all characterized the past. The Hyperindividual is a world unto himself.

Hypermodernity pours liquid scorn upon all utopian projects, since such projects presuppose a historical narrative behind them. The Hypermodern individual has no connection with the past or the future, indeed, does not even have any connection with the preceding moment, for he / she exists in a timeless, spaceless, ahistorical and modular present.

The structure of Time in Hypermodernity is modular: it is composed of a succession of present moments, each of which is isolated and has no relationship to any preceding moment, or any future moment. The ontology of the individual is that of an amoral hedonist achieving sensory gratification in each present moment, which is disconnected from all others. As a result, there are no values and there are no visions and above all, no connection of the individual to any traditional social formations. He has become a nomad, on his own, disconnected, modular and historyless. (Hence, the advent of the Dangerous Loner, a new anthropological type of Hypermodernity).

Whereas the Transcendental Self of Western history was an objective entity who was actually embedded in a historical flow that connected him ultimately all the way back to the Greeks, the Hypermodern individual has no connections to anything but the luminous glow of cyberspace.

Now that he / she has become disconnected from all utopian projects and all sense of community–for there are no longer any world spaces for him to gather within as part of one or another social grouping–he / she can, within the World Interior, gigantify him or herself to the level of an Icon by using the new media that enable this process to take place: as I pointed out in my 2011 book The New Media Invasion, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Google. On Facebook, the Hypermodern individual becomes a unique presence in cyberspace, with his own website and his own videos; the technology now enables him or her to gigantify out of all proportion to any relation of scale that would connect him to any group or social formation whatsoever.

Thus, the sobering truth now begins to dawn: Marxism is dead. Critical Theory is dead. The public intellectual is dead. For all these phenomena presuppose connections of the individual to larger social formations beyond himself as a modular unit isolated to sensual gratification in the present moment. The Internet–with its satellized connections to the Exosphere–unplugs and deworlds the individual, putting him into orbit about the planet.

Hence revolutionary protest groups such as the Weatherman underground of the 1970s, or the Baader-Meinhof group in the German Democratic Republic of the 1970s now give way to the phenomenon of the lonely, isolated spree killer who stands for Nothing and represents no one. The spree killer, disconnected from all social formations whatsoever, wishes to leave a Mark on the socius because he feels somehow disincluded from the larger project of Modernity. The irony is, however, that in actuality there is nothing that he is disincluded from since Hypermodernity has melted down all coherent social formations. The modular individual as world island unto himself is the only ontological self that exists in Hypermodernity.

4.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there is no longer any Art World, per se, no longer any New York or Paris that functions as a cosmopolitan world center for the artist to be a part of. Art now, simply exists wherever there happens to be an artist–scattered at random across the striated landscapes of the global planetary surface–or he is a criminal who, like Banksy, must get into the city, make his mark–just like a spree killer–and get out quickly. Anselm Kiefer, with his isolated junk shop world horizon at La Ribaute, typifies this new ontological status of the artist as a loner who creates his art out of junked signifiers taken higgeldy-piggeldy from the blown out civilizations of the past.

Is there any longer even such as thing as the practice of art as an activity distinct from, say, science? The plasticene anatomical corpses of Gunther Hagens would seem to defy any clear separation of art from science. In these new vague ontologies, an artist like Anselm Kiefer begins to take on the ontological status of a junkyard dealer.

Under the conditions of Hypermodernity, there are no more Art Movements, only individual artists dotting the ontological Clearing opened up by this new, and uncertain global World Interior.

Hypermodernity is the Death of Art. But not, perhaps, of the artist, who manages to eke out a living like a retrieval of some Robinson Crusoe figure washed ashore with a junkheap of broken signifiers from dead worlds surrounding him.

5.

On the economic plane, Hypermodernity is based upon the neoliberalization of the planet under Clinton in the 1990s. With Free Trade Agreements, the World Bank, GATT and NAFTA, the economy is sent into orbit around the planet and becomes deworlded: all local economies–such as the farmer in a village in Mexico–are simply wiped out, and the result is the empowerment of local criminal organizations, such as the cartels in Mexico, or the Russian mafias, which rush in to fill the gap and try to supply the missing supplement of local need. Thus, the economic transformation creates as a side effect its own internal proletariats and what the German theoretician Heiner Muhlmann calls “disruptive cultures” as a result. Empowering the global ecumene means a disempowering of local community structures, generating violent counterreactions in turn.

6.

Finally, in Hypermodernity there is no longer anything to achieve. Marxism is dead. Utopianism is dead. Revolutionary movements–despite the Arab Spring–are gone. Idealism is non-existent under such conditions, since Hypermodernity locks the individual into a modular present that is disconnected from all preceding presents. There is only the Now. Anything that has occurred more than 48 hours ago, simply ceases to exist.

Civilization has now become the sum total of its population: a planet of individuals achieving instant gratification, amoral, valueless, unmotivated and without Vision. All exoskeletal “spheres,” to use Peter Sloterdijk’s term, are gone and now there is only social “foam,” that is to say, individuals rubbing up against other individuals, each with their own private semiotic sign regime clashing with each other’s. In Modernity, civilizations with their own sign regimes clashed with one another; in Postmodernity, terrorist groups as social formations clashed; but in Hypermodernity each individual is a nation state unto himself armed and equipped with his own electronic sign regime to do battle with other suits of light in cyberspace.

With the annihilation of all geographic distance due to globalizing technologies, there is now nowhere for the individual to go to. The World Interior of the civilization now exists on a glowing, self-luminous surface in front of him. There is, furthermore, nothing to achieve, since all utopian projects have come to an end with the liquidation of all social formations.

In Hypermodernity, too much is never enough, for it is a society of excess, surfeit and signifier overload. Anyone can become “famous” for any reason, but under the conditions of constant electronic liquefaction, that fame will last precisely 48 hours. In a society in which everyone can become famous, no one in particular is famous. Thus, the structuring anthropological types of the previous world order of postmodernity are simply melted down under the impact of the unfolding architecture of planetary cyberspace: celebrities and public intellectuals cannot exist under such conditions because the digital technologies of Hypermodernity enable anyone to enter the civilizational Clearing without the slightest effort. Hence, there is no discipline that is necessary to master because all such conditions have been liquefied and melted down, to be thrown onto the junkheap along with all other civilizational paradigms.

But: there is an Empire to build, and you must be careful, in this new world interior, what you do and say, for you–as a perpetual and continuous inhabitant of its inside–are constantly under surveillance. There is no place where you are not. The Forum and the Agora are everywhere.

You do not need to go to them, they are already wherever you are.

You are civilization.

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There are currently 14 responses to “On Hypermodernity”

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  1. 1 On March 8th, 2018, Jan Hofschulte said:

    Great article as always, John. I agree especially on the disappearance of group-based secular ideologies and the (corresponding?) advent of nihilistic loner violence is definitely a plague of our time.

    I would say identity is among the core topics of this day and age and as (hyper)modernity eats itself and disintegrates into literally atomised individuals, don´t you think, a return of tribalism is on the horizon?

    Here in Germany, where I´m from, the mood is rather boiling and confused at once. You see a growing number of protests every week where people walk not only with the current national flag, but also monarchist flags, emblems from ancient times, Christian crosses etc. Angry counter-protesters who just vaguley identify as Marxists are on the other side. It seems like people pick all sorts of passed collectivist identities for the lack of living communities. Don´t you see this re-advent of “tribalism”? Is it just a side effect?

  2. 2 On March 8th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    Excellent question, Jan. Yes, I think part of the essence of Hypermodernity is the issue of identity, especially as it was prefaced by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the break up of the nation state into ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia, Africa and elsewhere. In America, it was presaged by white supremacists at Ruby Ridge (1992); Branch Davidians at Waco (1993); Oklahoma city (1995); the Freemen standoff in Montana (1996); and in Tokyo with AUM Shinrikyo nerve gas attacks (1995). After all this, then comes Columbine in 1999, triggering the current wave of spree killings ongoing ever since. So yes, I think the issue of identity, as individuals quest for larger metanarratives, is going to become more, rather than less, of an issue as this develops.

  3. 3 On March 8th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    In an age when nation states are failing, and transnational spheres of influence are in contention–as Carl Schmitt in Nomos of the Earth described the two “grossraums” of the US and Russia–the two forms of identity that people tend to resort to are either groups held together by “credo,” or those held together by “blood.” The Branch Davidians at Waco are an example of a group held together, not by ethnicity, but by a credo of common belief, like the early Christians, whereas in the case of something like the former Yugoslavia, the contending tribal factions are united by blood, like the early Jews. These two kinds of social formation, groups of credo and groups of blood, I foresee as becoming more and more the archetypal social formations under the American global ecumene of Hypermodernity. Paul was a Roman citizen, but he was also a Jew by descent, yet neither of these kinds of identity suited him, and ultimately it was a religion of credo, where all you need to do is say “I believe” and you’re “one of us” that shaped his identity as the early architect of Christianity.

  4. 4 On March 10th, 2018, Minotaur Mangum said:

    In my youth I was an existentialist and a libertarian. Under the influence of books like Orwell’s 1984, I thought that the worst thing to be feared was the totalitarian, authoritarian state. I wanted to be free of the stultifying conformism of my parents’ religion and values, and I thought the ideal was to be an autonomous, self-forming and transforming individual, inventing values and giving laws to myself. A couple cynical decades later, I find myself spiritually adrift, an unhappy Pyrrhonist. I think the burden of forming one’s own values in the existentialist way is too great for the vast majority of people (and I think Nietzsche would agree here), including probably myself. What we are left with is indeed the deworlded, spiritually nomadic individual, concerned almost exclusively with instant gratification, and the narcissistic magnification of the images of the self, which is produced as it is projected. I find this all pretty horrifying, and I think you’re right to identify the anonymous spree killer as a symptom and symbol. Often we can conveniently find an extremist ideology such as radical Islam or Neo-Nazism motivating these shooters, but I think that even behind those things is a sense of the total ontological void facing them, combined with the knowledge that while the world is meaningless it is still all connected and one can inscribe one’s image onto the global mind with violent acts– for a moment, at least. And then we’ll talk about gun regulation and mental health policy. What, are we going to have a national discussion about ontological emptiness?

    About a year and a half ago, when there was a shooting in France, I was working on a series of poems in which I was using randomized methods of combining or “remixing” texts. At the time of this event, I was re-reading Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy,” in part because I was delving into the great Greek plays (for a novel I’m writing), and in part because of your appearance on The Decline of the West Podcast (god, I am bummed by its discontinuation) in which you trace the intellectual history in Germany leading up to Spengler. Anyway, I decided to “fold in” (that’s Burroughs’ term, but I’m not sure if the method is exactly the same) lines from Nietzsche into the article I was reading on the shooting, with some uncanny results. I put my poem away (I’d be happy to share it if you’re interested), took my family to a baseball game, watched some fireworks. When I got home I exchanged some words with our downstairs neighbor. He was the type of guy who’s friendly and upbeat but you sense something off about him. I didn’t know him apart from passing in the hallway, but we did take his boy with us to light fireworks on the Fourth of July. The day after the game, I got a call from my girlfriend to check the news: he had shot his son and himself. The whole thing was pretty miserable, and I did not enjoy the lights of the news crews beaming through my apartment windows late into the night. And yet I will not lie: there was a small part of me that felt a thrill at being near the center of an event which had entered, however locally, into the media mass mind. It seemed to ratify my existence, just a little bit. This probably says something awful about me, but I think I am more typical than not in this respect.

    I didn’t mean for this comment to get so confessional, but these are my associations. Take them for what they are worth. What I had meant to ask is what relationship you think Hypermodernity has to the so-called “End of History,” which Fukuyama controversially announced after the Cold War, and which is often taken to have been refuted by 9/11. On the one hand it seems that this very rupture you take to have begun Hypermodernity gave at least a defibrillator jolt to History, but on the other hand, the atomized, autonomous (and perhaps automaton) people you describe here seem like the ineluctable denizens of the End of History. And lastly, how sustainable is this situation? Is it just a brief chaotic prelude to a new historical cycle (the Viconian recirculation, to misquote Joyce), or is it the New Normal. Personally, I see the available alternatives (for instance, I have a friend who has converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and is very pro-Trump and Putin: you know the type) as worse than the disease, and wonder if I shouldn’t learn to enjoy the decadence.

  5. 5 On March 11th, 2018, Steve Kolliopoulos said:

    Great as always, I agree!
    Quick question:
    I wonder if Agamben’s proposal in his essay “What is an apparatus?” where he calls for a “profanation of apparatuses” and an “intervention in our processes of subjectification” (bringing to light the “Ungovernable”) as a defense strategy against “desubjectification” that comes from “apparatuses” that “pervade and disseminate their power in every field of life” as he says, is still effective against what you describe as the “liquidation of all social formations” and of the “modular individual” in Hypermodernity? (Or, are you onto something different here?)
    At the end of his essay Agamben writes:
    “Rather than the proclaimed end of history, we are, in fact, witnessing the incessant though aimless motion of this machine, which, in a sort of colossal parody of theological oikonomia, has assumed the legacy of the providential governance of the world; yet instead of redeeming our world, this machine (true to the eschatological vocation of Providence) is leading us to catastrophe. The problem of the profanation of apparatuses – that is to say, the restitution to common use of what has been captured and separated in them is, for this reason, all the more urgent. But this problem cannot be properly raised as long as those who are concerned with it are unable to intervene in their own processes of subjectification, any more than in their own apparatuses, in order to then bring to light the Ungovernable , which is the beginning and, at the same time the vanishing point of every politics.”

  6. 6 On March 11th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    Sorry to hear about that tragedy, “Minotaur,” those kinds of events are never pleasant. And thank you for sharing. I’m always interested in everybody’s stories, especially nowadays when everything is so “extreme.” I like your reference to Burroughs and his fold-in techniques, I’m a huge fan of Burroughs and I think you could use his terminology and say that the “end of history” can be folded in to Hypermodernity as something that transcends and includes it. Hypermodernity is a kind of Joycean ricorso which is filled with shifting histories and identity problems as people begin scrambling for narratives that make ontological sense of where they’re at in the world. With the elimination of nation state boundaries, identity for ethnic groups and for disconnected individuals is a huge problem for such an age. The elimination of borders welcomes all comers but this brings an influx of group nationalisms and ethnic hatreds along with them, especially in Europe. In America, the problem manifests as disconnected loners on the one hand, and what I called “eschatarian” groups on the other, like the Branch Davidians of Waco or Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge. These epochs, though, usually last for at least five or so decades, and we’re only two decades on into Hypermodernity so it has a way to go before it settles into some other chreode.

  7. 7 On March 11th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    Not sure I understand the question, Steve. Could you try and reformulate it?

  8. 8 On March 11th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    Oh, and you might also be pleased to hear, “Minotaur,” that Darryl Cooper and I will be continuing with the Decline of the West podcast soon. Stay tuned!

  9. 9 On March 12th, 2018, Steve Kolliopoulos said:

    I was just wondering what your position is regarding Hypermodernity. Is it something that needs to be confronted in some way or can even be confronted at this point?
    Agamben for example traces the genealogy of ‘apparatuses’ like ‘global technologies’ and the ‘internet’ and makes a pretty strong argument about the urgent need to ‘confront’ apparatuses as they will inevitably lead to our ‘desubjectification’ and ‘catastrophe’.

  10. 10 On March 12th, 2018, John David Ebert said:

    If by “confront” you mean being critical of them, then yes, I think we should all be critical of them. Is it going to stop them from hollowing us out as subjects? Probably not. I think most people are completely unaware of the ways in which their actions are sculpted by media. How driving in a car, for instance, predisposes you toward a more aggressive demeanour simply by its nature. How television changes discourse into entertainment. Or how reading books actually enables your thinking to be more coherent and organized as a general rule. All media and apparatuses bias, change and manipulate our behavior in often very subtle, difficult to detect ways. This is why McLuhan always used to say that whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn’t a fish. His own solution was to “escape through understanding.” In other words, you escape being controlled by a medium the moment you become aware of exactly how it’s manipulating your actions. So I think that in a society descended from the Greeks, where absolutely everything that is part of a society is openly discussed and debated about, we can and should confront these “apparatuses,” to use Agamben’s term. But will it change what’s going on? That’s difficult to predict, since once ideas get circulating you never know what they’re going to bring about. But it might. World ages and epochs like this, though, tend to have laws of their own, just like seasons do. The weather has a structure that we simply have to adapt to as environmental: there’s not much we can do to change the weather, but we can certainly change our actions, i.e. whether to go outside on a cloudy day or not.

  11. 11 On March 29th, 2018, Democidio o el rostro del tirano – Javier Bustos Troncoso said:

    […] 15 https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandarmokh 16 https://cultural-discourse.com/on-hypermodernity/ 17 […]

  12. 12 On April 10th, 2018, La Hipermodernidad – Javier Bustos Troncoso said:

    […] Entrada original https://cultural-discourse.com/on-hypermodernity/ […]

  13. 13 On May 23rd, 2018, Zero Squared #155: On Hypermodernity - Zero Books Blog said:

    […] John David Ebert is the author of nearly 20 books, a youtuber responsible for over 500 videos on philosophy, and a blogger at cultural-discourse.com. This week he is also the guest on this podcast. We discuss his essay On Hypermodernity. […]

  14. 14 On May 25th, 2018, Dominic Romani said:

    John, are you still responding to comments here? If so, I wonder how you would say the current state of publishing in America fits into this hyperreal framework. Obviously, there’s less money and fewer actual stores where people buy books, the collapse of first Borders and now the imminent collapse of B&N being the obvious examples.

    However, what I’m interested in how this affects the actual art itself, the rise of the memoir and genre fiction being two phenomena that you could probably link directly to hyperreality, but I guess what I’m asking is what about the decline of “serious” literature, if such a decline is happening or has happened?

    If this decline has taken place, can you give some examples, in the spirit of what you’ve done above for art? I would think examples would be someone like Jonathan Franzen, who at least considers himself serious (I think America more or less does as well) but really only repeats tropes from the past rather than takes literature into the future (the mid-western family, with all their foibles and imperfections, struggling to come together for the big holiday meal), or even Jennifer Egan (who I love) who seemed to break new ground in Visit From the Goon Squad (or, even better, her “story” that consisted of a series of Tweets) only to follow it up with a conventional (but very readable) historical fiction work (that i predict has or will result in a big movie deal)…

    Anyway, my examples may be irrelevant and I really only came up with them off the top of my head. My question still stands and would love to read you wax philosophical on literature in the age of the hyperreal.

    Thanks

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