Thursday, May 2, 2013

Modernity dies in an Adorno Moment : 1939-1945

Between  April 30th 1939 (when the New York's World Fair opened) and the November 20th 1945 (when the Nuremberg Trials opened) a lot of water (together with a lot of blood and brains) flowed under one of Modern civilization's few remaining un-bombed bridges :  call it WWII.

If  to the bemused Theodor Adorno, New York's fair was Modernity's bizarre apogee , he also saw Nuremberg's trials as Modernity's appalling nadir.

But I doubt that even Adorno and his co-conspirator Max Horkheimer had really expected Modernity to soar , burn and crash just that quickly.

Yet it clearly happened. Few people doubt that our new Age of post-Modernity can not be precisely dated to very late in the year of 1945.

Just as very few people deny that the opening of New York's World Fair of 1939 captured the absolute peak of Modernist optimism and hubris.

Now WWI also resulted in dramatic change all around the world.

But I would argue that while the surface of Modernity in 1919 was readily and intensely cracked all over, the deep superstructure actually held stronger than ever.

People often see WWI's dramatic results as the results of long standing tensions, buried below the surface, suddenly precipitating in a crisis situation.

Perhaps : tensions buried under the surface, but not that deeply buried.

By contrast, the surface of immediately post WWII Modernity didn't crack at all but actually burnished all the brighter ("Better Science won the War"), but deep down inside , the moral core of Modernity had lost its appeal to the young.

Modernist elders simply didn't seen their own self-inflicted wounds and so did nothing to reduce its shock upon their young.

As a result, the assault on their children's and grandchildren's moral certitudes was all the more stunning due to their elders' failure to genuinely reflect upon the meaning of the events of 1945.

But demographically, the rot had truly set in and it was now only a matter of time ------ and of baby booms ----  and of funerals....

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