XEROX The Postmodernity of Marshall McLuhan
Postmodernity and postmodernism are NOT identical – but are often used as synonyms
Postmodernity comes after modernity; Postmodernism comes after modernism
But in terms of present cultural condition, we keep both terms
Linda Hutcheon’s version
She has a pluralistic approach: accumulation of broad variety of disciplines, with wealth of diff definitions of
postmodernism – various different perspectives
o Her definition: “my own paradoxical postmodernism of complicity and critique, of reflexivity and
historicity, that at once describes and subverts the conventions and ideologies of the dominant cultural and
social forces of the 20 century Western world. My model for this definition is always that of postmodern
architecture and its response to the ahistorical purism of the modernism of the International style.
Guardiani describes Hutcheon’s description as: descriptive, objective, informative, neutrality – thus inconclusive.
Her own categories make up a mosaic that is never presented from a definite standpoint. Her version is not
unified – lacks main theoretical focus. Her views raies more arguments than they solve – the identity of
postmodernism, cries for recognition
Frye “the pluralistic tendency must work itself out to exhaustion before any real advance in criticism can occur”
Modernity and postmodernity, therefore, here accord with mechanical and electric age respectively
Moderthty – powerful metaphor is the Gutenberg Galaxy – period of invention of the printing press in the middle
of 15 century TO the first application of electric circuitry and electromagnetism (telegraph) in the early part of
Renato Berilli acknowledged McLuhan’s understanding of postmodernism. He said: wha is commonly associated
with postmodernism, the last 30 or 40 years of cultural history, corresponds to the period of most intense
application of electric technology.
The meaning of modernity
The word, modern, is different to different people in different areas, at different times. It is “ambiguous”
Modernism: sum of cultural movements occurring btw the end of the 19 and beginning of the 20 centuries
The word is so ambiguous, postmodernism definitions also reflect this ambiguity.
Hutcheon: the “post” of “postmodernism” suggest not “after” so much as an extension of modernism. How can
we say post as after if modernity has not even ended?
Postmodernity and postmodernism both mean the “present cultural condition”, and postmodernity is the more
What was common to modern national cultures that allowed the present msg to one international culture?
McLuhan’s answer = MASS MEDIA – it subliminally transforms our physical and cultural env. – and this is why
he studied mechanical Gutenberg era and the electric Marconi era
Primary and secondary concerns
Primary concern: most primitive – conviction that life is better than death, happiness better than misery, freedom
better than bondage
Secondary concern: loyalty to one’s own society, to one’s religious or political beliefs, to one’s place in the class
structure, and in short to everything that comes under the general heading of ideology. Greater prestige and power
The world today is experiencing overpopulation, deforestation, and other systematic destruction.
The underdeveloped societies are experiencing postmodern crisis just as we are – the notion of ideology, as
secondary concern, has to be reconsidered with primary concerns in mind.
The primary concerns do not change, but they often present themselves in different orders of importance; one
they fall in the background, since survival per se doesn’t appear to be in question, secondary concerns come to the
fore and dictate how we live. We, therefore, become less dependent on physical perception and more on
rationalization and abstraction. The crisis we are living today is of 2ndary concerns.
But in urgency, we face the need to shift back to face our primary concerns (?) The lesson of architecture
Hutcheon insists she models her interpretation of postmodernism on recent transformations in architecture.
Architecture today make a clear hiatus/gap btw the “now” and the “before”.
Architecture touches our physical reality, our senses, and our primary concerns. A building is never only an
aesthetic object or an ideological statement. It’s a place one steps in, touches, and feels surrounded by.
For architectures, modern movement is firmly rooted in our century and thus completely immersed in
postmodernity (electric age, in our perspective).
Modernity is associated and bound to the common notion of progress. Progress is born out of primary concerns –
being mainly understood as the “way” towards means of freedom from survival needs. It is a process, rather than
a specific goal – thus leads to a “richer” future. Our general understanding is that more goods is better than less,
full life better than empty life.