Visions of Transmodernity
* Article: Visions of Transmodernity: A New Renaissance of our Human History? By Irena Ateljevic.
- 1 Abstract
- 2 Excerpts
- 2.1 The Transmodernity Paradigm of M.L. Ghisi
- 2.2 The Transmodern Dialectic Triad of R.M.R. Magda
- 2.3 Jeremy Rifkin on Global Relational Consciousness
- 2.4 Gloria Steinem’s Vision of the Circularity Paradigm
- 2.5 Duane Elgin's Reflective Living-Systems Paradigm
- 2.6 Riane Eisler's Partnership Model of Society, vs. the Dominator Model
- 3 More information
"In this paper I will engage with a broad range of literature that provides us with many signals and evidence of an emerging and significant paradigm shift in human evolution. In doing so, I will offer the concept of transmodernity as an umbrella term that connotes the emerging socio-cultural, economic, political and philosophical shift. My research across boundaries of many different fields such as critical economics, philosophy, subaltern and postcolonial studies, social anthropology and psychology, cultural studies, political science and social activism literature will illustrate how an integrated approach and dialogue is urgently needed, indeed more than ever before. Different authors use a variety of terms to capture what can essentially be described as the synchronised phenomenon of emerging higher collective consciousness— transmodernity paradigm (Ghisi); transmodern philosophy of political liberation (Dussel); Hegelian dialectical triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (Magda); the reflective/livingsystems paradigm (Elgin); the partnership model of caring economics (Eisler); the relational global consciousness of biosphere politics (Rifkin); love ethics (hooks); the circularity paradigm of interdependence (Steinem). With a reference to a variety of authors I will argue that the reason we do not hear much about this movement is because it is not centralised and coordinated under a single unifying name. 'Transmodernity' ropes together many concepts/tenets of other writings that do not necessarily use the same term, but I chose it in order to communicate the overall idea of the emerging paradigm shift as the next cultural and material development in human history. I have opted to use the concept as a medium to convey humanity's unified synchronicity, which is part of a transformation that can be claimed to be 'the new renaissance' of human history."
"The concept of transmodernity is a very complex thesis which Ghisi (1999, 2006, 2008) primarily explains as a new paradigm of the world which communicates certain underlying values that humans rely on to make their judgments and decisions in all areas of their activities — economy, politics and everyday life.
Ghisi begins his thesis with an overview of five levels of change, which he describes through an iceberg metaphor of human global (un)consciousness and (un)awareness. Like the submerged parts of an iceberg floating in the sea, Ghisi’s lower levels of societal change are the least visible to humanity.
- So, the first level is at the darkest and coldest bottom where our global civilization finds itself today, at the edge of unsustainability and what Ghisi describes as the slow death and collective suicide of humanity.
- The next higher level relates to the death of command, control and conquest patriarchal values which have turned the world into a competitive and territorial battleground.
- Level three refers to the death of modernity as a dominant paradigm through which we see the world as an objective reality rooted in impartial truth.
- Level four refers to the death of the industrial type of businesses and decline of the material economy,
- while level five concerns the overall crisis of overly bureaucratic and pyramidal institutions.
While such critical deconstruction of Eurocentric thesis of modernity (based around key mantras of growth, progress and competition) is nothing new and has been very much part of the postmodern critical turn in social science and humanities since late 1980s, Ghisi continues to explain, a transmodern way of thinking is now emerging, as our hope for a desperately needed and newly reconstructed vision. It is claimed that the everything goes of the postmodernists needs to go silenced. Whether they like it or not, there are things that have to have value, there is meaning that must be preserved, otherwise we drown in the coarsest cynicism, an expression of deep disdain for life (Boff, 2009). After the endless postmodern (albeit necessary) deconstructions of modernity in which many intellectuals engaged for the last few decades have led us to eclectic relativity and fundamentalisms that in many ways has paralysed us to claim any possible way forward.
The postmodern rubble in which we have found ourselves is quite neatly captured by Rifkin (2005):
- If post-modernists razed the ideological walls of modernity and freed the prisoners, they left them with no particular place to go. We became existential nomads, wandering through a boundaryless world full of inchoate longings in a desperate search for something to be attached to and believe in. While the human spirit was freed up from old categories of thought, we are each forced to find our own paths in a chaotic and fragmented world that is even more dangerous than the all-encompassing one we left behind. (p. 5).
According to Ghisi then, the very concept of transmodern implies that the best of modernity is kept while at the same time we go beyond it. As such, it is not a linear projection which takes us from (pre)modernity via postmodernity to transmodernity; rather, it transcends modernity in that it takes us trans, i.e. through, modernity into another state of being, “from the edge of chaos into a new order of society” (Sardar, 2004, p. 2)."
"Magda ... uses Hegelian logic whereby Modernity, Postmodernity and Transmodernity form a dialectic triad that completes a process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. As expressed in her own words: “the third tends to preserve the defining impetus of the first yet is devoid of its underlying base: by integrating its negation the third moment reaches a type of specular closure” (Magda, 1989, p. 13). In other words, transmodernity is critical of modernity and postmodernity while at the same time drawing elements from each. In a way it is a return to some form of absolute logic that goes beyond the Western ideology and tries to connect the human race to a new shared story, which can be called a global relational consciousness (Rifkin, 2005). "
"In his work, Rifkin (2005) also draws on the psychoanalytical view of the global political economy and its history. He makes reference to Owen Barfield, the British philosopher who views history as an unfolding of human consciousnesses which can be divided in roughly three stages, which dovetail with Freud’s theory of individual mental development (cited in Rifkin, 2005). In the first stage of hunter-gatherer societies, humans had little sense of self and regarded Mother Earth as a primordial mother, treating her with the same love, respect and awe as they might confer on their own tribal mothers (similar to the infant-mother relationship when the infant still feel oneness with her/his Mother).
The beginning of agriculture marked the onset of the second great period of human consciousnesses when humans in their activities of domestication of animals and land slowly began to lose the intimate participation and communion with the natural world. It is comparable to the child/adolescence/adulthood stage of psychoanalysis, when the void left by our own sense of separation from our bodily connection with our own mothers is compensated by endless substitutes - material things, ideologies, unconditional love of God, sex, various addictions - you name it. The unhappiness of the modern era and its status anxieties (de Botton, 2004) become more explicable in light of a statement given by the psychologist Norman Brown (1985, p. 297) and used by Rifkin (2005,): “The more the life of the body passes into things, the less life there is in the body, and at the same time the increasing accumulation of things represents an ever fuller articulation of the lost life of the body” (p. 373). Barfield suggests, however, that we are on the cusp of the third great stage of human consciousness—the stage in which we make a self-aware choice to re-participate with the body of nature. It is this new relational consciousness in which we are increasingly becoming aware of shared risk and vulnerability, and economic, social and environmental interdependencies, which leads to the emergence of process-oriented behaviour and willingness to accept contradicting realities and multicultural perspectives. In many ways, Barfield’s view reaffirms Eisler’s (1987) evolution theory of human development from the ancient, matrifocal times, via the domination system of patriarchy to the emerging partnership model between men and women; nature and humans; mind, body and soul. So, instead of denying our own mortality (so characteristic to the youth’s sense of invincibility), the current era brings about a maturity stage in which we realize that we can’t really begin to live until we accept the inevitability of our own death. But how do we come to terms with our own death and make the choice to live?
Rifkin (2005, p. 374) again provides guidance:
- "[We do it] by making a self-aware decision to leave the death instinct behind, to no longer seek mastery, control, or domination over nature, including human nature, as a means of fending off death. Instead, accept death as part of life and make a choice to re-participate with the body of nature. Cross over from the self to the other, and reunite in an empathetic bond with the totality of relationships that together make up the Earth’s indivisible living community."
Gloria Steinem’s Vision of the Circularity Paradigm
“Gloria Steinem (1993, 2004) described as the circularity paradigm. Her words (Steinem, 1993, pp. 189-190) very much resonate with the ideas elaborated above: If we think of ourselves as circles, our goal is completion — not defeating others. Progress lies in the direction we haven’t been… Progress is appreciation. If we think of work structures as circles, excellence and cooperation are the goal—not competition. Progress becomes mutual support and connectedness. If we think of nature as a circle, then we are part of its reciprocity. Progress means interdependence. If we respect nature and each living thing as a microcosm of nature—then we respect the unique miracle of ourselves. And so we have come full circle. The realization that human powers come from within has been translated into the political arena, producing a socio-political movement of so-called ‘sacred activism’, which reaffirms individual growth, spirituality and actions that counters contemporary global discourses of fear, alienation and disempowerment (e.g. Diamant, 2005; Fonda, 2004; Fox, 2000; Maathai, 2005; Tacey, 2004).”
Duane Elgin's Reflective Living-Systems Paradigm
"Duane Elgin ... suggested, on the basis of another independent world-wide survey, the emergence of a new paradigm and global consciousness change. In his Millennium Project Report (1997), Elgin provides many indicators that suggest the new emerging worldview which he calls a reflective/living-systems paradigm. He derives his claims from a comprehensive overview of many cultural transformation and paradigm publications by eminent scientists and world leaders as well as the empirical evidence of world statistics on global ecological awareness, main behavioural trends, emerging social values and sustainable ways of living. He also cites much interesting research on world web technology which he claims has the revolutionary capacity to connect and awaken humanity to larger evolutionary possibilities by creating a global awareness (to the same effect as the printing press progressed the oral culture of medieval ages to revolutionise and create the world commerce of modernity). Many of Elgin’s claims have been also based on the World Values Survey5, run by Ronald Inglehart (1977)."
Riane Eisler's Partnership Model of Society, vs. the Dominator Model
"For the skeptics who often too easily disregard such claims of societal transformation as being a rather elitist, upper/middle class luxury, in the next two sections, I would like particularly to cite two renowned social and political scientists who provide convincing evidence about new technological, economic and political arrangements that are creating and manifesting the transformation. Firstly, I will discuss the work of Riane Eisler (1987, 1996, 2002, 2007), a renowned macrohistorian6 and secondly, that of Jeremy Rifkin (1995, 2005, 2009), a well-known economist and advisor to government leaders and heads of state in Europe and the United States. Based on her work as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist over the last 20 years, Riane Eisler introduced the partnership and the domination system as two underlying possibilities for structuring beliefs, institutions and relations that transcend categories such as religious vs. secular, right vs. left, and technologically developed or underdeveloped. It is her particularly brilliant The Chalice and the Blade (1987), a historical analysis of over 30,000 years that provides us with a refreshing view of our past and ‘givens’ in all areas of our personal, communal, economic and political life. With reference to recent archaeological discoveries Eisler shows that ancient times (before 3500BC) were based on matrifocal values, which did not mean the opposition to patriarchy (i.e. the domination of women over men), but rather that societal organization focused on the values of giving life, fertility, the pleasure to exist, artistic creations and sexual pleasure. However, over time, the life-generating and nurturing powers of the universe, in our time still symbolised by the ancient feminine chalice or grail was replaced by the lethal power of the blade. In the new world, of which we are the last heirs, ‘power’ is no longer viewed as the ability to give life, but is construed as the power to bring death, destroy life, subdue others and be obeyed at all cost. For instance, Eisler provides a new interpretation of ‘original sin’ and the beginning of Genesis in the Bible as a text that represents the shift from the ‘old’ matrifocal symbols to the patriarchal myth in which the tree of life and wisdom becomes an evil and the sacred Eros between man and woman becomes the shameful act.
In deconstructing the long history of domination, Eisler provides a beacon for our tired world of ongoing mistrust, blood, misery and injustice. By transcending the trap of polarised thinking she offers a way forward by pointing to the partnership model in which social structure is more generally egalitarian, with difference (be it gender, race, religion, sexual preference or belief system) not automatically associated with superior or inferior social and/or economic status. Females and males are equally valued in the governing ideology and stereotypically feminine values such as nurturance, caring and non-violence can be given operational primacy without resulting in stereotyping of gender roles. Furthermore, in partnership models of society, the spiritual dimension of the life-giving and sustaining powers of both nature and women is recognised and highly valued, as are these powers in men. Spirituality is linked with empathy and equity, and the divine is imaged through myths and symbols of unconditional love. Human relations are held together by pleasure bonds rather than by fear of pain. The pleasures of caring behaviours are socially supported, and pleasure is associated with empathy for others. Caretaking, love-making and other activities that give pleasure are considered sacred. The highest power is the power to give, nurture, and illuminate life. Love is recognised as the highest expression of the evolution of life on our planet, as well as the universal unifying power (Eisler, 1996, p. 403-405). In providing us with an impressive range of world-wide evidence of personal, communal and economic initiatives, organisations and policies Eisler claims (in a similar vein as all the authors cited above) that we are finally witnessing the world-wide movement towards a partnership system (Eisler, 1996, 2002) of caring economics (Eisler, 2007). She asserts that the reason why we do not hear much about this movement in the media is because it is not centralised and coordinated under a single unifying name and: “without a name, it’s almost as if it didn’t exist, despite all the progress around us” (Eisler, 2002, p. xxi). In her latest groundbreaking work on the Real Wealth of Nations (Eisler, 2007) she deconstructs Adam Smith’s theory of the invisible hand of the market as the best mechanism for producing and distributing the necessities of life to unpack its deep-seated culture of domination and exploitation that has devalued all activities which fall out outside of the market’s parameters of buying and selling. Instead she proposes that the slowly emerging caring economics takes into account the full spectrum of economic activities of the household, from the life enriching activities of caregivers and communities to the life-supporting processes of nature. In juxtaposition to the overwhelming evidence of structural inequalities and social injustices of the domination system, she provides evidence and many practical proposals for new economic inventions—new measures, policies, rules, and practices— to bring about a caring economics that fulfils human needs. In the many examples given, such as high-quality care for children, she also uses a purely financial cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate how caring is one of the best investments a nation can make. In her insightful economic analysis of policies and their (in)effectiveness around the world, she convincingly shows how the dominant culture of the double economic standard of valorising ‘productive’ over caring activities actually influences economic policies and practices. Eisler’s claims of emerging critical and caring businesses is further supported by the evidence that many mainstream businesses are re-questioning the main purpose of their bottom-line existence (i.e., going for profit only) which has led to the concept of spiritual economy and spiritual entrepreneurs conscious of her/his missions towards the common good of humanity (see Allee, 2003; Harman, 1998; Stewart, 2002; World Business Academy, 2009)."