Examine The Claim That Cities Have Recently Entered A "Postmodern" Stage In Their Development

1636 words - 7 pages

Anthony Giddens defines postmodernism as "the belief that society is no longer governed by history or progress." He sees postmodern society as "highly pluralistic with no 'grand narrative' guiding its development"(Giddens, 2001). But it is also important to look at 'postmodernity' in relation to 'modernity', to see it as the direct result of the latter, as a reaction to the industrial, functional qualities of the modern movement (James-Chakraborty, 2001). From a sociological view-point the two movements can be seen as follows: the 'modern' movement taking into account the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and the "postmodern' movement, the changes brought upon us by ...view middle of the document...

This is linked to Berger's next point; the increase of diversity in beliefs (Macionis, Plummer, 1998). When the individual is released from the demands of conformity of the Gemeinshaft, he is influenced by the rational perspective of modern life. This is what Weber saw as the "disenchantment" of the world (Macionis, Plummer, 1998). Finally Berger notes the modern concern with time and future orientation; for the modern individual prospects of the future are more important than past events and cliché of 'time equals money' almost becomes a philosophy of life with daily routines coloured by strict scheduling.Thus, one can see the modernist movement as concerned by a forward motion, equated to scientific progress and financial gain. It is a movement which seeks functionality, through sound rational scientific thought, rather than aesthetic and cultural value (Giddens, 2001). Although an obvious generalisation, this can be seen physically through the large-scale rational urban planning of the early 20th Century and the Post-war period which evoke austerity and promote functionalist efficiency above all else (Harvey, 1989). Even the impressive heights of the Sky-scrapers of the New York skyline, although inspiring in their magnitude seem to represent and glorify above all the financial greatness of various corporations while aesthetically not much more than bleak facades. Therefore, it is perhaps the apparent recent switch from this functional emphasis to a more cultural and aesthetic emphasis that can be related to the passing of "modernity and modernism to postmodernity and postmodernism" (Featherstone, 1991).Various factors lead to the emergence of the Postmodernist movement. Among these is certainly the failure of much modernist housing projects for instance, but also the gradual process of deindustrialisation in cities (Harvey, 1989). These processes were accompanied by a change of values and the increased importance of cultural capital in urban areas as cities began to acquire more value in the architectural natural beauty they provided (Featherstone, 1991). Alternative sources of wealth beyond financial wealth became increasingly apparent, made more potent by the earlier destruction of "treasured civic spaces" (James-Chakraborty, 2001) to pave the way for the city wide modernist expansion. Indeed, the move towards postmodernism came with the "aestheticization of everyday life and mass consumer culture." (Featherstone, 1991) Postmodernism thus also induced a populist culture. Museums ceased to be elitist institutions, appealing to more mainstream popular demands with "a shift from discursive to figural forms of culture manifest in an emphasis upon visual images over words" (Featherstone, 1991). Postmodernism also beckons a partial return to premodern values in the appreciation of heritage while doing so in a modern context. Featherstone expresses the resulting synthesis as follows; "The postmodern city is therefore much more image ...


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