Almost all of the serious thought ever since has gone into determining 'what exactly is this new Post-Mo thing anyway?'
But I am much more interested in asking why, after a 500 year long successful run, did the Enlightenment Project (Modernity simply being its latest variant) fail ?
And fail so abruptly too --- just after its supposed greatest success : winning WWII, against great odds, defeating the supposed Axis of Anti-Modernity.
If I had to describe the general tenor of postmodernity - down among the non-academic types, among the little people like you and me - I 'd describe it as a sense of being at ease with variety, diversity, the plentitude of life and reality.
Nay - more - a craving to taste as much of that variety as possible.
PostMO = Plentitude
By contrast, great-grandma's generation was only comfortable with a synthesized simple predictable order being judged worthy of life.
Complex unpredictable natural chaos was greatly feared and judged unworthy of life - hence subject to being plenticided as quickly and quietly as possible.
MO = Plenticide
Modernity arose in an era - and against an era - of Romanticism , which tends to welcome plentitude.
It might even be seen as mere re-fried Classicalism --- done up in the new Modern Science's clothing.
Modern Science's industrious spadework had revealed a much greater natural plentitude than hitherto known .
This process of discovery started ,not at all coincidentally, in the same mid-1870s that churned up the scientific ideology of anti-plentitude Modernity.
Buecause all that new plentitude was not what modern scientists had expected or wanted.
In response, they reluctantly manned-up and said they hadn't actually reached the innermost core of pure simplicity as they had originally thought - that the true core actually lay much deeper.
'Just give us more tax money for more expensive equipment and we will yet find that core of ultimate simplicity that our Faith tells us must be there'.
I am Catholic, but let me tell you, I've never met anyone who displays half as much faith as an atheist scientist convinced - beyond all the current evidence to the contrary - of the inner simplicity and order of reality.
Forget Darwin - Plato is the true GOD of the atheist and the scientist.
(Am I not being a tiny bitter harsh ? Aren't some scientists also Christians and other religions ?
No --- they are naturalists , more attuned to Natural history than Natural Philosophy.)
So after atoms turned out not to be the ultimate building blocks of reality, new equipment was brought in and layer by layer, the onion of physical reality was slowly peeled back.
Each time, the innermost core soon proved to be anything but and ever more expensive equipment was ordered up to reach the innermost sanctum.
Hadron Collider world's largest and most expensive religious building
I'm betting replacing today's already incredibly expensive and already outdated Hadron Collider will approach the F-35 fighter aircraft project in terms of cost.
I even could cheer to think governments are actually now willing to spend as much on peaceful science machines as on war machines.
But if the Hadron replacement does ever produce a theory of everything, knowing that all the known forces in the universe are united in some fundamental sense may produce little immediate change in life on earth.
Bits and pieces of general scientific advance have always been highly valuable at the level of giving us the very useful machines now found in all homes.
The billions of smart phones found even in the poorest nations being a prime example.
But whether a unified and simple model combining both the tiny sub-sub-sub atomic world and the massive supra-galaxy world will give us new household wonders is to be greatly doubted.
But won't Plato and all his modernity disciples be cheering in their graves ?
But at the level of lived life, physical reality is and always will be a plentitude - complex, chaotic, as unpredictable and as unknowable as the weather four days from now ...