Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 10, No 2 (2014)

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Modernity, Post-Modernity and Proto-Historicism: Reorienting Humanity Through a New Sense of Narrative Emplotment

Andrew Kirkpatrick


As a grand narrative of progress, the utopian project of modernity is primarily concerned with notions of rationalism, universalism, and the development of a metalanguage. The triumph of the Moderate Enlightenment has seen logics of domination, accumulation and individualism incorporated into the project of modernity, with these logics giving rise to globalised capitalism as the metalanguage of modernity and neoliberal economics as the grand narrative of rational progress. The project of modernity is all but complete, requiring only the formality of an end. However, rather than utopia, the foreseeable endpoint of modernity is environmental collapse, with neoliberal economics also serving as a grand narrative of environmental destruction. As an anti-modern response, postmodernism has been a triumphant failure. While there is much to be gained from the postmodern critique of modernity, its incredulity towards metanarratives has left it incapable of forming an adequate response to modernity, especially in regards to action on climate change. Postmodernism is better characterized as a crisis located within modernity itself and it will be argued that rather than the pursuit of the modern or the post-modern, we need to re-imagine ourselves as proto-historical to overcome the impasse of late-capitalism.

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